The Camp Collar Shirt: Your New Must-Have Style for Warm Weather

The Camp Collar Shirt: Your New Must-Have Style for Warm Weather

This retro-classic top is back just in time to keep you crisp and comfortable all summer long.
man wearing camp collar shirt

There’s a reason that most of us look forward to autumn. It’s not just the clear blue skies and cooler temps–it becomes exponentially easier to get dressed and feel pulled-together when you can experiment with layers, or think about (let alone wear) materials like wool and leather without experiencing heat stroke. During those months when you don’t want to drape your sweaty self in anything heavier than your thinnest cotton T-shirt and some shorts, it can be hard to feel well-dressed.

It’s even tougher if you need to dress a notch or two above casual. When a polo feels too preppy and a short-sleeve collared shirt seems a little too corporate, where do you turn? There’s another option that will help you stay cool in all senses of the word:

The Camp Collar Shirt

Also known as a bowling shirt or a Cuban shirt, the camp shirt shares some traits with a Hawaiian (or Aloha) shirt: a more relaxed, less-tailored silhouette; vibrant colors, bold prints, sometimes both; and an unstructured, open (or camp) collar that completely rejects the possibility of something as restrictive as a tie. But while a Hawaiian shirt carries the unfortunate stereotype of being “cheesy”, a camp collar shirt is nothing but breezy. That's why we listed today’s camp shirts as one of the best summer shirts: They provide an airflow-friendly design with modern patterns and motifs that look great whether you’re on vacation or just strolling around.

To help you ease into this very easy-wearing style, we’ve enlisted the help and styling skills of Primer contributor Daniel Z. Baraka, a camp shirt early adopter who wants to get more guys comfortable with being comfortable. Stylishly, of course.

Part of the beauty of the camp collar shirt is its versatility. You can wear it with shorts, linen pants, or Daniel’s favorite: a simple pair of slim-fit chinos that contrast just enough with the shirt’s free-flowing vacation vibes.

camp collar shirt illustratioh
camp shirt outfit with chinos and sandals
Full outfit details below
summer outfit idea with camp collar shirt, olive chinos, and sandals

“The whole outfit from top to bottom is pulled together without being fussy,” Daniel shares. “It just works–it’s summery yet modern, so you could wear it on a tropical vacation, or just as a date outfit and not look out of place.”

The beauty of this “sophisticated yet simple” look is that it’s unexpected, so you won’t look exactly like every other guy having brunch on the patio. But you also won’t look wildly out of place, or like you’re wearing a costume.

If you’re feeling a little uncertain about trying a wild print or pattern, Daniel advises, “go with more modern designs–something playful, but more artful and interesting than a traditional pattern or a solid color.” Start with bold, yet simple geometric patterns–the plant and arch motif on Daniel’s shirt reminds him of an Italian villa, “but the color blocking is very contemporary, so it’s not over-complicated.”

The shirt Daniel is wearing is from Zara, but is currently out of stock.

detail shot of camp collar shirt, sunglasses, watch, and weekender bag

How to Style a Camp Collar Shirt

Since the shirt is the main focal point, it’s important to keep the other components simple so that the outfit reads as relaxed, yet still elevated. Daniel’s wearing his preferred J.Crew 484 chinos (“I have so many pairs,”) because they pick up the olive green of the plants from his shirt, but he thinks “a burnt orange pair like the arches would look amazing, too.” If the shirt is complicated or very colorful, try a neutral off-white or perhaps a beige/light khaki pair.

The camp shirt’s open collar is the perfect place to stash your sunglasses when they aren’t on your face. Daniel’s classic Ray-Ban aviators continue the elevated tropical look he’s going for: “When I see aviators, I just imagine the summer. I can't envision wearing them in the winter.” The light wire frames are also comfortable in hot weather, as compared to a thicker plastic pair.

To really play up the neckline, try a necklace to bring out a beach-going vibe. Guys tend to think that wearing something around their necks will instantly turn them into Mr. T, but a slim metal chain is timeless and eye-catching without being too heavy. Daniel’s Gucci necklace was a gift, and he’s a big fan of choosing accessories with a personal connection (more on that below).

men's leather sandals

Although loafers (and no-show socks) would work well with this outfit, Daniel chose sandals because the easy on/easy off style has more of a vacation vibe than a closed shoe. His tip for styling a smart casual outfit with sandals: “choose a pair with a chunkier sole, so it looks more like a high-end shoe than a flip-flop.” The X-shaped straps are bold and graphic, and since they frame your toes, Daniel thinks of this as an excuse to get a pedicure. “As a bonus, it’s also a great date idea–treat yourself and your S.O.”

With such a simple outfit, any accessories will–and should–stand out. The key to accessorizing this look is to think bold, yet minimalist. Daniel wears one ring on each hand, and recommends trying to layer a bracelet or two with your watch if you’re new to the accessories game. Since summer is the most casual, color-friendly, anything-goes season, this is the perfect time to debut that belt, bracelet, or other item you’ve been wanting to wear. Daniel’s strategy for finding the perfect piece: “accessories are all about finding pieces that find a story. A travel souvenir, a gift from a friend–anything that’s personal and reminds you of a connection will automatically be more comfortable for you to wear.” His is from a flea market in New Orleans, a similar one is on Etsy.

man wearing camp collar shirt with sunglasses, watch, and bracelet

Primer regulars will appreciate Daniel’s dive watch, a nautical workwear staple that looks great with suits and more casual outfits alike. Here, the watch’s substantial bezel pairs well with Daniel’s layered bracelets, a visually striking combination of sterling silver and leather bands. Mixing materials is a great way to create additional contrast and interest, and you can keep the design simple (classic links, solid cuffs) while playing with texture (shiny sterling vs. matte leather).

To travel in style, Daniel likes a weekender bag over a hard-shell structured suitcase. “The shape squeezes into small spaces, but you can still fit a ton in them–especially things that pack small, like camp shirts!” He chose to follow the “buy once, cry once” approach with his weekender from Rawlings, saying, “what I love about it is the leather. It feels exactly like a baseball glove. And the marks it gets only make it look better.”

Even if you don’t have a tropical destination on your summer itinerary, you can still wear a camp shirt almost anywhere you need to go. Save the floral and graphic pattern for dates (and even summer weddings, worn with a lightweight suit) and try a minimalist print or a solid color for work, networking events, and other semi formal occasions.

The right camp shirt counts as a summer chameleon piece, a valuable component of your smart casual wardrobe that can be dressed up, dressed down, and always helps you feel well-dressed–even if you’re just a few seconds or a cool beverage away from melting.

Are you going to hop on the camp shirt bandwagon? Share your favorite print in the comments!

→ Follow Daniel on Instagram for more style tips and inspiration @rowdydany.

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