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Why rugby shirts are the coolest spring trend: how the Old Harrovian staple went haute

 (JW Anderson )
(JW Anderson )

One of this fashion month’s more unlikely street style takeaways: model types and the fashion editor brigade dressing for the rugby pitch.

It’s unlikely because, for the most part, the fashion pack is allergic to organised sports (save the full-contact game of elbowing for a front row seat), and not since Princess Diana — patron of the candy pink and blue striped, knitted rugger-shirt — has there been a suitable pin up.

Dries Van Noten’s fashion-forward rugby shirt for spring summer 2024 (Getty Images)
Dries Van Noten’s fashion-forward rugby shirt for spring summer 2024 (Getty Images)

But with three cheers to Jacob Elordi’s posh boy turn in Saltburn, quickly followed by Will McVey’s portrayal of a young Prince William at St. Andrew’s in season six of The Crown, the Sloane staple is back — this time as the fully fledged ‘fashion’ rugby shirt.

“It’s the ultimate Sloane ranger piece, but now the cool Gen Z kids are giving it a go,” says celebrity stylist Clementine Brown. “It has replaced the vintage football shirt of the last couple years on 20-something’s wishlists.”

There are key differences in the current iteration and any Old Harrovian wearing their old blue and white stripes for a Sunday kick about on Clapham Common. Firstly, the in-style is very much of the nineties, noughties variety (rugby shirts today tend to be more tight, polyester blend than the baggy cotton tops of yesteryear). They also come with designer labels (from fashion student favourite Martine Rose to £775 cashmere versions from Begg & Co. and corset styles on the spring summer 2024 Dries Van Noten catwalk), and are paired not with muddy, spiked boots but kitten heels, socks and mini skirts.

T.M. Lewin’s Community Clothing collab lends itself to formality (T.M. Lewin)
T.M. Lewin’s Community Clothing collab lends itself to formality (T.M. Lewin)

“The rugby shirt lends itself to more formality this season,” says Tony Cook, also a fashion stylist. “Try tucking into a pair of pleated trousers or classic jeans and wear them with loafers,” he suggests. “High street shirt specialist T.M. Lewin have paired up with Community Clothing on a capsule collection of rugby style shirts in support of local British garment makers (£80, tmlewin.co.uk). They give a paired back approach to the casual classic this spring.”

Classics can be found at Ralph Lauren, Gant and John Lewis, while JW Anderson, Paloma Wool and Rowing Blazers make the influencer-approved spin offs. Don’t get it muddled, though: none should ever be worn on the pitch.

The best rugby shirts (for every budget):

 (&Daughter)
(&Daughter)

&Daughter, Edith striped wool polo sweater, £350, net-a-porter.com

 (Whistles)
(Whistles)

Stripe Rugby T-Shirt, £79, whistles.com

 (Ralph Lauren)
(Ralph Lauren)

The Iconic Rugby Shirt, £199, ralphlauren.co.uk

 (Selfridges)
(Selfridges)

Dries Van Noten, Rugby-style cinched-waist striped cotton-jersey top, £795, selfridges.com

 (Wales Bonner)
(Wales Bonner)

Power Top, £425, walesbonner.net

 (COS)
(COS)

Wool-blend rugby polo shirt, £45, cos.com

 (Gant)
(Gant)

Shield Barstriped Heavy Rugger, £120, gant.co.uk

 (JW Anderson)
(JW Anderson)

JW Anderson, striped long-sleeve polo shirt, £505, farfetch.com