2018 Jersey Shirts

A Transatlantic Conversation on the Rugby Shirt: Part Two

By Drake's

Jul 13, 2022

A Transatlantic Conversation on the Rugby Shirt: Part Two

David Coggins and our very own Michael Hill convene once again for a sartorial pow wow across the pond. Part one of their conversation can be found here. 

David Coggins: The rugby shirt is so good on its own—it makes such a great impression. But in the fall it goes so well under a sportcoat. Or in any high stakes layering, with an oversized cardigan or even over shirt and tie. What’s your rugby layering strategy?

Michael Hill: I certainly wouldn’t argue with any of that. The obvious thing to layer with tailoring would be knitwear, of course, but a rugby shirt seems like such a fun alternative, particularly with casual fabrics such as corduroy or moleskin. You don’t always want to wear a tie with a suit that casual, and an open-necked shirt sometimes doesn’t quite cut it in the style stakes, so rather than a v-neck or a crew-neck jumper, a rugby really works to add a bit of extra interest. That being said, I mainly wear my rugby on its own, with a pair of cords or jeans, at the weekend. But admittedly a rugby on its own is something of a sporty look – throw an easy-wearing suit over a rugby and you can go almost anywhere.

DC: I’m always interested in something you own that becomes your default choice, something you can wear, as you say, almost anywhere. It can be a military jacket or a tweed sportcoat or a corduroy suit, and certainly a rugby shirt too. It starts to get worn in and even marked up a bit and then it really becomes yours. A good rugby shirt essentially invites you to wear it well and long. Then it attains that level of greatness. You’ve earned it and made it belong to you. I love that.

MH: It’s certainly a comforting garment, and one that requires very little thought to get right, which are qualities I think most men look for in an item of clothing. I suppose what interests me about the rugby shirt, from a cultural standpoint, is how we as British people - despite being the inventors of the garment - have essentially been shown new ways to wear it by other cultures, namely the Americans and the Japanese. We spoke last time about how it’s come to be strongly associated with American ivy, and beyond that with a Japanese vision of ivy as well. That, for me, is the the really interesting part, the way these things cross-pollinate and take on new meanings.

DC: Those exchanges are always the best, aren’t they? Whether it’s New Wave filmmakers being obsessed with Hitchcock, or Italians who want to dress like English country gentlemen. They highlight something about the original that we haven’t seen before, while looking through the lens of a different culture. I think in the case of the rugby shirt it’s something that is graphic, bold, substantial, sporting. But it can be interpreted in a more aesthetic way. I think the balance between its utilitarian origins and its more rarefied interpretation is very interesting. I always respond to people who take a classic thing and love it and wear it enough that it becomes their own. But of course, a good rugby shirt doesn’t need much help to look terrific, and that doesn't hurt!



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