What Is an Overshirt and How to Wear One

mens green overshirt street style
PHOTO CREDIT: Mr Porter

The overshirt is a staple in any man’s wardrobe for very good reason – it’s an easy way to dress up or down any outfit and is the perfect layering piece. Taking you through the year and from day to night, it’s a versatile necessity. Here is your guide on what one is and how to style it. 

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What is an Overshirt?

To put it simply, there’s no real definitive term of what an overshirt is. To add to the ambiguity, an overshirt is technically not a regular shirt or a light jacket but can be worn as both. It will typically have shirt features such as a collar and pocket, but can be buttoned down or have a zip, and are made from fabrics such as heavy wool, so you can distinguish them from a shirt. They’re the perfect layering addition in autumn and winter months and are also fantastic for warmer months if you get a little chilly.

Street Style: Men in Overshirts

Turning to street style is a great way to get some overshirt outfit inspiration, particularly if you don’t know where to start. If you want a grunge or alternative look, why not try a red tartan or checked overshirt in a thick heavy cotton to act as a jacket. Style it with black slim fit or skinny jeans, and finish off with matching red or black Vans. By sticking to red and black shades, it really emulates a teddy boy vibe.

If you want something a bit more dressy, opt for a blue overshirt to add a pop of colour to your look, during these colder months. Team your overshirt with dark wash rolled up cuff jeans and black patent brogues for a smart casual vibe. Due to the shade of blue, you can team this overshirt with pretty much every outfit.

If you’re after a classic overshirt that’ll last you a while, try a quilted zip-up one which can take you through the whole year. Stick to neutral shades such as black, navy and green to make the most out of it as it’ll easily adapt into any look. Finish off your outfit with jeans and boots for an understated smart look. The quilted jacket will keep you warm during those chilly outings and will still make you look dressed up.

oliver cheshire navy ouvershirt striped breton t-shirt and black jeans mens street style
Oliver Cheshire Wears Navy Overshirt
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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How To Wear An Overshirt

Not many people know what one is, but believe us when we say you should do. Despite retailers selling them and it being a wardrobe staple, the overshirt is a hidden gem. Originating from military uniforms, the overshirt is a great layering piece for colder months or a cover-up in warmer months. They are pieces that can take you through the whole year coming in a whole range of styles, so what’s not to love?

Who’s Doing It Well

Who better to get overshirt style inspiration from than celebs themselves? Despite his over-posing, David Beckham can pull off this look well. Adrian Grenier follows David Beckham’s style rules as he often teams his navy overshirt with a lighter blue tee for a smart casual look. This look is great for a night out or date night as it is dressed up but doesn’t look like you’ve tried too hard.

Pharrell likes to mix things up too by wearing printed wool overshirts for men as a stand out piece. He keeps everything else minimal with a plain white T-shirt and medium wash jeans so the focus is solely on the extravagant overshirt. This is a great look to pull off for a night out in order to stand out from the crowd.

mens skate style white tshirt denim overshirt
Styling A Denim Overshirt
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

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How An Overshirt Should Fit

There are no specific guidelines on how an overshirt should fit, but this should be pretty straightforward. Most of them are sized like coats – S, M or L – so make sure you what size you are or try some on so you know which fits you best. You’ll want the perfect fit, as with an overshirt you’ll be able to tell when it’s too small as you won’t be able to wear anything thicker than a T-shirt underneath it.

You’ll also know if it’s too big when you look like you’re wearing your Dad’s old cast-offs, or have lost a few pounds and are wearing your old shirts. Keep it slick and trim, with just enough room that you can wear a sweater underneath if you’d want to. There are oversized options if you want to emulate this style so that the shoulders aren’t half way down your elbow.

An Oversized shirt
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

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Different Styles Of Overshirt

There are so many varieties when it comes to the overshirt, that you’ll have plenty of options of choose from. From features such as buttons to zips, the added pocket, and the weight of the overshirt, there’s an option for everyone and every kind of style to cater to your event. These features also allow different formalities of the overshirt, for example, zip overshirts are better for casual events whereas buttons are great for both.

Overshirts With A Zip

This style takes the overshirt from shirt to jacket, making it a great piece to wear on its own over a tee or jumper. It’s a staple for that awkward in-between season where it’s too warm for a coat but too chilly for nothing. The zip also adds an element of versatility as you can leave it open for a casual look. Due to the appearance on the front, when zipped up it can act as a shirt.

Overshirts With Buttons

This style of overshirt is the most common. This style is also closer to the shirt than the jacket, making it a formal piece of attire which can also be dressed down. Buttons allow you to wear it on its own over a tee or another shirt, or under a jacket or coat, allowing an added extra layer.

Double Denim Overshirt

Double denim is a classic look that’s made a serious comeback over the last few years and for good reasons. Pair your double denim with light coloured jeans and finish off the look with a pair of Chelsea boots. This will create a solid smart casual ensemble.

A Denim Overshirt
PHOTO CREDIT: Norris Danta Ford

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Overshirts With Front Pockets

Emulating its military origins, overshirts with a front pocket or pockets are great functional pieces. Leaning more towards their mountaineering purpose, it adds an element of sports luxe. From one front pocket to two, to four, the overshirt is available is such a wide range of styles (you could even opt for no pocket).

How To Wear A Black Overshirt

This is the easiest colour to incorporate into any wardrobe and look. Pair your black overshirt with a dark sweater or jumper and add a shirt underneath if it’s a bit chilly. Wear some distressed tapered light wash jeans to dress the look down and to make it more smart casual. Finish off your look with some fresh chunky trainers, or again, smart light brown suede loafers to dress it up.

mens black overshirt black tshirt black trousers
A black overshirt 
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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Fabric Choice for Overshirts

One of the most important factors when choosing your overshirt is the fabric, as it can create your look, from smart, to casual, to everything in between. With such a variety of options, you’ll be able to choose one for every occasion.

With the combination of fabric and style such as zip and buttons, you can choose an overshirt for specific occasions. A zip suede overshirt can act as both a formal or smart casual piece; a button-down wool overshirt is better for formal occasions.

Heavy Cotton Overshirts

This is the most common fabric you’ll find when it comes to overshirts, as it distinguishes it from a normal shirt. It’ll keep you warm in those awkward in-between seasons and can act as a layer in-between your jacket and shirt or tee. You may get a rigid one if it’s a thicker heavy cotton, but it’ll soften with wear. This fabric can be teamed with most looks, but are better suited to a simple pair of jeans or chinos.

mens cotton overshirt street style
Layer your shirt over a white T-shirt 
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

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Wool And Flannel Overshirts

A checked overshirt is ideal on its own for the warmer autumn moments or coupled with your winter jacket. This makes the perfect layering piece for colder days as it’s a smarter option that is truly versatile.

This fabric can take you through the whole year and is fantastic for keeping warm in the autumn and winter. Available in styles such as checked, plaid or full-blown printed, you can pull off the lumberjack look. Keep it simple with block colours like black, or go all out and wear a statement piece with a printed overshirt. A flannel overshirt is incredibly versatile. This style is also great for vintage pieces to create that one off look. Wool is a fabric that goes with a number of looks but looks perfect when teamed with any style of jean.

A checked flannel shirt 
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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Overshirt Jacket

You’d assume that this style was better suited to mountaineering, but it’s not. It’s great to pull off that sports luxe look with ease, with most of this type being available in nylon. They’re mostly waterproof so great for spring rain when a coat is too heavy. They’re perfect for a day out as it’ll keep you sheltered from both the rain and wind. This fabric is better suited as a casual garment, as it looks perfect when paired with jeans or slim fitted cuffed joggers.

mens shirt jacket street style
An Overshirt Jacket 
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

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Further Reading: A History Of The Overshirt

There’s no direct origin of the overshirt, but it is thought to have derived from the military staple fatigue shirt. This was a heavy-duty cotton overshirt which was worn as battledress during the 20th century. Originally favoured by fighting forces for their large pockets and durable construction, the jacket began to filter into the fashionable civilian dress during the 1980s and 1990s.

It was then taken on by outdoor brands who made it a staple in the mountaineering world, as it’s a great layering piece for keeping warm or cool. The overshirt and how to wear it has since made a huge impact on the fashion world. It is now a staple in any man’s wardrobe.

How to Wear an Overshirt

  • A good overshirt can be worn both on its own and as a layering piece. Wear it over a plain white T-shirt for a smart casual look.
  • Tone down an outfit with a neutral coloured overshirt, or add a pop of colour with something brighter.
  • Try out different fabrics to achieve different styles. Suede gives off a more dynamic, stylised look, whereas something like corduroy has a casual, sturdy vibe.
  • Try out different styles. You can get an overshirt that has plenty of practical pockets or one that resembles a thick shirt.
mens overshirt street style
Heavy Cotton Overcoat
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

On That Note

The overshirt is a diamond in the rough if you will. It’s a wardrobe necessity to take you through the year, particularly those in-between seasons when it’s either too warm for a jacket but too cold for just a tee. With such a wide range of styles and fabrics to choose from, the possibilities are endless with this item. Opt for zips for a casual look, or buttons for a dress up look. Go for quilted and technical for cold months or heavy cotton for a year-round piece. The overshirt is a great wardrobe addition for any man, so make the most of it. With this guide, you’ll master the item.

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