Contemporary mens fashion can sometime seem a little dull… Jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, etc., everything emblazoned with logos and brands. Vintage shirts however can often be found for less than contemporary shirts and come in a variety of styles and fashions, not to mention they tend to be of better quality.
60s Button Downs
I’ve come to love these 60s button down shirts where the stitching contrasts the fabric. The have a nice loose fit and work well with any pants and jacket. They can be found fairly easily at any vintage clothing store and are usually $35 or less. I found this one at Elsewhere Vintage in Orange, California.
Western wear was especially popular in the 40s and 50s and was often handmade and embroidered of gaberdine wool. These shirts are incredibly hard to find and expensive, often going to over $200. Fortunately there was a western wear revival in the 70s (with folk music) and through the 80s (with the release of the film Urban Cowboy) as a result there is a lot of newer western wear that is still of high quality that is more affordable than to 40s and 50s pieces. Much of these later pieces are made of either cotton or polyester, and most sport some fantastic designs. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t find a style you like, there are loads of different designs, so keep looking and you are sure to find something. I have had lots of luck with western wear at various Buffalo Exchange locations.
Linen and Gabardine
Shirts made of linen and gabardine occupy a space between everyday wear and dress shirts. They are very, very nice, but tend to be a little more expense around $40-$60. Gabardine is a very tight knit of wool generally found in 4os clothing. It’s incredibly high quality and very fashionable. Linen is great at keeping you cool and breathes well, it also feels strong and smooth. The downside is, as Janey puts it, “If you look at linen wrong will wrinkle.” So buying a linen shirt is not to be taken lightly. This one was just too great to pass up. Portland’s own Living Threads Vintage has a great selection of menswear, which is where I picked up this linen shirt.
Taking Care Of Your Shirts
You can save yourself extra laundry and extend the life of your shirts by getting some plain white undershirts. These can help protect your vintage shirts from sweat and reduces the need to wash them. I can wear shirts for a few weeks without washing if I wear them with undershirts, just wash your undershirts and keep everything clean.
Another tip to extending the life of your shirts is hang drying. After washing your shirts (in cold water), take them out of the washer, put them on a hanger, buttoning the first two buttons, and then hang them on your shower rod. The heat from dryers can weaken fabric over time.
Gaberdine, since it is wool, should be dry cleaned whenever possible. If not, hand-washing with Woolite, and laying flat to dry is the best alternative method.
If your shirts get wrinkled you can take this quick tip from Janey: hang your shirt up in the bathroom before taking a hot shower, the steam from the shower should get out the worst wrinkle and keep your shirts nice without washing or ironing.
Always hang your vintage shirts if you can. Folding them into a drawer damages the shapes and lines of the collars (and the rest of the shirt). To persevere the collar shape button the first one or two buttons up near the collar, this helps keep the shape of the collar intact.
For the most part you can safely look for mens shirts that match the size of t-shirt you wear, but before you rush out an buy shirts, get your wife or girlfriend to help you take three simple measurement to help you fit your shirts right.
Neck: Measure around the lower middle part of your neck (where a dress shirt collar would sit). 14-14 1/2 is small, 15-15 1/2 is medium , 16-16 1/2 is large.
Shoulders: Measure from the middle of the rounded portion of your shoulder to the same point on the opposite shoulder.
Chest: Measure around the broadest part of your chest
Most shirts won’t have all three of these measurements. Many have just the neck, but it gives you a good idea on how to quickly size things.
Vintage Shirts On Etsy
To get you started, I made an Etsy Treasury with a selection of shirts for you to get some ideas and possibly purchase.