Style

How to Wear Camp Collar Shirts

Charles Jeffrey Loverboy Face-print Silk-blend Shirt

Created in collaboration with fashion illustrator and womenswear designer Julian Scarry, this surrealist statement piece is printed onto a lightweight Hawaiian silhouette and Cuban collar, finished with a buttoned chest pocket. Charles Jeffrey Loverboy Face-print Silk-blend Shirt (£435), available at MatchesFashion.

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from the cyclical nature of trends and, while many styles come and go, there’s no reason to think that it will become outdated again.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.

Endless Joy Jim Moir Turmoil Camp-collar Printed Tencel Shirt
Endless Joy Jim Moir Turmoil Camp-collar Printed Tencel Shirt

Using the humble shirt as a canvas, Endless Joy has worked with British artist Jim Moir (better known as Vic Reeves) to transform a surreal depiction of turmoil into a wonderfully breathable, eye-catching summer number. It’s playful and disturbing in equal measure. Endless Joy Jim Moir Turmoil Camp-collar Printed Tencel Shirt (£365), available at Mr Porter.

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.

Reiss Printed Cuban Collar Shirt

Reiss Printed Cuban Collar Shirt (£110), available at Reiss.

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.

Sun Surf SS36837 “Paradise Flower” Hawaiian Shirt Blue

Sun Surf SS36837 “Paradise Flower” Hawaiian Shirt in Blue (£185), available at Clutch-Cafe.

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.

About the author

Benedict Browne

Benedict is a London-based journalist, stylist, and brand consultant who champions British brands and artisanal menswear. He splits his time between Head of Content at the menswear and lifestyle agency Studio Graft and lending his services to magazines, both in the UK and internationally. You can follow him on Instagram at @benedict_browne.

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