Wearing designer clothes usually paints a man in one of two ways. A luxury watch, or a designer suit, or a British-made pair of shoes, can quietly speak of good taste and understated style. A hoodie with a designer logo splashed across the front or colourful £600 sneakers do rather the opposite.
Designer shirts are something of an exception: they can do both. If you can afford one, you’re clearly a man of means who appreciates clothes that are well made and up to date. But because designer shirts tend to feature loud prints, expensive fabrics and bleeding edge design, it’s hard not to peacock when you’re wearing one.
So should you invest? Most definitely, says Thom Scherdel, menswear buyer at Browns Fashion.
“I don’t need to labour the obvious advantages of quality and design found in designer showrooms rather than the high street. The former leads the latter, and the latter often gets it wrong.”
So usually, people will start at the lower end, investing in cheaper accessories like socks, belts or bags. With these items the difference in quality between designer and the high street is negligible. The materials used are invariably the same while the designs are simply stock, reproduced season on season for people who care less about style, and more about the status symbol.
But with a designer shirt, you’re buying something that has been touched and thought through by the superstar designers helming these massive fashion houses.
“Designer shirts generally start off as something more unique, brave and bold, that feel original at that moment,” says Scherdel. “They stand for something new within the climate and often lead the trend. You don’t need a lot of them, just one or two to make those statements. Be the leader, not the follower.”
Expect higher quality fabrics than those on the high street. You shouldn’t find any cheap and mass-manufactured poly-cotton blends. Each fashion house has a particular material it likes to work with from the plush velvet used by Gucci, to the silk shirts of Saint Laurent.
The Biggest Designer Shirt Trends
Logomania and heavily printed floaty shirts are the two main trends leading the world of designer shirts. The former sees designers take tongue-in-cheek stabs at the branding of their fashion house by morphing its logos into weird and wonderful shapes before splashing them all over dress shirts, while the latter sees designers playing around with prints so picturesque they deserve to be hung in an art gallery.
“It feels like the prints are now becoming more literal,” says Scherdel. “Whereas before prints would be baroque or floral to wear to the beach, now it seems like designers are printing beach scenes, cocktails and sea birds for people to wear anywhere.
“Riviera feels like a strong trend with more people traveling and wanting to be seen in certain places with Casablanca, Jacquemus, Dior and Saint Laurent all leading in the floaty silky printed world.”
As with the luxury fashion houses who crafted them, no one designer shirt is the same. That in itself is what makes them the ultimate statement.
The Best Designer Shirts To Buy Right Now
If you’re looking for Parisian chic with a liberal dousing of rock ‘n’ roll flair, then Saint Laurent is the luxury fashion house for you. The label deals almost exclusively in black and white, while the skinny, razor-sharp silhouettes of previous creative director Hedi Slimane have remained since his departure. Most of the shirts are made out of luxurious silk for an elegant drape that will raise your look miles ahead of your high street touting mates.
Pleating is a signature for Issey Miyake, the Japanese designer having built his name up in the 1980s through boundary-pushing pleated designs that were comfortable for the wearer and could be produced commercially. Some shirts have heavy folds that look less like shirts more like dramatic front curtains, while others sit in contrast with smaller and thinner creases that allow for a more subtle, textured effect.
Expect floaty fits that allow these pleats to fulfil their artistic potential.
Founded in the ultra-hip Harajuku shopping district of Tokyo at the beginning of the 21st century, Visvim takes a global magpie-ing approach when it comes to finding inspiration, creatively pilfering from vintage Americana, 19th-century Japanese art, Native American culture, and Sami tribes.
Simple camp collars are embellished with interesting embroidery and slubby rayon constructions just as heavy denim shirts come laden with bandana panels and wide-open tunic collars for pieces that take from so many menswear tribes they defy pigeon-holing. A favourite among the hip-hop crowd, celebrity fans include Kanye West, Drake and ASAP Rocky.
Dries Van Noten
The gothic city of Antwerp in north Belgium makes for an unlikely style capital. Much of its reputation lies in the A-list roll-call of high fashion designers that have come from its Royal Academy of Fine Arts, including Martin Margiela, Kris Van Assche, and Dries Van Noten.
The latter still lives in the town where his fashion brand is headquartered creating ready-to-wear pieces that can be best described as sophisticated maximalism. Take this crisp white dress shirt which ticks off the first box while an asymmetric button fastening panel suggests hints of the latter.
Surprisingly for a label at the high fashion level, Italian fashion house Prada cover a wide range of style. Wearable chambray shirts you can wear to work under a black suit showcase the more traditional leanings, while the here and now is covered by a kaleidoscope of bold printed shirts that include a nightmarish menagerie of lime-green rose petals and Frankenstein’s monster bobbing his head around some searing electric bolts.
Shirts so eye-popping they need to be seen to be believed.
Burberry is the quintessential British brand but recent seasons have seen the label take on the rather un-British and ostentatious logo trend, splaying its trademark stripes, tartan and monogrammed ‘TB’ all over its garments like a hypebeast hungry for Instagram likes.
For better or worse, it’s shirting options have borne a significant brunt of the logo trend, but just like the tartan popping out from under its trenches if you slip one of its tartan shirts peeking through a black overcoat you’ve got one killer look on your hands.
Minimalism and maximalism, get yourself a Scandinavian brand that can do both. It’s this chameleonic approach that has seen Swedish brand Acne Studios rise to the top of the Scandi hierarchy as breezy pastel-striped shirts punctuated by contrasting black buttons sit alongside on-trend nods to psychedelic tie-dye and western-style denim, all served up in a slim, but boxy fit that cuts close around the shoulders.
Easily one of the most copied labels in the world, you’ll regularly see off-cuts of Spanish fashion house Balenciaga Xeroxed all over the high street. Current creative director Demna Gvasalia, who is also head designer of Vetements, is a master of hype, crafting outrageous garments that set social media alight from the 7-in-1 jacket that led to countless Joey-from-Friends memes or the bizarre shirt pinned to a T-shirt that had the whole of Twitter simultaneously scratching its head.
Its less avant-garde shirt selection is still out there – expect logos pushed to their limit and oversized fits a la Tribbiani – but there are nifty, practical touches too like the insulating padding concealed within its flannel shirts.
Easily one of the most recoignisable brands in the world, to own a piece by Gucci is a peacocking status symbol that puts you among the one-percenters. And while other designers might be a little more forward-thinking, Gucci remains all about the signature baroque style that it built its reputation on.
It sees the label favour lavish fabrics like silk and velvet before stamping them in its team colours of deep green and red, as ritzy motifs like the bumblebee, rattlesnake, and clamp make surprise cameos off the bench.
Helmed by one of the most talked-about menswear designers of right now, Virgil Abloh, French luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton is one of the key trendsetters in the fashion world. For context, all that space-age tailoring you’re seeing Timothee Chalamet, Kanye West and Travis Scott rocking on the red carpet is Abloh’s handiwork.
The ready-to-wear shirts at Louis Vuitton are similarly futuristic with draping bandanas, concealed hoods and wearable luggage that is sewn into the sleeves while Abloh peppers pieces with signature design touches like clipped collar tips and snap buttons on the cuffs.
Thanks to the late, great Gianni Versace and his sister Donatella, the Italian fashion house that bears their name is firmly ingrained in fashion history and as a consequence it’s pieces are some of the most valuable around.
“I wouldn’t invest in every designer shirt,” says Scherdel, “but I’d invest in a Versace silk shirt. Very rarely some commodities are so special they hold or even increase in value as time goes by and a Versace silk shirt is one of those marvelled things. It’s completely timeless with an ability to meander in and out of trends from one season to another.
“The baroque prints can lend themselves effortlessly to everything from streetwear to sartorial suave. Nothing will make you feel better, get more likes and more attention than a loud and proud piece of fashion history.”
From Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, through to Hedi Slimane and Raf Simons, Dior has had some of the most influential designers in the world through its doors. Its current head, Kim Jones, is equally revered, leading the way in the floaty, androgynous menswear stakes along with Abloh (and arguably starting it while he himself was at Louis Vuitton)
Jones’ current shirting roster features elegant kimono sleeves that are made as one to the body of the shirt, feminine floral designs, and silk constructions, usually in an oversized fit but with the extremely flattering signature Dior cut to the shoulders.
It’s frightening to think that Simon Porte Jacquemus, the genius behind the brand of the same name is still under 30. Without giving those twenty-somethings more food for a crisis, lets instead marvel at the beautiful classic designs that eschew showy trends for eternally stylish camp collars crossed with workwear patch pockets and silky, moisture-wicking Lyocell.
Jacquemus didn’t turn his hand to menswear until two years ago, and this shows in the androgynous style and fits. Don’t expect any lumbersexual flannels from Jacquemus anytime soon.
The youngest label on the list, Endless Joy only just launched its debut collection for this coming AW19 season. The project is helmed by artist Stevie Anderson who features his artwork inspired by ancient mythology in Bali across a range of camp collar shirts made out of eco-friendly Tencel.
“Endless Joy is an interesting outsider option,” says Scherdel. “Forget tranquil soft imagery, this brand captures the horrors and mystics of a psychedelic trip in Bali, to surprisingly pleasing effect.”