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The All Action Appeal of the Overshirt
By David Hellqvist
Sep 16, 2022
The overshirt feels like a modern garment to me, a natural progression of some sorts, an evolution of menswear. Cars have hybrids, cuisines are fused, music is remixed, fashion brands collaborate, and this is a collaboragion between two garments: a shirt and a jacket. It's exactly that kind of equation that fuels much of men's clothing today.
Like all great menswear, however, the overshirt originates in a melting pot of military uniforms and traditional workwear. Hence the pockets, straight hem, lack of cuffs, oversized buttons and slightly boxy fit. It’s all down to comfortable ease and purposeful utility.
Hybrids are a great thing; they’re versatile and functional. In the case of the overshirt, they’re the perfect garment for layering. Without sounding like a press release, they’re jackets in the summer and shirts in the winter. Casual and comfortable, they’re key building blocks when dressing up or down. It’s that old muck about dressing for the entire day, morning to evening. Yada, yada, yada.
Fashion historians who have taken it upon themselves to trace the overshirt’s true origins have identified late 19th century workwear as Ground Zero. Denim overalls were the go-to uniform for hard labour, but when the overalls were modified, and the bib removed – thus creating jeans – a top of some sorts was needed.
The resulting shirt was often made from a sturdy and thick material with large pockets – borrowed from the jacket category – but with a classic shirt collar and full button fastening. Removing the cuffs meant easy access was guaranteed and the straight hem – instead of the curves on a shirt – offered just that little bit of extra protection around the waist.
The military has always looked to workwear when creating its uniforms, as few other professions are so dependent on reliable functionality. Menswear, in turn, has always been fascinated by the connotations of an army uniform. Going back to World War II, there was a tunic worn by the US Marine Corps fighting in the Pacific Ocean that has all the hallmarks of a modern overshirt. Due to the climate, its boxy fit helped regulate the body temperature of soldiers in battle.
Looking at Drake’s military overshirt, it ticks all of those boxes, both historical and contemporary. It’s made from an open weave cotton military cloth woven in Japan, (massive menswear tick) and features three roomy patch and flap pockets and is finished with large mother of pearl buttons. In perfect homage to its roots, the shirt comes in navy blue (workwear) and an olive green shade (military) that slots naturally into everyone’s summer wardrobes. Or autumn wardrobe, for that matter.
To summarise, the overshirt is a killer piece. It’s got just about as many names as it’s got applications. And that, my friends, is the definition of menswear.
Just don’t call it a ‘shacket’.