Dressing for seasonal transitions like spring to summer, summer to fall, or fall to winter can sometimes be a tad tricky to navigate. You need to dress in a way that you’ll be warm enough for when it gets a bit nippy out on the streets but also cool enough for you to make a run for the office and not end up with pit stains by the time you get there.

It’s a problem every bloke faces every few months, right?

Well, not really. Not unless you’ve never worn a men’s overshirt.

A men’s overshirt conveniently fills the gap between shirts and jackets and can also be a great alternative to other casual outerwear like hoodies and sweatshirts.

Penelope Armstrong (boohooMAN Senior Menswear Designer)

Contents

What Is an Overshirt?

An overshirt is sort of a hybrid between a shirt and a jacket; hence, the rather unsuccessful attempt to call it a ‘shacket’. This versatile garment is made of slightly thicker material than what’s used in regular men’s shirts, and it is understandably heavier and more durable.

A men’s shacket, if you want to call it that, is lighter than a full-fledged jacket. It is meant to be worn over a regular shirt when it’s chilly and under a jacket or overcoat when it’s colder. It’s not made to fit like a regular shirt and is somewhat worn looser.

These qualities make men’s overshirts essential wardrobe staples. They’re also suitable for all blokes, whatever their build, height, or size. 

A Short History of Overshirts

Like the most ingenious fashion innovations, the overshirt itself was essentially a working-class product born out of necessity.

how to wear men's overshirts

Origins of the overshirt

A popular narrative about the origin of the overshirt is that French railway workers and engineers wore overshirts made of durable cotton drill or moleskin.

These overshirts were light enough to make it easy to move while working yet were hardy enough to last a long time. They were also fitted with large pockets designed to make stashing small devices and tools easy and convenient.

A more detailed account of the history of the overshirt traces its roots to more than one source.

  • Twentieth-century European workwear: labourers, artists, and craftspersons wore overshirts that could cover up and protect their regular daily attire. These overshirts featured a breast pocket for keeping small tools. 
  • British soldiers’ shirts: British troops deployed in Europe were given shirts made of cotton drill or flannel, while those sent elsewhere were issued lighter cotton khaki shirts. Both types featured chest or hip pockets.
  • Safari shirts: closely modelled after military shirts, safari shirts are made to be worn in tropical or hot climates. They usually feature several utility pockets for holding a multitude of items, including a water flask, map, compass, whistle, a lighter or box of matches, shotgun cartridges, etc.

Whatever may have happened in between leading to the metamorphosis of these different shirts into the overshirt we know today, it no longer matters. We’re just pleased to have overshirts.

Overshirts in pop culture/male celebrities wearing overshirts

Like hoodies, men’s utility jackets, and sweatshirts, men’s shirt jackets have had their fair share of celebrity fans through the years.

David Beckham leads the pack of men’s checked overshirt lovers as he’s wont to wear them in a plaid pattern – whether he’s walking along the streets of London or New York or hopping from one airport to another. 

‘Doctor Who’ and ‘The Crown’ star Matt Smith offers a styling alternative – keeping the top button all buttoned up while leaving the rest open to reveal a simple white tee. Another way to wear overshirts is by wearing one with a zip-up front à la Ryan Gosling. The zip adds to the ease and versatility of wearing this type of overshirt.

Other celebrities who’ve been spotted wearing overshirts include John Legend, Mark Wahlberg, Zac Efron, Scott Disick, George Clooney, Matthew McConaughey, Orlando Bloom, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Ricky Gervais, John Krasinski, Benedict Cumberbatch, and basically everybody else – that’s just how popular overshirts are.

How to Wear Men’s Overshirts?

Men’s overshirts are totally easy to get right and wrong as well. But with the following styling tips, you might end up turning overshirts into your ‘uniform’ when you’re too lazy to wear anything else.

Get the fit right

As an in-between casual dressing option, overshirts are essentially heavier than your casual shirt and are not made to fit like one either. To make sure the fit is right, consider the following factors:

  • Collar: Overshirts may be worn closed or open, but never ever with a tie. So, treat the collar area the way you would a casual shirt, and ensure there’s plenty of room around the neck area.
  • Sleeves: The sleeves should be comfortably loose to make room for the sleeves of your undershirt, jumper, or casual tee, so they are never snug. The tip of your sleeves should sit at the end of your wrist. So, when you wear your undershirt with a jacket, the tips of the sleeves won’t be visible. However, the sleeves should completely cover a jumper.
  • Shoulders: The shoulder width should ideally be closer to that of a blazer, with the seam sitting just below the area where the arm and shoulder meet. To ensure a good fit, wear the undershirt with a tee. You should also try it on with a sweatshirt to ensure it would go with any weather.
  • Chest: Since an overshirt can work as an outerwear or underlayer, it should be loose enough to accommodate another garment underneath. However, it should still lie flat on the chest area when fully buttoned up without being hideously form-fitting.
  • Hem: The hem of your overshirt should reach just below the waist and above the top of the hips, much like a denim jacket would.
how to wear men's overshirts

Choose the materials carefully

Unlike their predecessors, the undershirts of today come in a wide array of fabrics. Flannel still works, just like moleskin, twill, and denim, although manmade or technical materials are becoming more common. There’s ever-reliable breathable and comfortable cotton that’s great for all-weather wear, too. Made from different versions of cotton, men’s khaki overshirts and men’s corduroy overshirts never go out of style either.

Overshirts made of technical fabrics like nylon are sports-style appropriate. Polyamide overshirts are usually constructed with a modern twist and often come with zippers. 

Go for check patterns for a safer approach

Wearing checks is an easy way to introduce some patterns and colours to your ensemble, particularly for summer when you might be up for something bolder or bright. Just make sure you pair your checked overshirt with a plain tee underneath or a darker men’s workwear jacket on top.

how to wear men's overshirts

Opt for a shirt jacket in plain, dark hues for a smarter look

Wearing an overshirt to a date or the office? Opt for a dark block colour to achieve a smarter look.

Impress your date by wearing your overshirt over a knitted jumper. Then finish the look with tailored trousers and lace-up shoes. For work, a collared or any low-bulk inner shirt, your overshirt, dark trousers, and polished boots would make the perfect combo.

Choose pockets and earthy tones to give your outfit a ‘utilitarian’ vibe

If you want to go for a chill yet rugged utilitarian look, choose a men’s utility overshirt in an earthy colour (e.g., deep green or red, brown, greyish blue, and other natural hues), and featuring large utility pockets.

how to wear men's overshirts

Pick a zip-up overshirt for a practical outfit

Men’s zip overshirts add an extra dose of coolness to the already awesome shirt jacket. And, just like Ryan Gosling, opt to wear your overshirt zipped halfway, revealing your shirt underneath. Of course, no one’s going to stop you from zipping it all the way up if the weather gets too cold.

Don’t overlayer

Even when men’s overshirts are meant for layering, do not overlayer. Try to limit your ensemble to two to three layers. With two layers, you’d have an inner shirt under an overshirt. Three layers could mean an inner shirt, overshirt, and a jacket. The rule of thumb here is to ensure every garment you layer can be worn on its own.

What to Wear with a Men’s Shacket?

There are so many garments you can mix and match with a shacket. You can style it so many ways, too, so it’s guaranteed to give you different types of looks, no matter the occasion or season.

Utility Look

  • Utility overshirt
  • Dark-coloured t-shirt
  • Cargo pants
  • Boots or chunky shoes

One way to achieve a utilitarian look is by choosing a men’s utility overshirt or a shacket made of technical material, and pair it with form-fitting (but not tight) utility or cargo pants. Match this ensemble with an inner shirt in a contrasting or dark block colour and boots or chunky shoes.

Casual Look

  • Dark-coloured overshirt
  • T-shirt in neutral colours (grey, white or navy blue)
  • Jeans
  • Trainers

There are too many ways to go about this, but there are a few basic looks that work for everyone. Wear a grey, white, or navy blue inner shirt, layer it with a dark-coloured overshirt, and pair this top with jeans and comfy shoes and you’re good to go!

Smart Casual Look

  • Dark-coloured overshirt
  • Shirt in neutral colours
  • Neutral-coloured chinos or straight-cut jeans in a dark wash
  • Oxford leather shoes

The same casual outfit suggested above paired with neutral-coloured chinos and classic Oxford leather shoes can take you from super casual to smart casual in minutes. However, straight-cut jeans in a dark wash will work, too.

Must-have Shirt Jackets for Guys and How to Style Them

The most popular shirt jackets you can wear in so many ways include checked, corduroy, and khaki overshirts. These are easy enough to style. And for you to get these right, check out these quick and simple styling tips:

How to wear a check overshirt?

If you’re not afraid of mixing patterns, you can wear a dark, striped inner shirt underneath an overshirt in dark, earthy colours. But if you’d rather keep it subtle, wear a plain tee that either contrasts or belongs to the same colour palette as your overshirt.

How to wear a corduroy overshirt?

If you want a more unusual way of styling an overshirt, you can layer your corduroy overshirt on top of another jacket (think Zac Efron). It could be a bomber jacket that you want to wear during winter but is too light to wear on its own. This style actually works well with moleskin or thick wool overshirts, too.

How to wear a khaki overshirt?

You can style a khaki overshirt in any colour in a smart casual way by pairing it with a fine knit polo neck and striped tailored trousers. This is the perfect ensemble for coffee or a lunch meeting. For a more casual getup, replace the trousers with black jeans and lace-up ankle boots.

Men’s Overshirt Outfit Ideas

Take-Home Message

Ready to shop for overshirts? Follow these easy styling tips for your next outing around town and have fun!

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