The overshirt, shirt-jacket, ‘shacket’ or whatever you’d care to call it has a complicated and intriguing history. What we think of today as the overshirt is really an amalgam of three or four different casual garments, ranging from military undershirts to civilian work jackets.
Generally speaking, three-pocket overshirts with revere collars and boxy cuts have their origins in early 20th century European workwear. The overshirt was originally a garment worn by labourers, craftspeople and artists to cover up their suits and ties in an era before uniforms, and the breast pocket was a convenient addition to stash tools. Chunky four-pocket overshirts, or overshirts cut with bellows pockets on the chest have a more utilitarian look, and their origins lie in the shirts worn by British soldiers at the turn of the 20th century. Troops deployed to Europe would be issued shirts with practical chest or hip pockets in cotton drill or flannel, while overseas, lighter cotton khaki shirts would be distributed.
The third element in the overshirt’s design is of course the safari shirt – a functional off-shoot of the military shirt, designed as the ideal top layer to wear while travelling in hot climes, where the shirt’s pockets come in handy to hold anything from shotgun cartridges to a water flask. Today, this makes the modern overshirt something of a sartorial chameleon. It rarely looks out of place, and the latest crop of overshirts from Drake’s reference its relaxed, functional history without leaning too hard on a particular look. In a range of cool, muted colours, they’re easy to make your own.
If you work in a creative office and you need a warm-weather alternative to a tailored jacket, try the navy pinstripe or mid-blue herringbone shirts over a chambray button-down, olive linen trousers and textured summer tie. If you’re looking for something to wear on the weekends, the cream overshirt looks great with a sky-blue oxford or denim shirt, tan chinos or jeans. And, if you like the idea of a practical shirt to wear when you’re hopping on and off planes, you won’t go wrong with one of the collection’s versatile three-pocket overshirts (that top pocket is perfectly sized for your passport – or paintbrushes, if you’re a real-life bohemian).
They feel great on, too. Like all Drake’s shirts, they’re made from superior cloths in the company’s shirt-making workshop in Somerset, with elegant swelled edges, horn buttons and French seams. Drake’s has subtly refined the fit of its overshirts through the body this season, so they sit close to the figure for a trim, contemporary look, even though they’re cut with knife pleats and a boxy shape.
Moreover, there are various different weights of linen to choose from. The khaki green and dark navy plainweave shirts are cut from a heavy, chalky linen that’s great for the transitional months, while the plain sage green and herringbone overshirts are lighter and breezier. There’s also a super-lightweight cotton and linen chambray in the perfect shade of blue for summer.
When it really heats up, some of the floatier shirts even wear comfortably against the skin with chinos or tailored shorts. Try the cream or navy linen herringbone shirts, which breathe beautifully. Be sure to roll up the sleeves and finish with a neckerchief for a chic high-summer look.
It all sounds simple doesn’t it? And fortunately, it is. There’s little out there right now that’s as comfortable, versatile or easy-to-wear as an overshirt, so there’s absolutely no excuse not to get into them. Wear over formal shirts, over striped t-shirts or pique polos– they’re just what your spring wardrobe needs.