It is a truth universally acknowledged that this summer, the striped, blue, button-down shirt is the sartorial version of Bella Hadid. To quote a recent headline from The Cut, “You’re Not Imagining Things: Blue-Striped Shirts Are Everywhere.” The striped shirt has been fancifully reconstructed (or rather, de-constructed) by a plethora of designers at both ends of the price scale — from Caroline Constas to Monse, Theory to MiH — each shirty concoction more frivolous than the last. I even found a one-armed, blue, deconstructed, poplin playsuit at Topshop (a sort of Coachella take on blue stripe shirting which was not entirely effective.)
So far, so obvious. But I don’t want to talk to you about those shirts. Those shirts are ultra-EZ to style. Just add some Levi’s and a single earring and you’re done. So on trend that you could walk onto page 487 of any American glossy. Where’s the challenge in that?
No, I’m talking about the classic, staid, striped shirt. The boring old shirt you, your mum, your dad and your brother have owned for eons. Yup, that shirt. Not so much preppy as pretty dull and, at times, verging on the corporate. I’m all for fuss-free dressing, but what joy is there to be found in the blue striped shirt? What twists can possibly be brought, what newness instilled by each wear? The soft, striped Breton looks immediately cool, Gallic and effortless when paired with leather, denim, velvet et al. The blue striped shirt just doesn’t possess the same transformative effect.
And yet, and yet. While at its worst it’s a total snore, at its best it is the ultimate styling tool. A blue-striped shirt is truly egalitarian staple. Why did it take me so long to realize this? My only answer is on account of how resolutely British it felt (middle-age men, suited and booted, on Jermyn Street). I tend to gravitate away rather than towards anything staid, staunch and British.
It was time to confront what I didn’t know that I already knew. And it’s time for you, too! Put down that one-armed, asymmetric-hemmed, frilly shirt with a spray of buttons conga-lining their way up the back, making it literally impossible to put on/wear/take off/ eat/move. Instead, herewith, the boring blue-striped shirt. And! Three ways I’ll be wearing mine this summer.
Firstly, Marni-style bold, with splashy colors and chunky shoes. I like to pair a shirt dress with a midi skirt or a long dress shirt with a mini skirt, so the tails poke out of the bottom like shirty tentacles. It musses up the natural ‘neat-ness’ of the shirt.
Secondly, with oversize jeans. I’m obsessed with these flares from Raey (side note: If you don’t know Raey, I suggest you hop to it. It’s the in-house brand from MATCHESFASHION.COM and it’s rapidly expanding, with one newly opened store in London and undoubtedly more to come. The designer, Rachel Proud, is a bloody marvel.) which bring something a little louche and hippy to this striped top. I love the faded wash of this shirt. I stole it from my older sister, who bought it from Gap 20 years ago, which means I truly have no idea if she bought it this faded, or if it has happened through age.
Incidentally, shoes prove quite key with this look. Trainers feel too try-hard (and unflattering) and white or black shoes too hardened, like they’re keying into the shirt’s corporate genius. By Far or Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s biscuity and tan mules and pumps both feel right.
Lastly! Use a blue-striped shirt to tone down flirty summer shorts. These Mango ones are serious fart-wafters and thus need some sharp anchoring to make them city-appropriate. Manolo slingbacks (hi Carrie!) and a bold shirt work well. Leave the cuffs open and long, for what they like to call ‘a point of difference’ in styling circs, and pop your collar like you are 15 years old again.
Speaking of Gap, specifically vintage Gap (though Edward Enninful’s new Mind the Gap campaign piqued my interest in the brand once again), it’s the best for blue-striped shirts. I tend to buy vintage shirts, not only because they are so much cheaper, but also because when they’re a little older, some of that ghastly crispness is removed (except with a shirt dress, like this Alex Eagle one, where crispiness is actually key.) I bought this dark blue-and-white one from Portobello market, my favourite haunt and fortuitously, right on my doorstep in West London, for around £15. Also in my wardrobe and crying out for some airtime in this shoot: a pale blue-and-white cropped shirt by Tome and a mandarin collar, contrast-stripe one from Gap.
Moral of the story? The next time someone proclaims, euphemistically, “I’d give you the shirt off my back!,” step back and consider their offering. If it’s blue-and-white striped, with two whole arms and buttons down the center (and only the center), I say take it.
Photos by Eva K. Salvi