For all its benefits, summer can be a tricky season to dress for. Not in terms of effort – after all, what could be easier than throwing on a pair of shorts and a top? – more that it can be difficult to get creative when limited to such a small selection of garments.
Winter brings with it an abundance of sartorial avenues for exploration. We can layer, experiment with textures and use outerwear to our advantage. In summer the options are far fewer. But there is one handy tool you have at your disposal, provided you know how to use it to full effect.
Enter: the short sleeve button-up shirt.
This summery take on the classic button-up is a style-conscious man’s best friend in the warmer months. It can lend a dressier edge to otherwise sloppy poolside ensembles, spice up uninspired outfits via appealing colours and eye-catching patterns, and is one of the few garments through which it’s acceptable to convey a little touch of humour and irony. All-over tropical island print? Don’t mind if we do.
If you’re yet to join the party (and it is a party) consider this your invitation. Here’s everything you need to know when it comes to buying a short-sleeved shirt.
Why Buy A Short-Sleeved Shirt?
To put it simply, a short-sleeved button-up is a must-have garment for the warmer months. It’s relaxed and breezy in a way that its long-sleeved counterpart is not, and makes light work of some of the summer’s most difficult-to-dress-for situations.
But short sleeve shirts haven’t always had the best reputation when it comes to style. They spent years typecast as something IT guys wore. Or that groups of portly dads donned when they finally managed to peel away from their families for a night out with the lads.
Thankfully, the world has since had its eyes opened to the numerous benefits of the short-sleeved shirt. As a result, there’s now a dizzying amount of choice on offer, and most top-name brands now offer at least a few as part of their spring/summer collections.
Before you go diving headlong into the proverbial mountain of short sleeve button-ups available, there are a few things to consider. In order to get the garment that best suits your needs, taste and frame it’s good to take a step back and give the following points some thought.
Fit. Is. Everything. That applies to pretty much any garment you could think of, but it goes double for shirts. Of course, there are different cuts out there and not all of them should fit in the same way. However, with the exception of deliberately oversized, boxy shirts, the general rule is that the seams should sit neatly on the shoulders and the hemline should sit a couple of inches below your waist.
There’s not much opportunity for playing with texture when it comes to summer shirting, but there is some. Oxford cloth, poplin and linen are the most popular fabrics for short-sleeved shirts, with the latter being the lightest, breeziest and most tactile.
This is where the fun starts. Sure, there are plenty of understated, block-colour options that look great, but there’s also a lot of scope for getting jazzy. From dark florals to Hawaiian prints – a short-sleeve shirt (particularly a Cuban collar one) is the perfect vehicle through which to exhibit some flair and personality. Just make sure to keep everything else in your outfit subtle and toned down.
Key Short-Sleeve Shirt Styles
With its open collar and throwback charm, the Cuban collar shirt is our go-to short sleeve. It’s laid back, unapologetically summery and provides a stylish alternative to a traditional shirt with a classic collar. It looks great on its own or can be worn open over a plain T-shirt or even a vest.
The Oxford-cloth button-down, or OCBD, is one of menswear’s true essentials. This short-sleeved version boasts all of the same versatility and good looks as its long-sleeved counterpart, but won’t leave you hot and bothered when the mercury rises.
As we’ve mentioned already, a short-sleeve shirt can be a great tool for bringing a splash of colour and character to an outfit. This is best achieved through prints and patterns. A patterned design can really bring an outfit to life, and if you’re not a fan of in-your-face prints, there are plenty of subtle options out there too.
Linen is to summer what wool is to winter. It’s the perfect fabric for the warmer months, boasting breathability, lightness and plenty of Riviera cool points to boot. Naturally, it lends itself well to a short-sleeve shirt, making the perfect garment for poolside lounging, back-garden barbecuing, and alfresco vacation evenings in the sun.
The Best Short-Sleeve Shirt Brands
It’s difficult to find a menswear brand that doesn’t offer a short-sleeve shirt of some description. Still, some do a much better job of it than others. In our experience, the brands listed below are the cream of the proverbial crop when it comes to kitting yourself out with some summer-friendly shirting. From out-there prints to upscale minimalism, these are the short-sleeved shirt brands every Ape reader should know.
A Day’s March
Sweden’s A Day’s March first caught our attention with its spectacular light outerwear. But there’s more to this direct-to-consumer label than just top-notch overshirts. In fact, shirts of any description are something the brand does extremely well, bringing its own contemporary Scandi twist to some of menswear’s best-loved silhouettes. Take the short-sleeved options, for example: they’re simple, perfectly cut, well built and rendered in a range of off-beat fabrics ranging from Tencel to terry towelling.
Having cut his teeth at the likes of Gap and Polo Ralph Lauren, Todd Synder set up his eponymous clothing label in 2011. Since then, the all-American brand has become a household name, forging a reputation for producing high-quality, contemporary basics with a distinct East Coast flair. Producing a wide range of short-sleeved shirts each spring/summer, expect plain and patterned designs rendered in a variety of premium fabrics including Rayon, Irish linen and Panama cloth.
Inspired by and designed in sunny California, Taylor Stitch knows a thing or two about dressing for warm weather. The San Fransisco outfit has built its brand on the back of simple, rugged garments that are built to last – and its short sleeve button-ups are no exception. Coming in versatile block colours and subdued patterns, these are the type of pieces you will get use of from many summers to come.
British brand Orlebar Brown has established itself as the first word in luxury resortwear. After breaking onto the scene by reinventing the swim short with a tailored twist, this James Bond favourite began making everything a man could need to tackle the beach or the pool in style. Short-sleeved shirts, of course, are no exception. Just check out the selection of premium Cuban collars for proof, featuring everything from simple pastel shades to eye-catching all-over 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 are plenty of toned-down, but equally appealing options too.
Minimalism: the trend that won’t die. While mainstream fashion continues to get bigger, bulkier and more garish, pared-back Scandinavian style has remained steadfast. NN07’s low-key essentials are a glowing example of this, boasting form-flattering cuts, high-quality construction and not much else. Because what more could you want than that?
With diverse influences ranging from streetwear to Ivy League style, Beams Plus has long been one of Japan’s leading names when it comes to menswear. Short sleeve shirts available here range from simple Oxford button-downs to intricately patterned Cuban collars, all made to the absolute highest quality in the label’s native country.
Streetwear originator Stussy is no stranger to a head-turning pattern, and nowhere is this more evident than across the brand’s seasonal short-sleeved shirt offering. The garments on offer here are bold, bright and often featuring off-beat, tongue-in-cheek prints that are sure to spice things up at your next BBQ.
If Orlebar Brown is the UK’s answer to high-end resortwear then Onia is the USA’s. The New York City label specialises in breezy warm-weather clothing, perfectly suited to tackling summer in style. Shirt-wise, expect printed Cuban collars, light and loose linen, and plenty of understated options for those who prefer to keep their poolside stylings low key.
If you’re not a fan of statement shirts then you may want to skip this one. Endless Joy’s short sleeve shirts certainly aren’t for the faint of heart, but if you’ve got the cajones to pull them off, the style rewards can be colossal. The designs are inspired by mythology and Balinese culture, featuring original artwork by founder Stevie Anderson. Think jungle prints, angels, demons and beyond, all in Anderson’s unique, colourful style.
Polo Ralph Lauren
At the other end of the spectrum, Polo Ralph Lauren has plenty to offer for those who like their shirting a little more conservative. The brand is famous for its preppy Oxford shirts and does a short-sleeve version in a variety of cuts and colours to keep fans of preppy East Coast style happy all year round.