For all its positives, the summer can get a tad monotonous where wardrobe options are concerned. As we all know, there’s only a limited amount a man can do with short sleeves and a pair of shorts before he begins to crave layers again. Which means anything capable of injecting some personality into an outfit is a valuable asset.
That’s where the Cuban collar shirt comes in.
Naysayers were quick to label it a trend when this throwback piece first began to edge its way back into the spotlight. But as the years came and went, the Cuban collar has only further solidified its place on the Menswear Summer Hit List.
With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about this must-have warm-weather garment, including how to spot one and where to shop for the best.
What Is A Cuban Collar Shirt?
There is some confusion around the exact definition of a Cuban collar shirt. This probably stems from the fact that this wardrobe essential actually goes by several different names. Depending on who you speak to or where you buy from, you’ll hear it referred to as a “camp collar shirt”, a “revere collar shirt”, an “open-collar shirt or a “spread collar shirt”.
In reality, there is no difference between any of these; they’re simply different terms for the same garment. That is, a short-sleeved shirt with a button front and a flat, open collar. It often also boasts a seasonally-appropriate print or pattern and is traditionally constructed from a light, airy fabric such as linen, cotton or Tencel.
Why You Need One In Your Wardrobe
In Ape’s opinion, the Cuban collar shirt is a must-have item when it comes to your warm-weather rotation. It’s comfortable, stylish and inhabits a space somewhere between smart and beachy, which allows it to be dressed up or down to equally glorious effect.
As if that wasn’t reason enough to rush out and buy one, it’s flattering to most, if not all, body types too. This is due to the V-shaped space created between the lapels, which has the visual effect of broadening the shoulders and creating a desirable “V” silhouette. It also tends to have a straight, boxy cut, which works equally well for slimmer and larger frames.
The wealth of options in terms of colour and print make it a helpful summer ally, too. Its ever-so-slightly kitsch, retro quality affords the wearer an opportunity to experiment with pattern in a way that a simple T-shirt never could. From all-over tropical prints to subdued pastel shades, there’s something for every level of confidence and skin tone.
The Best Cuban Collar Shirt Brands
Whether you want to make a poolside statement or need something to work with tailoring at summer events, our edit of the best Cuban collar shirts has an option for every occasion and budget.
Best For: Moody Prints
One of the original advocates of the Cuban collar renaissance, Reiss’ trademark slim cuts and shady prints have marked it out as a firm favourite among connoisseurs. Dark florals and moody, swirling shapes sit against backdrops of jet black and charcoal shadows. It’s rock ‘n’ roll attitude pulled off in a refined manner, and an excellent way to bring an edge to anything from a pair of black jeans and Chelsea boots to a simple pair of shorts and trainers.
Best For: Transparency
Portuguese label ISTO has sustainability at its heart. The Lisbon-based brand doesn’t believe in seasonal collections, instead preferring to produce a permanent range of menswear essentials which have been perfected thanks to years of refinement.
This quality over quantity ethos can be seen in its single camp collar design, which comes in summer-ready seersucker or linen and 6 different colourways. ISTO break down exactly what it costs to produce each shirt – from fabric and labels through to labour and transport – meaning you get complete transparency on where your money is being spent. Other brands should take note.
A Day’s March
Best For: Value For Money
The simple things, perfectly executed. That’s what Sweden’s A Day’s March is all about. Since 2014, the label has been delivering its trademark brand of stylish minimalism and well-built basics to style and eco-conscious consumers around the world.
If you’re after a grade-A Cuban collar shirt at a wallet-friendly price, there are few better places to look. Why? Well, the brand’s direct-to-consumer model means there are not retail markups, which ultimately translates into more money in your wallet and higher-quality clothes hanging in your wardrobe. We particularly like the terry towelling version – perfect for the beach, bar and beyond.
Best For: Premium Resortwear
There was a time not so very long ago when the average gent’s beach attire amounted nothing more refined than a pair of Speedos and a liberal coating of factor 50. That was until Orlebar Brown came along.
Since 2007, the British brand (featured image, top) has been crafting some of the most luxurious swim shorts and resortwear to be found on any beach, from Brighton to Barbados. OB’s Cuban collar shirts hark back to the Golden Age of travel, coming in both sophisticated summer prints as well as a number of refined, neutral options that are destined to become a must-pack for any modern-day Jet Setter.
Best For: Understated Luxury
Mr Porter’s in-house brand, MR P., has been a favourite of Ape since it first emerged. The seasonal collections focus on everything a stylish man needs in his wardrobe, and absolutely nothing he doesn’t. The result is a reliable range of core pieces, crafted with the sort of attention to detail you’d expect from the luxury retailer. Its summer shirting options don’t disappoint.
Best For: Laid-Back Japanese Styling
Harajuku-born purveyor of casual luxury, Beams Plus has got the Cuban collar shirt down to a fine art. Short-sleeved button-downs have long been a fixture in the label’s warm-weather collections, featuring extra boxy fits and relaxed styling. Whether it’s intricate, eye-catching prints you’re after, or subtle pastel shades, you’ll find it here.
Best For: Designer Kudos
There are some who will wince at the idea of spending north of £500 on a summer shirt. If you’ve got the bank balance to carry it off, however, Gucci crafts some of the best-looking and well-fitting in the business. Look away if you’re averse to wild, 1970s-inspired prints and vibrant colours. But if you’re not, the esteemed Italian fashion house offers the perfect option for spicing up your seasonal wardrobe.
Best For: Stocking Up
Uniqlo has a well-earned reputation for being a bit of an all-rounder: producing well-made, value basics. However, where the Japanese high-street hero really shines is its shirting. The Oxford cloth button-down has become the brand’s calling card, but the Cuban collar is quickly developing into another must-own. Expect low prices, high quality and understated designs you’ll be able to keep pulling out for years to come.
Best For: Eye-Catching Prints
Gitman is one of the oldest and most respected names in American casual shirting. The label’s Gitman Vintage line draws inspiration from its sprawling archives, deploying wild patterns and daring prints to glorious effect. For those who prefer their shirts with a tad more subtlety, there’s plenty of toned-down but equally high-quality options, too.
Best For: Scandinavian Styling
Minimalism is the trend that never died. While mainstream fashion continues to get bigger, bulkier and more garish, pared-back Scandinavian style has remained ever present. NN07’s low-key essentials are a glowing example of this. Boasting form-flattering cuts, high-quality construction and not much else. Because, well, what else do you need?
Best For: American Prep
When summertime arrives, preppy American outfitter J.Crew is always one of the first to roll out a selection of covetable Cuban collars. Here you’ll be met with a tightly curated selection, boasting quality materials and superb prints often found in designs twice the price. Leaving you with change from £100, there are few brands offering more for your money.
Blue Blue Japan
Best For: Eastern-Inspired Prints
Any denim fanatics out there will already be well acquainted with Blue Blue Japan. Since the early 1990s the label has been making some of the highest grade jeans money can buy, and when you’re that good at crafting clothing, why stop at legwear? The Cuban collar has become a staple item for the Nippon-based brand, often featuring all-over Japanese prints and Eastern-inspired patterns.