Men’s Fashion Guide: Level Up Your Style with the Timeless Rugby Shirt

With the World Cup in full swing, it’s time to transition our wardrobes into chic athleisure attire. Forget about any uncomfortable shorts or bulky scrum caps, as we’re here to adore the comfort of the humble rugby shirt.

The rugby shirt, which is typically long-sleeved and has a button-neck and stiffer collar than the softer, sports-derived polo shirt, has several design quirks that are functional on the field but can also be fashionable off it. For instance, the smaller collar was initially intended to have less material for potential tacklers to grab. And the tougher material, which was initially designed for hardiness, makes the rugby shirt an ideal transitional clothing item for the colder weather.

History of Rugby Shirts

man wearing green and white straps Cotton Rugby Shirts
source: valetmag.com

If you are looking for a classic country style, long sleeve rugbies are a staple garment! But, before hitting the stores, you might want to learn something about the history of this timeless piece of clothing. 

The first rugby uniform was a collared dress shirt with a bow tie, but the tails were too easy to snag. Buttons were also removed from the front to avoid scratching another player’s face. The wool jumpers that replaced the dress shirts also proved unsuitable, with the fabric becoming heavy in the wet British winter, so cotton was chosen as the rugby shirt’s de facto fabric.

The collar remained, and bold stripes with horizontal lines took center stage, as vertical stripes were typical for footballers. The stiff collars became less prominent over time to prevent a pesky prop from clinging onto them for dear life, which brings us pretty much up to the modern version of the rugby shirt. 

Rugby Shirts as Fashion Staple

man wearing strappy Rugby Shirt
source: ivyleagueboys.tumblr.com

People did not adopt the rugby shirt as a fashion item until more than a century later. The now-classic preppy wardrobe was first developed in the 1950s. Rugby shirts, a thicker alternative to the polo shirt, were popular among American teenagers to show off their athleticism while still maintaining a neat appearance. 
Before making a big comeback in the last couple of seasons, rugbies, like other preppy staples such as sweatshirts, have gone in and out of style, peaking in the 1980s and 1990s as a symbol of old money yuppies, which was then hijacked by subversive hip-hop stars.  

Street vs. Athletic Rugby Shirts

two boys wearing organic cotton rugby shirt athletic collection
source: cyrillus.com

Rugby teams, from the practice level up to the pro leagues, have since strayed from this design for obvious reasons. Athletic wear, in general, has shifted toward more performance-based materials, such as thin, stretchy polyester and elastane blends that are frequently enhanced with moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and antimicrobial properties.
True to the shirt’s original design, a closer fit means less material to grab. As a result, most actual rugby shirts today are made of a synthetic blend, which sits closer to the skin, provides a breathable sensation, wicks away sweat, and has even better tear resistance than the traditional heavyweight cotton garment.

How to Style Your Rugby Shirt

woman wearing Rugby Shirt
source: frontrowclothing.co.uk

The Rugby shirt counts as one of those stylish and simple pieces of clothing because its bold, contrasting colours and colour-blocking draw attention whether you go for a strictly traditional look or streetwear iteration.

Casual Style 

The classic and most chic way to style your rugby shirt is to pair it with straight-cut dark denim and white sneakers casually. As a result, for daily wear, keep the rest of your outfit neutral – this is why jeans and khaki pants worked so well with it in the late ’90s.
You can match the rugbies’ recognizable pattern to any grey, black, navy, or tan chinos or straight-cut mid- to dark-wash denim for an updated look. Anything wider – or with side pockets will give you a retro look that is both comfortable and stylish. You can round out your look by layering a black or navy bomber or even a denim jacket over your outfit during the transitional seasons.

Athleisure Style 

Rooted in the field but versatile enough for everyday wear, the rugby shirt is one of the first true athleisure pieces. Taking this into consideration, instead of pairing it with above-the-knee shorts, opt for a more out-of-the-ordinary look and style it with jogger pants. 
As joggers abandon gym class connotations favouring nylon blends and streetwear-forward zipper accents, the rugby shirt appears to be a good match. Keep your joggers neutral to let the stripes stand out. But don’t overdo it with the trending dad shoes. Instead, stick to solid-colour kicks like a Stan Smith or even Vans and top it off with a track jacket.

Street Style 

In this section, throw your reservations to the wind as rugby shirts have carved out their niche in the streetwear market, thanks to their colour-blocking, large logos, and even embroidery. 
As a result, now is the time to dress like you just stepped out of a lookbook: Combine it with a varsity jacket to relive your high school days, and exaggerate the decade’s styles with cropped, wide-legged pants, cap and kicks.
Basketball shoes are a must-have for an ultimate street style, followed by a bucket hat or five-panel dad cap. Have a matching puffer jacket on hand when the temperature drops outside, preferably accented by a large logo.

Best Rugby Shirts to Buy in 2022

woman wearing wrangler rugby shirt
source: newmarketsaddlery.com.au

Ringers Western

The Regency rugby shirt is an all-year fashion staple to add a bit of edge to your look. Made of durable cotton, this top will keep you warm and stylish during the cooler months. For a sophisticated classic look, pair it with jeans and boots.

Thomas Cook 

Thomas Cook’s traditionally styled rugby shirt is the winter winner because of its weight fabric to keep you warm even when the temperature drops. Featuring a contrasting collar and quilted shoulder panels, these rugby jumpers are the right investment for the upcoming season! 

Wrangler 

Rugby shirts are an essential part of any country wardrobe, and the Wrangler Men’s Bolton Hoodstripe rugby is an excellent example. It’s smart and tidy, and it comes in classic country colours that are easy to mix and match with your existing wardrobe. Dress it down with your favourite jeans or up with some moleskins.