The Classic Camp Collar Shirt

Summer is fast approaching so I have been looking at updating my wardrobe to reflect the warmer weather.

For me, dressing for warm weather is always a challenge. I tend to wear a basic t-shirt and a pair of shorts. A polo shirt is my go-to if I want to dress up. Sometimes a polo top feels too dressy or too square for my liking. I need something casual but not too casual. A warm-weather shirt that is a step above a regular t-shirt but not too casual would be great.

It’s a thankfully available shirt! It was probably a summer-style essential for your grandpa.

It’s also known as the camp collar shirt, vacation shirt, or bowling shirt.

What makes a Camp Collar Shirt, a Camp Collar Shirt?

Camp collar shirts are short-sleeved button-down shirts with a lay-flat collar. This is different from a short-sleeve shirt with a higher collar and a stand-up collar. A camp shirt’s loose, boxy silhouette is also distinctive. It has a straight bottom hem.

There are many styles and colors to choose from when it comes to camp shirts.

Camp collar shirts are a warm-weather top and so they tend to be made of light, breezy fabrics that keep you cool. Camp collar shirts are often boldly colored and come in a variety of patterns because they’re associated with summer’s carefree bliss. The Hawaiian shirt that you wear to let everyone know you are a good guy. This is a camp collar shirt. That retro bowling shirt that you wore to ska concerts back in the 90s? Camp collar.

The Camp Collar Shirt’s History

Guayabera is a traditional Latin American work shirt that was likely the source of the camp collar shirt. Guayabera is claimed to have been created by several Spanish-speaking and Latin American countries. If you ask a Mexican about the origins of the guayabera, they will tell you that it was invented by Yucatan Peninsula residents and copied by the Cubans. Cubans claim they invented the camp collar shirt themselves without any assistance from Mexico. The guayabera is a Filipino tradition that has been worn since the 19th Century.

No matter where the guayabera originated, it was Cubans who brought it to America, particularly in the wake of the 1959 Cuban revolution. The guayabera’s open collar was retained by mid-century Americans. They also replaced the long sleeves with shorter sleeves and began using bolder fabric patterns. The camp collar shirt was created.

It quickly became America’s favorite casual shirt. It was versatile across all classes. Famous figures such as Bobby Kennedy and Elvis Presley wore camp collar shirts. The camp collar shirt was also worn by Levittown’s working class WWII veterans. The camp collar shirt was adopted by bowling teams. The camp collar shirt was transformed by vacationers who wore it with tropical patterns to create the famous Hawaiian shirt.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, the camp collar shirt was considered a democratic piece and was a staple of summer fashion for American men.

The camp collar shirt was out of fashion in the 1990s and 2000s. It was only seen at ska concerts by guys or at comic book conventions by dudes in Hawaiian shirts.

The camp collar shirt has seen a resurgence in the last few years. Modern camp collar shirts retain the relaxed, open-collar look of old-fashioned camp collar shirts but have subtle design and fabric changes that give them a modern feel.

How to rock a Camp Collar Shirt

A camp collar shirt can be worn anytime, although a polo shirt would still look good. However, the event is casual and relaxed so a more casual shirt might work better. You can think of pool parties, backyard barbecues, patio dinners, rooftop hangouts, and other outdoor events. For casual outdoor events, camp collar shirts are a good choice.

Because it is such a casual shirt, styling a camp shirt can be very simple. It can be worn with jeans, khakis or shorts or with linen trousers to give it that “I’m on vacation!” look.

It is important to keep your bottoms simple, particularly if you have a bold print (e.g. aloha print) on your camp collar shirt. Madras shorts look great with a camp collar shirt. Solid-colored khakis and linen shorts look great with them.

Miles Teller wearing a floral camp shirt, paired with white linen trousers and tassel loafers. The vintage Omega watch is also visible. A few cool-guy accessories are possible to complete your camp shirt look (Teller was also wearing an Omega signet ring). However, since your top may already have too much going on, keep it simple and sharp. This is a bold, all-around look. Sure. Fly as hell. Good work, Goose, Jr.

Your camp collar shirt should be untucked for a casual look. You can tuck your camp collar shirt in for a more sophisticated, but still casual look.

You can dress up a camp collar shirt with a suit if you feel bold. This look will make you appear like you’re heading to Palm Springs to meet Frank Sinatra. If you don’t, it will look more like you are a 1980s used car salesman. Abort mission.

Although it’s difficult to rock the look of a camp shirt and suit, it is possible. This is a great option for a beach wedding.

Pair a casual camp shirt with a pair of canvas sneakers, boat shoes, or Mohinder’s. You can dress up the shirt by pairing it with leather loafers.

Primer has a great article on styling a camp collar shirt.

Otherwise, go forth in this retro-inspired, but perfect-for-the-present piece of elevated leisurewear and enjoy the ring-a-ding heck out of this summer.

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