CULT ITEM: RUGBY SHIRT
By Sam Higgins, 9 March 2018
While the ideas fashion borrows from sport are widespread and varied, there aren’t many stronger sports-inspired statements than donning a classic rugby shirt. From field to fashion week, nothing has been converted so brilliantly since Jonny Wilkinson drop kicked in the final seconds of the 2003 World Cup. So, we've taken a closer look at how the top became a modern-day style staple.
The real thing
Unlike football shirts, which depend on branding and strong design to stand out, the rugby shirt – even in its most basic form – is one of the most recognisable sporting silhouettes. We’re not talking about the new polyester-blend shirts that stay snug to players' muscles, but the traditional loose-fitting long-sleeved cotton tops, which relied on bold all-over colours or simple patterns like horizontal stripes or quarters to keep each team distinctive enough from the other. The rugby shirt hasn’t changed drastically since the 19th century, but the context has shifted and its unique features – the stiff contrast collar, the thick cotton texture and clean design – have landed it in the wardrobes of various subcultures over the years.
Although the versatile piece never had strong ties to one era, the 80s saw rugby's riff on the long-sleeved polo come into its own. No longer just an oval-ball lover’s ode to his favourite team, the top became more stylised with thinner striping and a lighter texture, moving away from its British heritage. Netflix hit Stranger Things, which was soaked in 80s style, shows how striped rugby shirts were adopted as everyday school attire/monster-hunting apparel.
Today, the rugby shirt has become a style staple. While vintage shirts offer a timeless touch to casual ‘fits and brands like Supreme and Stüssy are making the silhouette a regular in streetwear collections, the stylish set are already experimenting with more ways to give the shirt new life. Take this fashion week attendee, going against the traditional striped variety in favour of a rugby shirt with an all-over graphic print. Notice how he wears his with a striped shirt underneath to emphasise his neckline. For a toned down take on his look, try rocking skater jeans on your bottom half for the upcoming season.