The camp collar shirt has certainly benefited from the cyclical nature of trends and, while many styles come and go, there’s no reason to think that it will become outdated again. After all, its qualities as a must-have summer shirt are too irresistible.
Like all of the best garments in the modern wardrobe, the camp collar shirt is a descendant of workwear. Conceived with the functional purpose of keeping you cool in the heat thanks to an open neck, short sleeves, and loose fit (with the occasional pocket for utility purposes), it was originally worn by Cuban farmers in the late 19th century.
However, it was the Americans who instigated the evolution of the camp collar shirt to a leisurewear staple in around the mid-century. It was popularised to such an extent it was almost as ubiquitous as a pair of Levi’s blue jeans. Then, the camp collar shirt became obsolete towards the end of the century but not for long, as it made itself known again in the fashion world a few years ago.
Now, you’d be hard-pressed to find a luxury brand that didn’t have a camp collar shirt in its spring/summer collection, and it’s a wonderful thing. While camp collar shirts can be found in plenty of plain fabrics, it’s ones with arresting designs and crazy patterns that are most interesting. For summer, designers approach the camp collar like an artist approaches a freshly-primed canvas, and the movement that’s currently in vogue is certainly futurism.
The expression ‘easy does it’ springs to mind when discussing how to wear a camp collar shirt; don’t overthink and overwork them. In nature, it’s a casual garment, and so it’s designed to be worn untucked with befitting garments such as shorts and loose-fitting trousers. Because futuristic shirts are fairly loud, they should be worn with solid colours, as mixing patterns can get messy. Opting for either a white cotton T-shirt or cellular vest beneath will help put the two together, as the contrast calms the look down and adds balance.
Camp collar shirts can also be dressed up, too, and are a fun option to have in your wardrobe for social events. To do this, they can be slipped beneath a tailored jacket but bear in mind the tones that are going on and whether they complement each other. Tuck it into a pair of tailored trousers and sport the collar over the lapels of your jacket. It’s a little bit Miami Vice meets Scarface, but it works and it’s fun.
Fun is definitely the operative word when it comes camp-collar shirts. And, after the last year or so we’ve had to endure, we all deserve a bit of that.