A lot of guys are under the impression that all button up shirts are more or less the same. Sure, there may be some minor differences in pattern and colour but at the end of the day to most guys a button up shirt is a button up shirt.
The reality is that not all button up shirts were created equal. Some are designed specifically for formal situations while others are meant to be worn more casually.
For example, the most formal button up shirt you’ll come across is the traditional tuxedo shirt. This type of button up shirt is designed specifically for black tie events and is characterized but its french cuffs and pleated or pique bib front:
From the tuxedo shirt you then have a series of less formal button up shirts ranging from a basic button up dress shirt to more casual options like a button down collar shirt or a chambray or flannel button up shirt:
As you can see it’s not just the design of the shirt that determines its level of formality but also the type of material that it’s made from. Generally speaking, shirts made from looser weaves like chambray (cotton) or flannel (wool) are meant to be more casual than shirts made from finer weaves like pinpoint or broadcloth (cotton).
Now that you have an idea of the basic dichotomy of a button up shirt (formal vs casual), I want to discuss a particular casual button up shirt option that is trending quite heavily for this fall and winter season: the utility or work shirt.
What is a utility shirt?
A utility or work shirt is a style of casual button up shirt that is made from a heavier cotton material (although cotton/synthetic blends are becoming more common these days) and is specifically designed as a workwear item.
Some utility shirts will even have even pockets along the sleeves while other varieties will be made from material heavy enough to make them almost like jackets (i.e. shackets):
Utility shirts have been around for a long time and were once a part of a working man’s uniform, especially during America’s manufacturing boom during the first half of the 20th century. Needless to say these shirts are the epitome of rugged style and are seeing somewhat of a revival in men’s style today.
Because of their heavier weight utility shirts are particularly great for the cooler fall and winter months. In fact, they look great when worn untucked with a pair of dark denim jeans and some work boots.
For those of you who are looking to create a more rugged aesthetic with your style utility shirts are a great option and definitely worth incorporating into your wardrobe.
What company is making the best utility shirt?
Good question. There are a couple of great companies making some awesome utility shirts right now.
First up is J.Crew which currently has a Selvedge Japanese Chambray Utility Shirt that is fantastic. The design of the utility shirt is very classic with its tab collar and chest pockets. The material itself is relatively lightweight (chambray) and the colour is spot on if you want to pair it with dark denim.
The second company is Batch Shirts who have recently come out with a very cool line of utility shirts for the fall and winter season. If you are unfamiliar with Batch Shirts I recently reviewed one of their fantastic button up shirts not too long ago.
The Editor comes in a beautiful forest green colour that looks awesome during the fall/winter season. You can easily pair this shirt with some mustard coloured chinos/kahkis or your favourite pair of dark denim and some desert boots:
The Specialist is also a great option but with a slightly different design from The Editor with the inclusion of two sleeve pockets. The Specialist also comes in one of my favourite power colours: purple. Let’s face it, this shirt is hard to beat:
If I were forced to choose between J.Crew and Batch Shirts I’d definitely give Batch Shirts the nod as they offer a product that is higher in quality (better fabric, mother of pearl buttons, in house design etc.) at a cheaper price point ($85-$94 vs $98). Batch Shirts also offers free shipping and free returns.
A button up shirt is not just a button up shirt and its important to know the difference as every guy should have a nice range of formal and casual options in his wardrobe.
Utility shirts definitely fall into the casual category and are experiencing a bit of a resurgence this fall and winter season. For those of you looking to dress with more of a rugged aesthetic I highly recommend incorporating a utility shirt or two into your wardrobe. They are a great option that will keep you plenty warm and stylish for the cooler months.
Here’s to looking sharp!