What Is an Overshirt and How to Wear One

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 and this is your guide on what one is and how to style it. 

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How To Wear An Overshirt

Not many people know what one is, and why would you? 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’re pieces that can take you through the whole year so what’s not to love?

Wearing a Green Overshirt

A versatile colour for men, a dark green over shirt will compliment darker shades and the zig zag striped jumper adds a touch of colour to the look and it’s finished off with a pair of fresh white sneakers.

Double Denim Overshirt

It’s a classic look that’s made a serious comeback over the last few years and for good reasons. Pair with light coloured jeans and finish off with chelsea boots to complete this smart casual ensemble.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

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Navy Overshirt

Keep it simple by placing navy on top of navy. The best overshirts blur the lines between outerwear and shirting and this piece does exactly that, creating an effortlessly smart look.

Check Overshirt

Ideal on its own for the warmer autumn moments or coupled with your winter jacket, to make the perfect layering piece for colder days this is a smarter option that is truly versatile.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

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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, teddy boy 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 Vans. By sticking to red and black shades, it really emulates a teddy boy vibe. You could even switch the Vans for Dr Martens. You can roll up your jean cuffs to show off your shoes more.

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 you have and bring it out from being too dull.

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 as it isn’t suited to one specific season. 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 bright tan chinos and brogue boots for a understated smart look. The quilted jacket will keep you warm during those chilly outings and still make you look dressed up.

oliver cheshire navy ouvershirt striped breton t-shirt and black jeans mens street style
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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Who’s Doing It Well

Who better to get overshirt style inspiration from than celebs themselves? Despite his overposing, David Beckham looks slick. He wears an indigo denim overshirt teamed with dark wash jeans, for the ultimate double denim look. To break the look up he opts for a lighter shade of blue tee. This look is best suited to a smart casual do as you can tell al to of thought went into the outfit. Finnish off the look with formal brogues, preferably in brown to break up the blue hues.

Adrian Grenier follows David Beckham’s style rules and teamed his navy overshirt with a lighter blue tee for a smart casual look. He finished off the look with dark wash jeans and formal dark browns to dress the look up. 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.

mens skate style white tshirt denim overshirt
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

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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.

How An Overshirt Should Fit

There are no specific guidelines on how an overshirt should fit, due to their complexity as a piece. But most are sized like coats- S, M or L, so make sure you know your size, or try some on so you know which fits 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 the shoulders aren’t half way down your elbow.

Opt for an oversized shirt for a contemporary street look.
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 part 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, but 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 jacket, making it a formal piece of attire, which can also be dressed down. Buttons allow you wear it on its own over a tee or another shirt, or under a jacket or coat, allowing an added extra layer.

A denim overshirt is an easy way to channel the double denim look.
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 that you could even opt for no pocket.

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 but are also fantastic for warmer months if you get a little chilly.

How To Wear A Black Overshirt

The easiest colour to incorporate into any wardrobe and look. Pair your black overshirt with a dark sweater or jumper, a shirt underneath is your choice is it’s a bit chilly, and some distressed tapered light wash jeans to dress the look down, making 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 is perfect for layering in a tonal look.
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. Such as a zip suede overshirt, which can act as both a formal or smart casual piece. Or a button down wool overshirt for formal occasions. Really whatever combination you prefer.

Heavy Cotton Overshirts

This is the most common fabric you’ll find when it comes to overshirts, as it distinguishes it from a shirt. It’ll keep you warm in those awkward in-between season bits 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 get softer with wear. This fabric can be teamed with most looks, but are better suited to jeans and chinos.

mens cotton overshirt street style
Break up an all black outfit by layering your shirt over a white T-shirt.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

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Wool And Flannel Overshirts

This fabric can take you through the whole year and is fantastic for keeping warmer 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 bold 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 is perfect for channeling that heritage look.
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 is a great option for those chillier autumnal days.
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 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, and is a staple is any man’s wardrobe.

How to Wear an Overshirt

  • A good overshirt can be worn both on its own and as a layering piece.
  • 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.
mens overshirt street style
Play with fabrics and textures to take your overshirt to the next level.
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

On That Note

The overshirt, a piece that’s not often spoken about or sold to its full potential, a diamond in the rough if you will. It’s a wardrobe necessity to take you through the year, particularly those in-between season bits when it’s either too warm for a jacket but too cold for just a tee. Plus an added extra layer in the Winter. 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 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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