As a California-based brand, we must admit we’re no experts on the game of rugby. Luckily, you don’t have to know what a “scrum” is or why they call it a “pitch” to appreciate the iconic menswear staple that evolved from the sport.

These days, men’s rugby shirts have become a ubiquitous feature of many guys’ wardrobes, offering stylistic versatility and impressive durability. But to truly appreciate a classic long-sleeved rugby shirt (and to help you spot a quality one), it helps to know a thing or two about where the style came from.

While the true beginnings of the sport are shrouded in some degree of mystery, most experts agree that it all started in the early 1830s at the aptly named Rugby School in England. The violent, fast-paced new game caught on quickly, spurring the formation of a handful of rugby clubs throughout the UK. Around this time, the rugby “uniform” consisted of a wool jumper (wool being the height of “performance fabrics” at the time) and white trousers.

French rugby players on the field
Image credit: Musée Carnavalet

Players and coaches would soon agree that this unique new sport full of violent clashes and frenetic action would require a different approach to uniforming than other, more “civilized” games of the day. So they swapped out the bulky wool jumpers for heavy-gauge cotton shirting, and thus, the rugby shirt as we know it today was born.

It's Not A "Rugby Polo"

While the three-button placket and contrasting collar may cause some confusion about the distinction between a rugby shirt and a polo, “rugby polo” is a contradictory misnomer. It’s like saying “basketball tennis shoe”; no such thing exists.

Polo shirts, as they were originally designed, are actually quite hard to come by these days and bear more resemblance to a modern Oxford shirt than anything else. In fact, it was Brooks Brothers who saw the button-down collar of the classic polo shirt (meant to keep the collar from flapping in players' faces as they raced around on horseback) and adopted it for their dress shirts, creating the Oxford that we know today.

Rugby shirts, in contrast, have remained true to their sporting history, retaining their heavy cotton construction, rubber buttons, contrast collar, and (in most cases) the horizontal stripes that were originally used to present the colors of the team’s club. Now that we’ve cleared up a few myths around the design, how do you spot a quality rugby shirt?

Model wearing The Rugby Shirt in Dark Navy

Finding The Perfect Rugby Shirt

Today, there are a ton of rugby shirts to choose from. To be clear, we're not talking about modern rugby jerseys like the athletes of today wear, which are form-fitting and made entirely from synthetic materials. But if you’re on the hunt for that classic rugby style, as mentioned earlier in this article, there are a few key elements to consider before making a purchase.

Any rugby shirt worthy of the name should be made from heavy gauge cotton. Not a cotton blend or something with added stretch—100% cotton. Not only will an all-cotton garment last you longer, but it will develop a ton of character as the years take their toll, lending some visual nuance to the style’s existing vintage charm. Outside of a few key details like rubber buttons and woven underarm gussets, the rest (like color and tailoring) is pretty subjective.

That being said, here at Taylor Stitch, we’ve poured over the history books and studied some of our favorite vintage rugby shirts to inform our own take on this menswear classic, and while we don’t like to boast, we think ours is the best in the business.

Model wearing The Rugby Shirt in Dark Forest Stripe

Taylor Stitch Rugby Shirts

We mentioned earlier how important 100% cotton is to a quality rugby shirt, but we’ve taken it a step further by sourcing all organic cotton for the task. Staying true to the hard-wearing heritage of the silhouette, we’ve woven that organic cotton into a burly 12-oz knit jersey and finished it off with a cotton twill collar (also organic) for a contrast in both color and texture.

Rubber buttons: check. Underarm gussets: check. Vintage-inspired colorways: check. While meticulous detailing may result in a rugby shirt that looks the part, it would all be for naught if we didn’t back up those looks with enduring build quality. Our rugby shirts are crafted to insanely high standards of tailoring and durability, ensuring your rugby shirt will be wearing-in beautifully long after cheaper imitations are headed for the landfill.

Rugged, Responsible, and Built For The Long Haul. If you’re looking to add a rugby to your heavy rotation, you really can’t do much better. Looking for inspiration on rugby shirt outfits? We've got you covered with our Journal on how to wear a Rugby Shirt

Cheers. We’ll see you on the pitch.

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Want to dive deeper into the history of other menswear classics? Check out our other Journals: 

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