In menswear, there are a select few garments that work harder, do more and demand less than all the rest. Things like a pair of leather sneakers, some slim-fitting selvedge denim, and a well-made Oxford button-down. These are items that can be called upon in all seasons, worn with any outfit and relied on year after year. One of the key players in this supergroup of uber-versatile all-stars is undoubtedly the overshirt.
Falling somewhere between a light jacket and a heavy shirt, this does-it-all wonder garment is more deserving of wardrobe-essential status than most. Typically, it features a classic collar, a few patch pockets, a slightly thicker fabrication than regular shirt styles and a marginally looser cut.
But before you run out and purchase, there are a few things to consider. So, allow us to walk you through the finer points of this menswear must-own, from buying considerations to where to get the best bang for your buck.
Why Do You Need An Overshirt?
Our love for overshirts runs deep, and while there are numerous reasons to hold this staple piece in high esteem, one eclipses them all: versatility.
It’s difficult – ney, impossible – to think of another piece of clothing that can be dressed up, dressed down, repurposed for different seasons and worn as frequently. Layer it up in winter, throw it over your knitwear as a light jacket in spring and autumn, roll the sleeves and slip it over a T-shirt on summer evenings around town. An overshirt truly has all bases covered, making it one of those rare and precious garments that can be pulled from the hanger each morning without a second thought.
If there’s one layer worth investing in this is it. Simple, easy to wear and one of the best all-rounders any man could hope to own.
How To Choose The Right Overshirt
First thing’s first: before forking out on a new overshirt there are a few things to consider. From finding the right fit to selecting an appropriate fabric, here’s what you need to know.
How an overshirt should fit depends on what you want to use it for. If you’re just planning to wear it over a T-shirt then a slim fit will work fine. If, however, you’d like the option of wearing it with more layers, a roomier cut is advisable. When it comes to getting the most wear throughout the year, the latter is likely the best option.
There are plenty of options where overshirt fabric is concerned, with some being better suited to certain seasons than others. For example, a heavy wool or denim overshirt is perfect for use through the colder months but not so much in the summer. For something that can carry you through the whole year, go for a simple cotton twill or nylon version.
This part is largely down to personal preference. Options such as zip or button fastening, pockets and embellishments can drastically alter the look of an overshirt. Consider what sort of look you’re aiming for before jumping in and buying something you’ll regret. In our experience, pared back and minimal tends to be best.
Overshirts are available in everything from vibrant patterns and bold block colours to subtle neutrals and natural earth tones. Choosing which one to go for centres largely around the season. Grey, black or navy are fail-safe options year-round, whereas it’s probably best to save the colourful prints for summer and the rich autumnal hues for fall/winter.
The Best Brands For Overshirts
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of doing things locally, which is one of the reasons we love Wax London so much. The brand is on a mission to bring manufacturing back to the UK and so all of its overshirts are made right here in England. The Whiting overshirt is the label’s hero piece and is available in a range of colours, patterns and fabrics. Regardless of which you go for, though, you’ll get the same high quality, relaxed fit and versatility.
Premium basics brand ASKET makes some of the best wardrobe essentials around, but it was the overshirts that first piqued our interest. The Swedish label only makes one overshirt, but it’s really the only overshirt you’d ever need. It has a classic, straight cut, three pockets and is available in a range of understated, versatile colours. Superb quality, as always, and the direct-to-consumer business model means you pay less than you would for the same thing elsewhere.
British brand L’Estrange only produces timeless wardrobe basics; the type of pieces that can be mixed and matched effortlessly for any occasion and you pull on day after day. Its overshirt is the epitome of this ethos: bringing the classic silhouette bang up to date courtesy of a refined, slim cut that allows it to be worn with everything from dress pants to jeans. It comes available in organic stretch cotton and merino wool flannel, so you can wear it year-round.
Foret isn’t the kind of brand that pumps out new designs left, right and centre. Instead you’ll find its range to be small and considered, consisting of contemporary updates on classic menswear staples. Its overshirts are no different.
Subtle variations on the workwear essential include a three-pocket chore coat as well as a two-pocket button up, all made using interesting fabrics like corduroy, cotton twill and Macedonian wool.
Portuguese brand ISTO is well known for its workwear-inspired clothing, ranging from tailored denim through to its versatile overshirts. Priding itself on transparency, ISTO reveals exactly how much each aspect of its garments cost to produce, but it’s the quality that is perhaps most impressive.
Its work jacket, for example, is made from a heavyweight organic cotton, while its natural corzo buttons and double-stitched pockets ensure it’s built to last.
At Neem you’ll find simple, well-engineered clothing made from recycled materials and with 100% carbon neutrality. So, while its overshirts are classically styled and easy to wear, they’re also better for the environment than most.
Take the merino wool fibre the brand works with for its overshirts, for example. It boasts natural moisture-wicking ability and is odour repellent, so you won’t have to wash it as much as inferior poly-blends.
Form & Thread
You won’t be stuck for choice at Form & Thread. If you’re lacking overshirt inspiration, a quick browse through its rails will leave you with plenty of outfit ideas.
Its extensive offering is made up of classic utilitarian outerwear, often in interesting colourways like avocado green or dijon yellow, alongside staples in navy, black and grey.
Respecting the workwear origins of this multifunctional garment but bringing it up to date is London label Percival. Acknowledging that very few of us wear our overshirts for the manual labour they were originally designed for, Percival’s options come in warm colours and pleasing fabrics like a Melton wool blend and a blanket-style Italian Casentino. Less forecourt, more WeWork. Look out for contemporary fits and subtle deviations from the standard chore jacket style in the brand’s commendably small runs.
Headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, Closed is a family-run business that began life as a denim specialist. Since its inception in 1978, sustainability has always been at the forefront of everything it does, which translates to garments that utilise the finest fabrics sourced globally from like-minded companies. Its overshirts are available in a small selection of styles with materials like rich indigo denim, buttery-soft suede and pure cotton twill taking centre stage.
A Day’s March
It’s difficult to pick our favourite thing about A Day’s March, but if really pressed for an answer we’d have to say the overshirts. The brand’s ethos of producing only the essential items and pouring all of its energy into making them as good as they can possibly be lends itself nicely to a garment like this. Perhaps that’s why the overshirt has been one of ADM’s core pieces since the beginning. And perhaps it’s why it makes some of the best in the game.
The high-street home of Swedish minimalism, H&M-owned Arket is the savvy shopper’s choice when it comes to sourcing a quality overshirt that won’t break the bank. Expect pared-back styling, a good mixture of contemporary and classic cuts, and an extremely appealing cost-per-wear ratio.
Getting good, stylish clothing on a tight budget hasn’t always been an easy task. Now, however, thanks to Uniqlo, it’s no longer the struggle it once was. The Japanese high-street hero’s seasonal collections are tightly curated, with an overarching focus on quality fabrications and constructions. The overshirt is a firm fixture throughout the year, with subtle styling and reasonable price points coming as standard.
Known and loved for its innovative fabrics and unconventional dyeing techniques, Italian luxury brand Stone Island has long been a force to reckon with in menswear. The overshirt is a common thread throughout the label’s seasonal collections, with modern tweaks and compass-badge branding serving as trademark design motifs.
There’s a lot to love about British label Universal Works: the unstructured tailoring, the throwback fabrics, the ability of its design team to create garments that somehow feel both modern and timeless. Above all this, though, is the brand’s Baker Jacket. It has quickly become Universal Work’s signature piece and remains one of the best overshirts money can buy.