The Western shirt four ways (with Begg & Co cardigan)

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One of the reasons Western and denim shirts have been so popular in recent years is their versatility. 

On the one hand, their conventional pale blue means they sit easily beneath all manner of jackets or suits, while adding an intentional, unexpected note. 

But on the other, they’re still a casual shirt, with all the texture and design add-ons to prove it. Which means they can be worn with the most casual of trousers, such as workwear chinos. 

Chambray shirts, if similarly pale, can be just as useful - but usually with more subtle style details like pockets and contrast stitching, rather than MOP snaps and pointed yokes. 

These, along with the oxford, must be the shirts of the years to come. They're all pieces that can just as easily sit under casual tailoring during the week as with beat-up favourites at the weekend. 

I find I wear Western shirts in different ways too - some more conventional and others less so, depending on how I feel and where I am. 

This article shows four of them. All of which are easy to switch between, whether for reasons of style, warmth, or variation for its own sake (for example when travelling). 

Above is the first, the standard. A pale-blue Western shirt from RRL worn with a black-cashmere shawl cardigan from Begg and dark-olive chinos from Blackhorse Lane

There is a dark-brown surcingle belt with abrass buckle, just visible underneath the fold of the shirt. Not shown, on the feet, are brown-suede boots. 

The combination is an example of the cold-colour wardrobe, given the dark, cold, muted shade of the trousers, black knit and pale shirt. There’s nothing bright, warm or strong. 

The only style choice that might stand out is the peek of a white vest. Which we’ll get to in a minute. 

The combination’s coldness and darkness mean it’s unlikely to draw attention, despite actually being fairly unusual in its colours and textures. 

That changes as soon as you do something quirky like button the shirt all the way up. 

This is probably smarter, certainly warmer, and is particularly nice with a Western shirt because its front is so decorative: mother-of-pearl snaps topped off by a shank button at the collar. 

I tried having a bespoke dress shirt made in this manner a few years ago, with a covered placket and then a domed button at the top. But it always looked a little odd.

It’s still unusual with a Western shirt, but with obvious roots. 

Of course, context is everything with clothes. Our feelings about them are almost entirely driven by experiences and associations.

(A point well made in our recent article with Ethan Wong, where in his milieu a bucket hat could be less unusual than a blazer.)

A buttoned-up Western shirt might be less unusual in parts of the US (though perhaps also have unwanted associations). In London it merely looks like a quirk, and one I like when it feels appropriate because of the weather or situation. 

Actually, it’s interesting to compare it to wearing knitwear similarly buttoned up, which we covered recently. I dislike that look for its associations with football pundits, but I doubt anyone in Texas would make the same connection. 

One reason I dislike the way those pundits wear this style is they do so without a jacket. This leaves a lot of bulk in the body, and is unflattering unless you’re in amazing shape. 

It’s the same with bow ties, with fine roll necks, and with this buttoned Western shirt. You’re giving up the open V of a collar, and the long line of a necktie, so you need the V of a jacket or cardigan more than ever.

It's even better if that jacket or cardigan is fastened. Which is why mine is.

Returning to the vest under the shirt, this is something people will love or hate (again, largely based on associations). 

On the positive side, it can look manly, workmanlike, redolent of manual workers and an older era. It can look sexy, a sneak peek of underwear, chest, the man beneath. Ethan and Jamie do it well, among others. 

On the negative side, it can remind one of an old man, a string vest, a singlet. Something that - let’s face it - very few men look good in without the shirt on top.

Those feelings can be substantially reduced by replacing the vest with a T-shirt, or a Henley-style vest. The T-shirt option looks American, more ranch, rather Ralph

Whichever you go for, the effect is understated if just the top two buttons are undone, as mine usually are and is shown at the top of this article.

The more buttons you undo, the more you’re pushing the look. One more is still pretty subtle and arguably flatters a T-shirt more, which is the only way I really wear it. With a vest (shown above) it makes me look a little pasty and a little skinny.  

A final option. A red bandana underneath the shirt collar. 

I’ll do a fuller piece on bandanas at a later date. For the moment, I just wanted to highlight that this is a nice way to add colour, and is rather fitting under a Western shirt. 

Interestingly, bright red is often the nicest colour with both Western and cold-colour combinations. Nothing else has quite the same pop, and it sits well with blues, blacks, and cold versions of both brown and green.

The watch cap shown here with the Wax Walker is a good example

The cardigan, by the way, is the Yacht model from Begg & Co - perhaps the nicest piece from their expansion into knitwear. 

It is in most respects the classic shawl collar we all know and love. But it’s been modernised a bit, with the hip pockets removed, no ribbing on the sleeves and a straighter cut. 

The cut is drapey, which some will prefer (and is probably more unisex). The sleeves are straighter too, though the downside of the lack of ribbing is you have to be quite precise with the length - otherwise there’s nothing to stop it falling over the hand.

It does come in some unusual colours, like pink, yellow and black. The availability of the latter is the reason I tried it. 

The shirt from RRL can be seen here. It’s a nice fit and wash, but I do wish the collar were longer. The belt is from Anderson & Sheppard, hereThe chinos will be reviewed separately soon. 

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

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Matt

That’s a beautiful cardigan, and I’m a big fan of the muted, cold colour wardrobe. Apologies if this is a daft question, Simon, but what exactly makes something a ‘western’ shirt? And what distinguishes it from the denim shirt?
The only option I’m less of a fan of on the page is the red bandana. I tried a red Buff scarf to offset some black and grey ski wear once, only to be told by a female companion that I looked like someone’s lost dog. That red Buff has not been seen since…!

Chris K

Enjoyable read to start the week, thanks Simon.

This feels like the perfect working weekday outfit for me at the moment when tailoring isn’t required (every day frankly), lots of texture, neat and presentable, very cool. What really caught my eye though, is the lovely cold colour combination. The black shawl from Begg really is lovely.

Your chinos are looking really great, how are you finding them? I think they’ve more or less hit the perfect shade of dark olive, lovely and muted with that greyish tone. I’m sure BHLA will appreciate that it was you who revealed these beautiful chinos to me, with a pair of navy ones arriving last week to accompany my olive ones! Personally the best chinos I’ve ever worn, proving to be a smart investment. look forward you doing to a fuller review soon.

I think you’ve made a great point regards these along with oxfords being the shirts of the coming years. Which is exactly why I plan to add a PS chambray cloth made up to my wardrobe, along with something more casual, like the western shown here. Which leads me to my question. Do you think that a darker indigo westerner, for example your bryceland’s sawtooth, would struggle in an outfit like this? would it detract from the coolness of tone provided by the pale blue? Would that rich indigo tip the whole balance into something else, or would it still work? Would love to hear your thoughts as always.

My best,
Ck

Chris K

Thanks Simon.

Certainly, looking forward to that one.

Good point regards the smartness of the pale-blue, hadn’t even considered that!

Peter Hall

I agree with you about the length of the collar-I think a longer length suits the style.
As we move into a more casual phase, the denim /chambray is pushing for inclusion as a wardrobe staple-if I was starting out on a style journey,I’d replace one of the OCBDs with a chambray, plus advantage of it being used an over shirt .
The dark olive chinos look fantastic btw.

Noel

Hi Simon,
I like the versatility of the western shirt but I’m afraid I’m not fan of the snap metal buttons (perhaps because I associate them with baby clothing that is full of them). Could a western shirt have normal buttons and still be considered as such? Or if not, would a two pocket denim shirt serve a similar purpose even if it’s slightly dressier?

AP

Hi Simon,
Great outfit Simon. May I ask what size cardigan you are wearing?

Joseph

Was that why your hands were in your pockets in all the shots with the cardigan, Simon?
Looking forward to the review of the BLA chinos, and of the Joe McCoy ones too. Oh, and I’m loving the new comment section interface BTW. It’s lean and smooth, and now it’s easier than before to track comment-response trees.

David

As always interesting but I find the colour combos perplexing.
Are they urban or rural ?
Are they spring, summer, autumn or winter ?
Although one could argue that they could transcend location or season – and that would be true – I don’t find them convincing or seductive. The whole thing just looks a little dour. It’s the sort of outfit that would make me want to change. It would be one of these situations when you know that theoretically it should work but practicable it just doesn’t.
Also, I can’t help but feel that Western shorts verge on cosplay. There could be an argument for chopping a few logs in one but when I see them dressed up, I keep expecting the six guns and sheriff’s star to come out.
On a more positive note, the Begg & Co Yatch cardigan is an absolute killer. I have one in ecru and it is fabulous. It looks great with green chinos or jeans and personality I much prefer it with a simple ‘T’ underneath.

Liam

I was in Blackhorse Lane Atelier last week and tried those chinos which were excellent. My only reticence was they were out of the khaki in my size which was my preference. I thought that colour was more versatile than olive. What’s your view Simon as I’m only buying one pair? Also keen to know the footwear you chose with this outfit.

Ivan Li

I want to ask the question regarding to rise. Take this BHL chino as an example, with the front rise 24cm and back rise 34cm, should we consider these trousers as low rise (24cm)? So it’s not a good one for casual tailoring? I usually skip if the front rise is smaller than say 28cm now.
Or you see it differently, Simon?
Happy to learn.

Joe

Hi Simon,
May I kindly ask how the Begg Cardigan compares to the PS one?
I ask because I am interested in acquiring a cardigan like this but I have resolved to wait until the PS becomes available again in the autumn.

Tamaki

Hi Simon,
Taking the opportunity here to ask a bit more about the cardigan, actually 3 of them: PS, Begg, and Lockie
1) assuming all the same color of navy, which one would you consider better from a style point of view to be a jacket substitute for a very casual office or just wearing with jeans and an Oxford shirt? In terms of style they are quite distinct, PS being more “slouchy” (imo), Lockie has the different ribbing which is interesting but could make it less versitile. My preferences are to be quite smart casual chic, if that is of any help
2) color: I believe navy to be best as a jacket substitute, but at the same time, given that it is a cardigan and thus a casual piece, I wonder if a brown, olive or even the oatmeal would be better.

Thank you very much, I appreciate any help from you (or any viewer I would be very glad too)
Cheers!

kcv

I’d like to hear more about the chino’s. I have been looking for a good pair of grey chinos for ages to substitute for grey flannel. I never wear flannel trousers as my life style just doesn’t present the appropriate opportunity [i have a young child so require machine washable trousers and i live in a largely casual and informal community]. I do however often wear a sports coat but find it somewhat restrictive in that i cannot pair them with grey trousers. I therefor have lots of grey-tone sports coats that i can pair with cream, white, beige and green chinos [the common chino colours] but i would like to be able to branch out into more interesting jacket clothes. This can be hard however without the neutral grey on the bottom half to pair them with. The struggle is real!! haha.

KCV

Thanks Simon, are you saying you wouldn’t wear a tailored jacket with chinos full stop? I checked the article in the link and couldn’t find a reference. Perhaps I missed it?

kcv

Interesting that it has those connotations for you. I guess it ties back to what you have discussed in this article whereby the same garments can be viewed differently depending on your personal prejudices/ cultural references. I find that there’s a friendliness/ unthreatening or even wholesome nature to chinos and a jacket that i can see may be viewed as old fashioned or academic but on me goes a long way to balancing off the more masculine and perhaps less friendly outward appearance of my face/ hair/ physique.

Tommy Mack

I know what you mean about grey chinos. I’ve a pair of not-quite-chinos: slim fit grey cotton blend trousers: slightly smarter silhouette and fabric than most chinos. They pair reasonably well with jackets as well as shirts and knitwear but still I don’t wear them much: they just feel a bit in between smart and casual. Maybe if I worked in an office with a modern business-casual dress code they’d see more use.

Anon

I think the issue of chinos and sports jackets is mostly one of association and consequently both subjective and relatively location specific. I feel a bit the same way about jeans and jackets – easy to edge into top gear territory without care. I think in the same way one can avoid looking like Jeremy Clarkson (if that’s what one wants) we can also avoid looking old fashioned.

Anon

I’m not sure it’s very different from your usual advice? Fit first – chinos that are neither skin tight nor cut for your grandfather’s body. Then style – I’d beer away from the workwear end and more towards a casual trouser. But not a formal one. And then probably not stone chinos and a navy blue jacket. Other than that largely the usual rules? I thought Derek had some nice photos here: https://putthison.com/three-types-of-chinos-khaki-chinos-are-not-as/

Anon

I’d bow to your ability to parse photos I think. I spent time at an east coast boarding school – in summer we dressed in chinos and sports coats without thinking of it (in the 1990s). I suspect it’s that nonchalance and the energy and exuberance youth I associate it with it more than geography teachers. So there you go. Associations.

Anon

Also beering away is good practice and should be standard in any discussion of this type

RTK

Would your blue Santa Fe RLP cardigan work with this outfit?

Peter

Nice shirt…have you tried it with the RRL belted cardigan you got earlier this spring? I have the same one and think it would look great together.

Peter

I can see where the hesitation might come from, however I don’t think anyone would mistake you for a cowboy 🙂

As long as you leave all the other accessories in place (no fedora or engineer boots, but keeping the bandana and khakis) you might find it feels more cohesive with the RRL cardigan rather than the current one, nice though it is.

Peter

Gotcha. At any rate, t’s nice to see the shirt paired with variety of options. Wear it in good health!

Peter K

From some of the photos of Simon in a fedora and trench coat I think he would look marvelous in a stockman’s coat and cowboy hat.
If you’re ever in a store that carries cowboy clothing you might have a lot of fun “trying the look on” Simon.

Peter Hall

I would definitely buy a PS stockman coat.

MLS

Great cardigan.
The rest of the outfit makes you look disheveled.

MLS

True.
Off the subject: I just got my Optimo Silverbelly Fedora yesterday. What a great hat. Looks like yours but I have a black ribbon. ( I wear a long oval as well. )
Excellent hat.

Martin

Simon, would you wear a leather belt with suede boots or shoes in a casual outfit like this one?

Peter

Hi Simon, thank you for another great article.
Please, I would like to know which fit you recommend for a Western shirt. With this garments do you usually go for a Small or Medium? I do have a Western shirt from Barbanera which is a Small but I’m not sure if it looks too tight. From previous posts I think you and me we use same sizes (48 in jackets, 39 in shirts and so on).
Finally, it would be great if you can recommend brands for Western shirts for 150-200€.
Cheers,

Peter

Hi Simon,
Thank you for your reply. The quality of my Barbanera shirt looks absolutely fine. The only problem is that I feel the cloth has shrunk. I guess that might be normal with denim. The small size was a wrong choice.
Best regards,

Peter Hall

Todd Synder have a very nice denim which is excellent. I wasn’t keen on the blue versions, so I have the Ivory . It’s slim cut.
https://www.toddsnyder.com/collections/shirts/products/denim-two-pocket-utility-long-sleeve-shirtlong-sleeve-shirt-indigo

Peter Hall

Yes, it is, mine was bought as a mid layer,so it’s always open. It’s autumn /winter wear for me, usually with a roll neck .

robert

Hey Simon-
Love the look. Might you have showcased a less commercial brand? PS sets a high bar. I paid a bit more but ordered two denim shirts from a boutique shop in Rome.
Can this shirt fit with “high-low” dressing?
Enjoying these more casual looks but anxiously awaiting your next bespoke jacket/suit commission review. Don’t make us wait until the Fall. All the best.

robert

Thanks for link to high/low example. The archives are such a great feature of PS.
Now anxiously awaiting Monday’s feature.

Felix Sylvester Eggert

Simon, would you not consider your Brycelands Denim to be a good shirt?
If not: what does it lack?

Felix Sylvester Eggert

I‘m referring to your first answer to Peter (where he mentions Barbanera). There you write – if I may quote – „I’m afraid I’ve struggled to find good denim shirts“. Therefor I was wondering if you changed your mind about the Brycelands Western?
By the way Simon, I love the new improved comments section. One feature I‘d like to see though: numbered posts (like on Styleforum for example). It helps referencing like in this case. You also tend to sometimes write something like „check the comment above“, for example for already posts. It can be confusing when you‘ve sorted the comments starting with the newest (especially for new readers).

JH

Have you seen Bryceland’s sawtooth in chambray? Would that not be a suitable replacement for this RRL. It’s here: https://www.brycelandsco.com/collections/shirts-1/products/brycelandssawtoothwesternerchambray

JH

Then there’s room, perhaps, for an upcoming PS Western Shirt with a better collar, nicer denim and responsibly washed/faded? I would certainly buy one!

BC

But isn’t the RRL you’re wearing also a chambray (if I’m not mistaken the link you’ve provided is to a chambray Western shirt)?

Peter O

Dear Simon,

You are developing your Wild West epoch of fashion.

UK Vest = USA Undershirt, T-Shirt,
correct?

Are or is the T-Shirt Sunspel?

Maybe English weather is colder as elsewhere now in June, but I imagine a cowboy shirt is not as nice as poplin. Do you wear the undershirt because you prefer to feel its softness (jersey? mercerized?) on you skin than the roughness of your cowboy shirt?

Peter O

Dear Simon,
Thanks very much for your comments and corrections.
I must correct myself in regard to my terminology. To genus Western I feel necessary to differ Hunter & Guide from Cowboy.
I took a look at Filson (Seattle) and realized
the difference. As Midwest provincial I do not feel qualified to pronounce or decree anything in this Wild West sphere, but surely PS has readers who can.

Peter O

UK Vest = USA Wifebeater

Peter O

Dear Simon,

Regarding bandanas, maybe this clothing article has color constipation due to Wild West taste and prejudice? Seems to me so many beautiful colors exist besides that traditional iconic red?

shem

Hi simon, great to see you experimenting towards a more casual approach to menswear. I must say though something seems off about the outfit, its either the cardigan is too luxe for the rest of the outfit or that the style as a whole just doesn’t seem to fit you. This brings me to the point about whether each individual has a certain style that fits them the best. E.g. when I think of mark cho I think of ivy league stye. Workwear and milsurp just wouldn’t work on him. Your style (and what i think seems to work best for you) appears to be sleek tailoring that extends to your casual wardrobe (tailored suits, shirts tucked into tailored shorts with sleek loafers etc. But that certainly doesn’t mean one (or you) should stop experimenting though!

Paul

To be honest I do’nt like the shirt.The artificial fade really puts me off.In the photo at least it really let’s down the rest of the outfit.I much prefer your PS shirts in denim,chambray and Oxford cloth.Much nicer collars and a nicer style in my opinion.

Juan

Simon – If you write about bandanas… can you investigate the technique so that it stays in place? I am referring to the style under the shirt or t shirt style that only shows a bit in the back collar, a la Alessandro Squarzi. Thank you!

Joel

Hey Simon,

Any thoughts on ways you would wear a darker version of this western shirt? Say your Brycelands one? Just looking for some ways to wear it.

Hilaire O’Shea

Crikey! This takes me back! I enjoy your posts and don’t normally comment as I tend to agree with with you but I always loved the western shirt in pink. The first one one a bought was in 1970, a Peter Golding one with curved pockets and a front yolk and MPO studs that washed out to a pale pink over time. (I was working at Take 6) and Ive loved them ever since. As you say, contrast is everything and the pink enabled me to wear it with jeans either dressed down in pale blue – I wore Kickers in the 70s – but I guess it would be Redwings now or dressed up in indigo blue with monkstraps or Chelsea boots. Definitely a capsule wardrobe staple.

Anonymous

Simon,

Do you think the use of the vest is limited to this Americana/workwear style? Or could it be incorporate in something like a casual chic?

Also, where do you recommend buying a vest?