If You Like Compliments, Get Yourself a Cabana Shirt From Tombolo

The young NYC brand has perfected its "escapewear" style

tombolo shirts

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Last Saturday I stopped in a coffee shop before my friend’s friend’s concert in the East Village. I was dragging a bit, and I knew it was going to be a big night, so I ordered a double shot espresso. The barista — a mustachioed man wearing one of those limited-edition Yankees MOMA hats — approved of my order. But he really approved of my shirt. “That’s a fucking look,” he declared. It was the first in a dizzying, night-long barrage of praise.

That’s the overarching pitch for getting yourself a shirt from Tombolo: if you like compliments, it’s a golden ticket. I was sporting “The Angler,” made from 100% organic cotton terry cloth, depicting a few fish and a hook in cream and forest green. And I’m not making any of this up: a worker at the venue, who was on a beeline for the kitchen, abruptly put down a large carton of glasses to tell me how much he loved the shirt and write the brand’s name in his iPhone notes.

At the after-party later on, the lead singer — and the lead singer’s girlfriend — both told me how “brilliant” my shirt was (before I even got a chance to compliment the show), while another acquaintance kept pulling drive-bys on me throughout the evening, shaking his head in a mixture of appreciation and shock. I went to bed that night fully convinced that if I were to run for mayor in a Tombolo shirt, I would likely win.

Crustaceans, cosmos and so many compliments. Our new favorite summer style brand in a nutshell.

Here’s the truth, though: you don’t even need all those outside compliments to feel good about a Tombolo shirt. It’ll get you there (in terms of fuzzy comfort, and happy-days vibes) entirely on its own. The NYC-based brand, which turns three years old this year, has only a few employees. But it’s got its mission statement down pat: “Inactivewear for leisurely escapes … clothing that is emotionally nostalgic but entirely new.”

They’ve nailed it. Tombolo’s most iconic piece, the Cabana shirt, channels Hemingway docking Pilar in Havana, or the Amalfi aperitifs in Talented Mr. Ripley. The cut is boxier, nostalgic and self-serious in a way that’s decidedly different from the mass-market “escapewear” purveyed by Mr. Thomas Bahama. Still, with names like “Vongole!,” “Rocket Lobster” and “Flamingo Tartare,” Tombolo is an obvious bedfellow to day-drinks, rooftops and weekenders.

To be clear, the brand has pages of different shirts, in different styles. I like the piping on their Hawaiians and the jacquard fabric used for their rehearsal-dinner-minded looks. They also do pants and swim trunks. But the Cabana shirt is the clear showstopper. It can level a room, even when the amplifier’s turned up to 11. A couple pro tips? Size down if you can’t decide, never put this thing in the dryer, be extremely careful around sauces and deploy it once a year (you know, like Christmas) for maximum effect.

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