The Camp Collar Is the Perfect Summer Shirt for Bigger Guys
They're easy to pair and comfortable as hell. What's not to love?
There are two things I can say for sure that I’ve given up on.
The first of those things happened some time ago: I gave up imagining I’ll ever be skinny. And no, I don’t mean it like I’ve been fighting to take off weight my entire life (although I could always lose a few more pounds), as that’s a struggle people really live with and not something that concerns me very much. Instead, I just mean I’ve had to deal with the fact that I’m broad. I’ve got big shoulders and a wide chest. Not quite husky — more of a Bluto from Popeye type of body. I could probably lug boxes of carp across a frozen tundra, but a beach body, no sir. I’ll never be tiny. Pre-coronavirus, I was at the gym and eating healthy, and still, I remained, well, thick. And I’m good with that.
The other thing is more recent. I’m sick of popping on a T-shirt to sit at my desk in my home office. That doesn’t mean I want to get dressed (although the Matt Hraneks and Alexander Krafts make it look fun to put on a suit during all of this). I still want to wear shorts and not to have to worry about too many buttons — but a few buttons would be nice, a little barrier to distinguish my work clothes from my lounging ones.
There is, believe it or not, some good news for me these days in regards to both of those things. We are living in a great time for soft collars, and despite the reports that this summer is going to be a scorcher, I feel confident that I’ll be able to deal with it without dressing too chill.
I’ve seen these types of shirts called everything from “Camp collars” to “Cuban shirts,” and really don’t have much in common with each other besides the fact that they’re comfortable as hell and easy to pair with just about anything.
A few sterling examples, below.
The Party Shirt
One that I’m particularly fond of is the O.N.S Clothing collaboration with Los Angeles-based artist Leah Goren. The OKI Camp Collar Shirt is a blend of 55 percent linen and 45 percent cotton, which is exactly what I’m looking for. I like linen just fine, but — and I’m saying this in a very Larry David kvetchy voice — too much linen is overkill. It feels like I’m walking around in a crumpled rag, if I’m being honest. This one I paired with my favorite shorts of the summer, pink Patagonia Baggies. For this kind of look, I can wear loafers or slides. The great thing about this or any other soft collar shirt is that it has a certain “zero fucks given” feel to it. You’re not dressy, but you’re still dressed up. You actually put on a button-up shirt during a pandemic when your friends and loved ones are still in sweats and Ts. You do you.
The Any Occasion Soft Collar
The previous number is my special occasion shirt. I wear it to drinks in the street six feet away from my friends and other socially distanced events that involve cocktails in some way. The day-to-day shirt has been the pink Todd Snyder camp collar. Now, I know what I said about linen above, but the fact is that a lot of places use cheap linen, and the fabric can feel scratchy against your skin. The Todd Snyder shirts are made with 100 percent Portuguese linen, so it’s super airy and easy to pair with everything from a pair of khaki shorts or even, if you must, some jorts. It’s not a fussy shirt, but it’s also no slouch.
The Don Abides
I understand the urge to take fashion inspiration from Tony Soprano. The thing is, if I’m going to dress like a gangster, I’m going more for Hyman Roth chilling in Florida in The Godfather 2, except, you know, bigger. Then there are the other days, where I’m going a little more Tony Montana before he realizes the world is his. A loud pattern with a soft collar can either say “I’m in the twilight of my years and just want to tinker around on the beach with my metal detector” or “I will sell you cocaine at a Miami Beach nightclub in 1982” and, frankly, both are admirable looks.
I found myself starting out this summer in a few Uniqlo shirts that were inexpensive when I bought them, and are currently on sale for under 20 bucks a pop. I can’t really speak to the quality of these shirts, but they’ve treated me well after a number of washes. I don’t feel like a jerk sitting on a roof and drinking countless beers, sweating in the sun in a shirt that didn’t cost a lot.
A shirt that I’ll be bringing with me on holiday, whenever that might be, is the Belize, a Cuban collar shirt from Reiss that really makes me miss eating dinner on the beach. Am I going to be able to do that again in 2020? I have zero idea. But for now, this is my shirt for chilling out under an umbrella while I sip rosé and waste away the hot days.
I really hate the idea that something as wonderful as a Hawaiian shirt could be considered controversial, but, then again, this is 2020 we’re talking about. So, sadly, the one shirt that I got this season that I would feel comfortable wearing to a luau is really being held for home grilling and other assorted activities that might involve fire. The Freemans Sporting Club Amboy is that shirt, and I’ve labeled it my “fun” shirt. I’m well aware that Brooks Brothers has their own version of a fun shirt, but that’s not what I’m going for right now. These days, I want some palms, an ice-cold beer and anything that is going to take my mind off pretty much everything. I just want a little fun at a safe distance, and this is just the shirt for that.