Fashion, Style

Revered Reveres: The Men That Made The Printed Shirt Cool

Films use costumes as a shorthand, to let us know what to think of the character. Goatee beard? Evil. Or an IT guy. Maybe an evil IT guy. Braces over a shirt? Wall Street guy. We all do pretty much the same thing, except it’s (slightly) less codified. We wear these shoes instead of those ones because they say something about us that we want to say. Printed shirts say this: I’m a seriously chilled out, relaxed dude who is doing summer right. But who are the cool guys that made the shirt the cool guy icon it is today? Read on and find out:


‘Versace Versace,’ goes the Migos song. ‘Versace Versace Versace’, it continues, ‘Versace Versace’. Migos member Quavo’s love of a silky shirt was pretty common knowledge after that song (it’s called ‘Versace’) but it’s his way of wearing them – generally tucked into a pair of distressed jeans – that has helped bring the tropical top into 2018. Seeing him, Offset, and Takeoff rolling up the sleeves of those printed shirts to intimidate a journalist who asked a question they didn’t like was also a big highlight of 2017.

Max Cady
It’s not often you find yourself wanting to dress more like a violent criminal but Max Cady had me doing just that. He’s the villain of Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake of Cape Fear and although it’s not one of the director’s most famous films it’s certainly one of his best, thanks in no small part to Robert DeNiro’s role. He’s covered in prison tattoos, wears an exceptional range of printed shirts, and has some great sunglasses, which in 1991 we called ‘intimidating’ and in 2018 we call ‘an influencer’.

 President Harry Truman
The guy who made the decision to drop not one but two atomic weapons on Japan hardly seems like the kind of chilled out, laid back dude you’d associate with the Hawaiian shirt (don’t worry, they’ll turn up later in the list). Truman was a serious man who did serious things and he dressed in a way that reflected that, serious double-breasted suits and all. But nobody is more formal than the sun, which meant that when Truman went to Florida, the db suits had to go. Instead of replacing them with, you know, a slightly lighter suit, he decided to do a style about face and started wearing Hawaiian shirts. This is an astonishingly strange choice. I get that it’s hot but imagine if Theresa May rocked up to some symposium in Thailand wearing a sarong and a Beer Laos vest. Despite the strangeness of the only man in history who chose to use his nation’s nuclear arsenal (yet) now dressing like your wayward uncle, the shirt became an instant hit. Printed shirts – or sports shirts as they were called at the time – were fully legitimised.

Thomas Magnum
Tom Selleck’s moustache is the most powerfully erotic thing I’ve ever seen on tv before the watershed. His character – Thomas Magnum (if your surname was Magnum why would you call your child Thomas? Why not something equally masculine like Brad or Gunpowder or Steak?) – made the Hawaiian shirt what it is today. There’s no way we would associate it with the kind of relaxed, cool-guy image that we do without his groundwork.



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