‘A man and his shirt’ – possibly one of the strongest bonds that menswear fashion knows. Think about it, without the shirt, where would that leave the suit? What would happen to the tie? And where the heck would that have left pre 17th century men? Well I’ll tell you exactly where that would have left them, extremely naked! Up until the mid 17th century a man’s shirt was worn purely as an undergarment. If ever even considered to be worn showing – even up until the very late 1800s – it would have caused more of a public commotion than a new music video from Rihanna. Thankfully, those days are passed and we as men are now free to casually parade about town, shirts on show and tails hanging out * ahem *. However, I do still have one slight niggling issue; if there was once a time where men wouldn’t even go to bed without donning a shirt, how is it that a shirt is now very often deemed too smart?

Random fact: The world’s oldest preserved garment is in fact an Ancient Egyptian dress shirt, thought to have dated as far back as 3000B.C.

Too many men that I meet seem to have acquired this strange little rule whereby you must only ever wear a shirt if you are attending a business meal, family christening, or Obama is coming round for tea. Take a tip from the gentlemen of centuries past and embrace a smarter casual look for the season ahead. I do understand that for men who are required to wear a shirt to work in ye old Monday to Friday routine, the thought of having to button one up on their Saturday off is literally stomach turning. However, with the styles, prints, colours and patterns available this season, we are a million miles away from that double cuffed, bank manager blue shirt that we so dearly love ironing on a Sunday evening.

So let’s break down the key casual shirt styles for the season ahead…

Printed Shirts

With an abundance of check shirts still dictating the majority of our high street rails and shelves, it makes it extremely hard for me to knock them too much without sounding like a very small, uneducated voice within a very large mainstream pond. However, with that being said, I never really was one to feel easily intimidated, so: it is finally time to ease up on the check shirts guys! If you to feel my pain, and do not want to see this audacious and out of control print dictate the shirt world for a 4th or 5th consecutive spring/summer season, this season belongs to us.

The array of (non-checked!) printed shirts on offer this season are better than I have seen for years and they look to carry over well into Autumn/Winter 2011, with amazing retro geometric prints and classic paisley formations on display at the recent London Fashion week. Short sleeved, long sleeved, oxford, dress and sheer; all areas have been covered meaning that no one – no matter how particular the preference – will be left out. For those of you that might feel slightly intimidated by the ‘loudness’ of an all over print, you can still get involved, just simply tone it down a touch by layering it under a pullover, cardigan or blazer in a neutral block colour.

  • AAA Moth Print Shirt
  • Hartford Beige Hibiscus Print Light Poplin Shirt
  • Marc by Marc Jacobs Navy Spot Print Short Sleeve Shirt
  • PS Paul Smith Sky Polka Spot Slim Fit Shirt
  • PS by Paul Smith Flower Print Shirt
  • Paul Smith Star Print Shirt
  • All Saints Shinto L/s Shirt
Short Sleeved

No longer acceptable are the days of wearing your short sleeved shirts so tight around the biceps that we appear to have four of them, or the sleeves rolled up so high that they hit the capped sleeve mark. There has been a clear cut come through within the short-sleeved department this season and the word on the street seems to be for us all to just ‘relax’.

This season look for loose fitting short sleeves finishing closer to the elbow and teamed with more of a regular, straight cut on the body. By all means still wear your shirts tapered with some shape on the torso, but a super slim fit teamed with loose sleeves will only throw your proportions off and ruin the overall look that the shirt is desperately trying to portray. A lot of retailers are already producing short-sleeved shirts in this styling so as long as the collar fits, hopefully so should the rest.

  • White Paisley Print Shirt
  • White Short Sleeve Shirt
  • Auburn Overhead Shirt
  • G Star Correct Line New Western LS Shirt
  • Sparks Hariring Shirt
  • Tim Soar Stripe Baseball Shirt LFW SS11
  • Rag & bone Short-Sleeved Cotton Blend Shirt
  • Uniforms For The Dedicated Space Oddity Shirt
  • Farah Vintage Beckett Red Chambray Shirt
Block Colour Shirts

I’m sure you’ve already been made aware of how big the block coloured trend is this season? And if you haven’t, where the hell have you been?! Quickly catch up here with Matt Allinson’s guides to colour (introduction, mixing monochromes and combining colours) and then report back. Shirts were always going to be a big player within the block colour trend this season, with a marvellous display of new colourful shirts to help smarten up our blocked outfits.

  • Premium Burgundy Cotton Shirt
  • Blue Contrast Buttons Shirt
  • john varvatos<br /> Slim fit shirt
  • Junk De Luxe Plain Slim Fit Shirt And Tie Set
  • Rose Contrast Buttons Shirt
  • J.Lindeberg Howard Dyed Poplin Military Inspired Shirt
  • Shore Leave Red Oxford Work Shirt
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Purple Fine Stripe Slim Fit Shirt
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Custom-Fit Bleecker Oxford
Sheer/Silk Shirts

A trend that has undoubtedly followed on from the huge success in womenswear, we are now seeing menswear shirts being made lighter, softer, and lets face it, more transparent. I have to admit, this is my favourite shirt trend of the season. There is a certain elegance about the way that a silk shirt falls and moves, and teamed with a sharp pair of tailored trousers/shorts or under a masculine cut double breasted blazer, it adds that contrast in textures which keeps our outfits fresh and interesting.

If you’re not quite yet brave enough to don a full sheer or silky number, there are options out there that just include elements of the two or are still made out of a cotton but have that amazing silk-like effect. Again, this was also another massive shirt trend on the Fashion Week catwalks for A/W 2011; Topman Design in particular had some amazing pieces that I literally cant wait to get my hands on.

  • ASOS BLACK Silk Trim Shirt
  • ASOS BLACK Silk Trim Shirt
  • ASOS Sheer Check Longline Shirt
  • Helmut Lang Black Voile Cotton Slim Fit Shirt
  • Forgotten Future Patchwork Removable Sleeve Shirt
  • Forgotten Future Patch Work Shirt
  • ACNE Silk Shirt
  • Ann Demeulemeester Word-print shirt
  • Heritage silk/linen cargo pocket shirt
Conclusion & Opinions

So there you have it, a break down of all the key styles in men’s shirting for spring/summer 2011. I think there are definitely a couple of styles there that are suitable for the majority (short sleeved and bold colours in particular) and will give you some separation from the rest of the casual looks roaming your local city. But what do you think?

  • Can you see yourself adding any of these new types of shirt to your wardrobe this season? Or do you already own a few?
  • Which trend will you be rocking, and what other pieces will you match with your chosen shirt style?
  • Are shirts really suitable for those hot weather days?
  • Have you got any interesting ways in wearing your shirts that aren’t ‘the norm’?
  • Do you think we are going to be seeing a lot more smart casual looks this spring/summer in comparison to past seasons?

Let us know in the comments below…