As the summer months draw to a close, your wardrobe will be stuck in style purgatory. It’s too cold to go without an outer layer, but it’s too warm to wear a winter coat. It’s likely you’re constantly battling against the risk of freezing, or turning up to work dripping with sweat.
Enter the overshirt, the solution to all your trans-seasonal issues, the trusted sartorial fix for between seasons.
On The Runways
Shown in an array of styles, the overshirt made a big splash on the autumn/winter 2015 runways, with the likes of Oliver Spencer, J.Crew and Dior Homme all showcasing their takes.
It came in a number of fabrics and cuts, but common ground was to be found in construction and detailing: buttons, zips or poppers up the front, a proper cuff, and a minimum of one pocket.
Origins Of The Overshirt
The simplicity of the shirt jacket makes it ideal for wearing as an outer layer during the transition from summer to autumn, and a mid-layer once the temperature starts to drop. “It originated in mountaineering gear and military uniform,” says Steve Sanderson, co-owner of Oi Polloi, the Manchester-based store well known for its generous edit of overshirts from indie brands.
The military staple Sanderson refers to is the fatigue shirt, a heavy-duty cotton overshirt worn as a battledress during the 20th century. Originally favoured by fighting forces for their large pockets and durable construction, the jacket began to filter into fashionable civilian dress during the 1980s and 1990s.
Since then, it’s been taken on by outdoor brands who have made it a staple in the mountaineering world, and more recently by homespun made in the US and UK labels.
While contemporary workerwear specialists like Universal Works have been flying the overshirt flag in recent years, it’s only now that the garment has gained a wider following within men’s fashion.
Still, with so many designers and brands boarding the shacket bandwagon this season, the sheer number of variations on offer can make selecting a style tricky.
To lessen the work, we’ve rounded up the overshirts you need to know and what you need to know about them:
Key Types Of Overshirts
The go-to fabric for shirt jackets, cotton makes for a far more breathable overshirt than wool, meaning it’s a good choice for the milder autumn and spring months when you need something thick enough to keep the chill off, yet aerated so you’re not sweating during those intermittent sunny spells.
A cotton overshirt can be rigid and perhaps slightly uncomfortable to begin with, but after a couple of wears it should to start to soften up nicely.
While suede is a more delicate fabric (keep it away from moisture at all costs) and almost definitely pricier than cotton, it makes for a much more luxurious shirt jacket.
With an exceptionally soft napped finish, a suede style is sure to add a welcome dose of texture to your late summer and early autumn looks.
This is by far the warmest and most functional variant. Not only will a wool overshirt be warm enough to act as a top layer, but the thicker the wool the more coat-like it becomes.
Therefore, you can opt for a fine-gauge version as a mid-layer, while a thicker, more heavy-duty style could double up as a jacket.
If your style leans more towards sports luxe than rugged workerwear, then an overshirt cut from man-made materials might be a better fit for you.
Styles constructed from synthetics like nylon add an up-to-the-minute contemporary feel, while also providing much needed protection from the rain along with superior breathability.
The style most similar to actual outerwear, the quilted overshirt guarantees toasty warmth.
Not only does its design and material lend itself to being used as a makeshift jacket, but when layered underneath a winter coat it acts in a similar way to a body warmer, insulating you against the elements.
How To Wear
The overshirt’s primary strength is its versatility. “They’re good to throw on as a jacket or wear as a mid-layer,” says Sanderson. “And they’re also great for travelling as you can roll them up and stuff them into your bag.”
“When the weather gets a bit chillier, wear it under your winter coat. For a smarter look, layer it under a mac or mix it with technical outerwear for a more contemporary aesthetic.
“The military style fatigue shirt is great to wear with [tailored] sweatpants and white canvas [or leather] trainers for a smart sports-casual look. When it’s a bit colder, add technical shell outerwear, like a Stone Island jacket, and you’re good to go.”
Not only does the jacket act as a good mid-layer during the snowy months of January, but when it comes to July and you’re rocking a pair of shorts, it’s also a lifesaver.
“I guess the shirt jacket was designed to keep you cool but smart in warm conditions, similar to a safari jacket,” says Eddie Prendergast, founder of Duffer St George. “Nowadays, it can be thrown on top of a T-shirt with shorts in the summer, or go underneath an overcoat in the winter. It’s a modern classic.”
Before you cough up all your disposable income on a winter coat, it’s worth setting an overshirt higher up on your shopping list. Offering unrivalled versatility, this hard worker looks just as good when the leaves are falling as when they reappear in spring.
Which style of overshirt ranks highest for you? And how will you be wearing yours?
Comment below to let us know.