Shirts can be hard to wear casually. Even the biggest fan of bespoke shirting for wear with his suits during the working week can find himself defaulting to a T-shirt under knitwear at the weekend. I suggest the alternative of a long-sleeved polo shirt.
Shirts can be difficult in leisure time for many reasons. One is that the shirts one has made for the week are often not suitable for wear without a tie – without enough rise, or a button-down to support them, the collar of a shirt can collapse apologetically beneath the neckline of a jacket or sweater.
So you might have to have shirts specifically made for time off. The alternative is ready-to-wear chambray or oxford shirts, but once you’ve got used to bespoke shirts that fit perfectly and sit long enough beneath the waistband, it can be hard to return to these ill-fitting, always-untucking cousins.
Another reason is that the things one wears over a shirt at the weekend aren’t necessarily designed for it. A jacket is rare. A V-neck or round-neck sweater will probably suit wearing with a shirt, but it is unlikely that both will. And more casual mid-layers like hooded sweaters and old sweatshirts do not sit well with a shirt.
A T-shirt, on the other hand, will go with all of them. Presuming it is well made and well fitting, a T-shirt cannot fail to look good and requires no thought whatsoever – which is frequently what one wants at the weekend.
T-shirts are fine. But it is nice to have an alternative. Particularly when you feel like wearing a soft, unstructured blazer at the weekend or a shawl-collared sweater – something that looks so much better if the layer underneath has a collar.
Best in that regard is the polo shirt. Long-sleeved, so that it fits well under a jacket and doesn’t leave any skinny wrist on display during gesticulation. High-collared if possible – that is, with the same height of collar as your weekday shirts – so that it doesn’t disappear beneath the neckline or lapel of the layer above just as readily as a ready-to-wear shirt. And fitted right: slim enough in the body to appear more than sportswear, of the right length to either tuck easily into the trousers or sit just in front of them without bagging.
I admit, there aren’t many of these long-sleeved polo shirts around. Don’t worry: anything that meets just some of these criteria will be a nice alternative to the T. But just so you know, the perfect specimen is a piece created by the Italian shirt company Guy Rover (despite the name, but then Tod’s was picked to sound American too) for Al Bazar, the idiosyncratic little shop in Milan owned by Lino Ieluzzi. He is pictured above, wearing a white version.
Lino has achieved worldwide fame as a result of exposure on The Sartorialist, and in magazines such as The Rake (to which this writer is a contributor). However, he has long had a passionate following among sartorialists with a small s, particularly in Japan. Milan isn’t best recommended for those seeking quality and craft in clothes, but Al Bazar is certainly worth a visit.