I always viewed men who wear rugby shirts but don’t play the game like men who carry a Porsche keyring while driving a Fiesta. But then I saw a mature David Beckham making one look stylish and gave it a go.
Now I wouldn’t be without a few ruggers in the wardrobe: they make me stand taller (which is a good thing, being vertically challenged) and are way more interesting than their cousin, the long-sleeved polo. But how to wear it, and what with? The answer to both is determined by the style of shirt.
The Stokes Jersey £45 by Stanley Biggs; Onside Rugby Shirt (Navy Blue Stripe) £59.95 by Joules; Men’s Rugby Shirt (Deep Sea Navy/gold Stripe) £60 by Lands’ End; Modern Rugby Shirt £29.50 by M&S Collection; Argyle Heavy Rugger £125 by Gant; Men’s Rugby Shirt (Navy/burgundy/block) £28 by Next
Loosely defined as being cut from heavier cotton than a polo and with a stiffer collar, a more pared-down rugby shirt – in a plain colour, with a contrasting white collar and placket – can be dressy if worn with a suit and classy sneakers. Gap has one in a contemporary straight silhouette, cut from soft knitted cotton (for a forgiving fit) in grey or navy, while Zara has a covetable traditional jersey in a forest-green cotton knit.
For the most authentic ruggers, Stanley Biggs is the place to head: its Stokes Jersey in antique white – named after the first England captain, Frederick Stokes – is a wear-it-with-anything staple.
Cotton Stripe Rugby Top £45 by John Lewis & Partners; Striped Cotton Polo (Navy) £39.95 by Massimo Dutti; Oakhaven Rugby Shirt (Navy) £60 by Dickies; Mixed Fabrics Polo Shirt (Green) £29.99 by Zara; the Iconic Rugby Shirt (Green/navy) £129 by Polo Ralph Lauren; Rugby Polo Shirt (Grey) £39.95 by Gap
But, of course, rugby tops are usually striped, a playing field necessity that gives them their preppy pedigree. Polo Ralph Lauren reigns supreme: its Iconic rugby shirt in college green and hunter navy is a timeless classic that will get better the more you wear it. Dickies’ Oakhaven and John Lewis & Partners’ organic cotton top, in mulberry, navy and gold irregular stripes, are also personal favourites.