The Camp Collar Resort Shirt

The Camp Collar Resort Shirt

 

Introducing a first for Drake's: a linen resort shirt styled in true 1950s fashion, with a camp collar and a straight-cut hem.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve popped into the Drake’s shop on Savile Row more times in the past fortnight than I have in years. After more than four months of abstinence, it’s been a joy to see one London’s most colourful menswear destinations get back to business – and to check-in with the Savile Row team.

On my last visit, something caught my eye: a quintet of short-sleeve, camp collar shirts in the coolest of linen fabrics. Quite apart from an exciting hit of high summer ‘newness’, these are the first short sleeve, open-collar shirts Drake’s has ever made – an exciting moment in the brand’s history. 

The camp collar shirt in its earliest guise – like most men’s clothing – was a workwear staple. I’m talking, of course, about the guayabera shirt, a hardy open-collar design with four front pockets and reinforced strips of embroidery down the front and back. Folklore suggests the name derives from the Spanish word for guava fruit, ‘guayaba,’ and that the shirt was worn by farmers and labourers who collected guava in the roomy pockets of their shirts.

Today, we associate the guayabera with Cuba, but its origins lie in either the Philippines or Mexico (ground zero varies, depending on who you ask). The guayabera made its way to Cuba via Mexico at some point between the 16th and 18th centuries, on Spanish ships trading between Manila and Acapulco. 

Then, in the early 20th century, the design made the hop from Cuba to the US mainland, lost its pockets and morphed into the off-duty ‘sport shirt,’ worn by young men as an alternative to the mid-week uniform of spread collar shirt and tie. It’s at this point the terminology ‘resort shirt’ enters the lexicon, as camp collar shirts became a mainstay of the Jet Set’s holiday wardrobe both in the USA and Europe.

In this context, there’s something a touch rebellious about the camp collar shirt. It’s both youthful and positively risqué by the standards of the 1950s, without its top-button and accompanying tie. Pop culture icons and teenage sex symbols like James Dean and Elvis Presley lent the shirt a laid-back, defiant identity that’s somehow stayed with it ever since.

The Drake’s take on this warm weather staple brings the story up-to-date; cut with a neat open collar, loose fit, plain front and straight hemline. In the same smooth Japanese linens as this season’s long-sleeve spread collar shirts, these are destined to grow softer, smoother and fade gently with each wear and wash. Dress yours with a pair of printed swim shorts by the pool, or wear open over a soft white t-shirt and pleated Games Shorts.

Throughout its evolution, the camp collar shirt has been worn by style luminaries like Marlon Brando and Muhammad Ali, and by fictional characters as disparate as Dickie Greenleaf and Tony Soprano. Subcultures ranging from American Rockabillies to French Zazous have embraced it for its curious history and its timeless appeal. It is, quite simply, the quintessential high summer shirt.

 

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