Quick links: Breaking Election Invest Bitcoin Syria North Korea Hot clicks Scandal Topless
www.paywallnews.com Only News Behind Paywalls
Wall Street Journal / Life - Entertain

Stop Dressing Like Every Other Guy: Give Up Your Gingham Shirts

Gingham shirts are reliable, but ubiquitous. Our guide on how to separate yourself from the check-wearing clones.

UNIFORMLY BORING Don’t succumb to the group think of men’s fashion; try one of the less predictable shirts below instead. Photo: Ryan Mesina/The Wall Street Journal


Jacob Gallagher


ON A RECENT VISIT to a Manhattan bar, I counted four men wearing what appeared to be the exact same blue-and-white gingham button-up shirt. I’d witnessed this scene many times before: For the past decade the gingham shirt has been the men’s fashion equivalent of the unkillable “Blob” that Steve McQueen battled on-screen in 1958. So many men own an iteration of the checked standby—particularly the version sold by J. Crew—that in 2014 an Instagram account, @ThatJCrewGinghamShirt began documenting its ubiquity. The feed’s 17,000-plus followers chuckle at photos of men, often several at once, snapped in their shirts at the office, on the street and at the grocery store. You’d think the meme would have shamed men into abandoning their uniform, but the gingham shirt is Teflon.

It endures precisely because it’s safely conformist and has just the right amount of whimsy for most guys (which is to say: very little). But as gingham continues to blanket America, smart men should consider a different shirt that delivers that note without the stigma.

“I’m sitting in a conference room in my office and I see three guys that are wearing various forms of the gingham shirt,” said Dan Duncan, 25, a reporting manager at an advertising firm in Kansas City, Mo. The shirts aren’t always blue and white (those Mr. Duncan spied were green, red and black mixed with white). And though J. Crew is perhaps most closely associated with the shirt, brands from Banana Republic to Comme des Garçons Shirt have also checked this box. You may even be wearing one right now. We won’t tell.

Men’s fashion first went gaga for gingham around 2008. Post-recession, menswear took a turn toward the casual, with raw denim and crepe-soled boots replacing stiff suiting and shoes. Dan Frommer, 35, editor of technology website Recode, was an early adopter. “I thought gingham was interesting because it felt kind of like an outdoorsy, Saturday-afternoon grilling shirt, but it was also dressy enough. [It was] the right mix,” he said. Mr. Frommer bought his J. Crew gingham shirt in 2007 and wore it with ties and suits or just solo. For a time, his Twitter bio picture was a shot of him in it. He valued the gingham shirt’s versatility and the bit of levity it supplied. Gingham, after all, also connotes a picnic and the young Brigitte Bardot.

Before long, however, Mr. Frommer’s secret weapon was the worst-kept secret in men’s fashion, and we all became clones. “I’ve got a picture of me with two buddies at the same party all wearing gingham,” said Andrew Appleby, 23, a recent college graduate in Dallas. “You know if you walk into a bar, there’s going to be five other dudes with the same shirt on.” Consequently, Mr. Appleby has weaned himself of his J. Crew and Ralph Lauren gingham shirts.

As has Mr. Frommer, who now favors solid button-ups from Danish label Norse Projects. But what about men who don’t want to limit themselves to single shades? When it comes to patterned shirts that can do the job of the gingham workhouse in your closet, explained Dan Snyder, the founder and designer of New York label Corridor, “interesting but accessible” is a tricky balance to find, “accessible” being code for “not too weird.” His advice: Take what’s great about gingham—its simple color scheme and crisp, defined pattern—and find alternatives that serve up the same (see “Break the Pattern,” below). Corridor’s dotty print similarly sticks to two colors and Drake’s Madras plaid is as cleanly geometric as gingham. Both are sufficiently understated to collaborate effectively with suits and jeans alike.

Look for distinguishing details, too, like Jijibaba’s round collar. And consider material matters: Most gingham shirts are cut from thin, dull cottons. By picking a fabric with a pronounced texture, like the puckered weave of the Ledbury shirt, you add a dimensional layer to your outfit. All the better to separate you from all the squares out there.

Break the Pattern

Five alternatives to increasingly cheesy gingham

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Jill Telesnicki

Tamarak Stripe Shirt, $165, ledbury.com

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Jill Telesnicki

Playa Shirt, $125, alexcrane.co

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Jill Telesnicki

Madras Check Shirt, $175, drakes.com

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Jill Telesnicki

Paint Dot Shirt, $185, corridornyc.com

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Jill Telesnicki

Jijibaba Shirt, $464, doverstreetmarket.com

More in Style & Fashion

  • Gentlemen, You Should Be Grooming Your Brows March 16, 2018
  • Getting Ready Faster: Secrets From Stylish Women March 15, 2018
  • A Complete Guide to Fall’s Best Women’s Fashion Trends March 9, 2018
  • This Is Not Your Father’s (or Your Farmer’s) Carhartt Jacket March 8, 2018
  • The Best Men’s Underwear for Your Budget: We Tested 45 Kinds March 6, 2018