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What is a camp collar shirt?

What is a camp collar shirt?

In a nutshell

A shirt with a relaxed collar that sits flat against your skin – think the collar of a bowling or Hawaiian shirt, and you’re in the right ballpark. “It buttons lower on the chest and has almost a mini-lapel,” says Thread stylist Freddie Kemp, “which makes it more comfortable than your weekday shirts.” A favourite of Elvis and Gregory Peck, it lends any look a breezy feel. Which makes it perfect for barbecue season.

The backstory

In the US, the camp collar also goes by ‘Cuban collar’, a nod to its roots first in 18th century South America, then the Caribbean, where it was worn by field-tilling farmworkers. Roll forward to the 1950s and it sailed to America on the chests of Cuban immigrants, where it was swiftly adopted by anyone sick of sweating through their work shirts.

Unlike the collar of an Oxford shirt, a camp collar has next to no structure, so you don’t feel like you’re wearing a scarf when the mercury starts climbing. They’re also designed to be worn with at least one button undone and are generally cut looser than a formal shirt, so you get even more airflow. All of which makes a camp collar shirt the answer to the question: “How do I stay smart when it’s roasting?”

Photographed: Sunspel cotton mesh camp collar shirt (£115); Hammond & Co grey textured shorts (£39); Vans Classic Slip On hairy suede (£59)

How to wear it well

Since it's so summery, the camp collar has, until recently, been lumped in with anything floral or featuring hula girls. Which does it a disservice. “Avoid novelty and stick to shirts with a classic, 50s feel,” says Freddie. “The collar is distinctive enough by itself. You don’t need to throw pineapples or Hawaiian prints in on top.”

Dark, block colours are smartest – a white camp collar shirt feels more tennis coach than Jack Kerouac – but if you do fancy a pattern, stick to something subtle. “Muted shades and abstract or geometric shapes are easiest to wear,” says Freddie. Stripes have an easy, Americana feel, but leaf prints that don’t look too tropical are also fairly forgiving.

If you are wary, then dial down the look with layering. “A camp collar shirt feels really relaxed worn open a white tee,” says Freddie, “but they can also look great under a jacket.” To maintain the shirt’s easy, island vibe, avoid anything with too much structure. “A bomber is great for casual looks, or try an unstructured blazer if you want to smarten up.” Because anything too stuffy will harsh your shirt’s buzz, man.