As with most trends, the course of the Rugby stripe has gone through several life cycles — from utilitarian uniform to sporty chic to resort wear style to outdoor gear. The classic thick-banded pattern is coming full circle this summer, in a slew of different styles, from sleek prints to a throwback climber’s shirt from outdoor outfitter Patagonia.
The rugby stripe in the outdoor niche was popularized by Patagonia in the 1970s, after founder Yvon Chouinard traveled to Scotland and bought himself a few jerseys because the collar helped keep his hardware slings from slicing into his neck. The purchase morphed into the muse of Chouinard’s now-iconic Patagonia climbing shirts, which were owned by nearly everyone scaling the walls of Yosemite throughout the decade.
Now they’re back in the form of Patagonia’s Sender shirt, which is sharp enough to sport beyond the mountain. The shirt, available now for the Spring/Summer 2015 season, comes in both long and short sleeve variations, although we recommend going with the long sleeved — it’s more versatile, less dad-looking. Made of heavy-duty organic Jersey cotton, the shirt retails at $62 and comes in Stone, Rusted Iron, and Tobago Blue.
Other, less sport-specific brands are taking cue from the idea of fusing fashion and sport — call it the new power player look. For last year’s US Open, Ralph Lauren took his traditional polo shirt to a more technical level for 2015 by teaming up with Canada-based biometric lab OMsignal to create the Polo Tech shirt. It has a compression-fabric feel and is fitted with electronic thread that is capable of monitoring data like heart rate, energy level, breathing rate, and intensity, with Bluetooth technology. The shirt will be available this summer.
Less techy options include Dunhill’s polo shirts, which exhibit the rugby stripe on a dressier, luxe silk fabric. Dunhill, a UK-based brand, finds its inspiration from its saddlery business beginnings in 1893 to it’s transformation as a designer of all things manly — dashboard clocks, goggles, aviation supplies — through the 1900s, and going on to supplying lightweight, durable clothing for the open road. The subdued colors of the silk keep it classy, not garish, and is a nice look that will let you still feel like a sport at any fancy dinner.