In January 2016, Prada debuted its 'Impossible True Love' shirt on the Milan runway. A boxy, white and navy revere-collar piece, in thick cotton, and featuring an illustration by Christophe Chemin depicting Elvis kissing Cleopatra (obviously), few could have predicted that it would kickstart a craze for bright, oversized, short sleeve shirts with Fifties collars that, nearly five years on, is still at the top of the men’s trend conversation each season.
For Spring/Summer 2020, the camp collar has moved on a step, though, with designers adding bright colours and brighter prints onto long sleeve styles done out in linen, seersucker or, if you’re really looking to live the louche life, silk. The results are an intersection of modern prep, Seventies sleaze, Joe Exotica and Lake Como holiday flare.
“I think a printed long-sleeved shirt is a brilliant alternative to a short sleeve in summer, and I’d say there are two ways you can go with this,” says Damian Paul, head of menswear at Matches Fashion. “There is a classic style – slightly boxy shirt with an open neck camp style – but available in vibrant prints. For these I’d check out the likes of Casablanca, who even has one called ‘View from the balcony interior’ and features, unsurprisingly, the view from a balcony interior. There is also a shift into more kaftan-style shirts, looser and longer with a very relaxed mood. Often when in plain colours they can feel quite monastic but this summer there are lots of interpretations in bolder prints.”
Casablanca, the hot, hot, HOT Parisian label founded by French-Moroccan creative director Charaf Tajer, who previously ran cult streetwear brand Pigalle, is one of the driving forces behind a new taste in menswear for long, printed, silk shirts. The brand employs a full-time team of artists to hand paint designs that are then then printed and woven onto pieces in vibrant shades of green, pastel pink and peach. “I wanted to create a new kind of elegance for men,” Tajer tells me over the phone from Hawaii, where’s he’s hanging out during the apocalypse. “I couldn’t find what I wanted in menswear, so I created it.” These creations have resulted in an LVMH Prize nomination, a prime slot on the Paris runway, as well as retailers including Matches, END and Mr Porter clamouring for new releases. “A lot of this is just my personal taste. I wanted to create a new kind of elegance, with the silk, the hand painting and the colours. So I did.”
At Sunspel, who've been crafting nice shirts for more than a century, everything starts with fabric. “Linen is the obvious choice for a summer shirt as it is breathable and cool to the touch,” says David Telfer, the brand's head of design. “We use an Italian woven linen, which is lightweight and great for high summer. Our printed camp collar shirts are made in Tencel, which as well as being sustainable is also incredibly cool.”
For its new collection, Sunspel collaborated with the artist John Booth on a range of printed shirts and matching shorts with a colourful graphic based on its original logo. “Camp collars are still a big trend for the season both in print and plains,” says Telfer. “We have also been inspired by Japanese art with some hand-painted ink prints.”
At esteemed Jermyn Street shirtmaker Turnbull and Asser, patterns also nod to warmer weather. “We launched a paisley print silk shirt recently that proved really popular,” creative director Becky French. “Cotton and linen are our most popular fabrics for weekend shirts in summer. Linen keeps gaining popularity and is also in line with our values around sustainability. Our super lightweight cashmere and cotton blend, woven in Switzerland, is also at the top end of quality and comfort.”
Finally, you can’t underestimate the pull of 007 when it comes to pedalling wares. Despite its slightly compromised release date (thanks coronavirus!), the snippets of Daniel Craig’s wardrobe gleaned from trailers is enough to send some fans scurrying across the internet in search of specific outfits and looks. One of those items is a very nice camp collar blue linen shirt/jacket by Connolly, which was seen on Craig while he was filming scenes in Matera, the city carved into a rocky outcrop in southern Italy. Connolly has worked with factories in Naples to make the perfect summer-weight shirting material.
“With the ‘Bond effect’ we have seen huge demand for our handmade linen and cotton shirting from Naples," the brand tells me via email. "We make these in collaboration with Finamore, who we are working with for the new James Bond film."
What are the secrets when it comes to making the perfect summer shirt? I ask my faceless Connolly conduit, hoping to learn its secrets.
"Cut, form and attention to detail. Hand-finished shoulders and collars can give that extra comfort and room whilst natural horn buttons avoid catching the summer glint."
If it's good enough for Bond etc.
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