The name of the game when building a wardrobe is all about rugged versatility and dependability. Especially these days, when your schedule might shift and change at the drop of a hat, when you might find yourself working from the road, a shirt jacket is going to be your best friend as far as style points are concerned.
A shirt jacket is the coolest possible replacement for, say, a traditional Oxford shirt or even a flannel shirt, and as colder fall weather approaches, it’s a downright must-buy. It’s got more bulk and warmth to it than those standard buttondown shirts, which is a huge positive. It’s also got just as much layering potential as a puffer jacket or a winter parka, yet it manages to stay a bit more streamlined thanks to the shirt-like construction.
In fact, shirt jackets as we know them today started as a true workwear staple, worn in France by craftsman who needed another layer to protect them from the elements.
It sits right in the middle of what you might call a menswear Venn diagram, the perfect way to transition from summer into fall and winter. Whereas you might be wearing a pocket tee solo with a pair of expertly faded denim these days, a shirt jacket is what you throw on when the sun sets, when the temperature dips and when you need an extra layer around the bonfire.
The best shirt jackets are easily packable and easy to layer atop all manner of gear you already own, especially if your wardrobe these days leans more casual than buttoned-up. If you favor thermal henleys or cotton long-sleeve tees, a shirt jacket is what your wardrobe has been missing. Some are insulated in similar fashion to a down jacket, and others have a waxed finish to add a touch of water and weather-fighting capability.
Others are more closely related to a flannel shirt, but with beefed-up and enhanced design that adds warmth and even some style points. It’s also ideal if you find a shirt jacket made the right way, with hard-wearing materials for extra durability. That way, you’ll have this newfound layering staple for years and years to come. Like so many menswear essentials, a shirt jacket that gets better with age is the right way to go.
To put it simply, a shirt jacket isn’t something to be taken lightly. It’s as much a workwear staple as it is a casual style move when you want to grab a beer and a shot with your buddies. In that sense, it’s as rugged, and ready, and essential as it gets.
In fact, shirt jackets as we know them today started as a true workwear staple, worn in France by craftsman who needed another layer to protect them from the elements. You’ll also see shirt jackets referred to occasionally as CPO jackets — the style of outerwear worn by the Chief Petty Officer. Shirt jackets are all about functionality and tough-as-nails utility, which is why you really can wear them to do, well, work.
They also typically feature front button or snap chest pockets, all the better to store small tools that can make or break a job. And the best shirt jacket is also a natural centerpiece to an outfit that’s ready for cold weather, which is why you should top things off with a durable winter hat, for instance. A shirt jacket also works well with the other staple pieces of a workwear-minded outfit, like hard-wearing combat boots.
Add some faded denim (for off-duty hangs, cold beer in hand) or throw on work pants when the day dawns bright, early and cold. The best shirt jacket on the market is going to keep you warm, add some useful design elements to a look, and come back time and time again. We’re not quite ready to start shopping yet, though.
How to Find the Right Shirt Jacket For You
- Focus on why you need it: This might seem common-sense, but it’s always wise to keep your own needs top of mind when shopping, especially when it comes down to picking out a shirt jacket. If you’re looking for a shirt jacket to wear mainly as an extra layer with style as the main focus, feel free to select a shirt jacket made from soft fabric, like cotton chamois or flannel. If you want a rough-and-tumble shirt jacket to wear to haul brush, chop firewood and the like, it’s best to look for a shirt jacket made with a rugged, rustic material, like a waxed cotton sailcloth (more on this in a second).
- Shop with a trusted brand: Look, a shirt jacket isn’t anything to be trifled with, especially if you want to count on this dependable style staple to really come through in the clutch (inclement weather and tough conditions be damned). In this case, go with a brand you know and love, one you can really trust, and perhaps one that makes “unfailing goods” (like Filson, for instance – more on them shortly). If you’ve selected the proper brand, then it’s easy to find a long-lasting shirt jacket. Sometimes, it really is that simple.
- Shake up your wardrobe: We mentioned that a shirt jacket can serve as a replacement for other pieces in your wardrobe, be it a blazer or a leather jacket. What we really mean by that is, don’t be afraid to really go out on a limb and get the most possible wear out of your shirt jacket. Use it as a top layer over an Oxford shirt on a casual fall Friday at the office, or team it with a thermal shirt on a chilly morning. Top off your favorite chambray shirt with a quilted shirt jacket for an extra layer of tough, useful style. Above all else, break in your shirt jacket and be amazed as it molds to your life the more you wear it.
Those are just three crucial points to jot down as you sift through shirt jackets aplenty, so let’s dial things in even further and show you the best possible shirt jacket for the season ahead (and years to come).
Shop For Your New Favorite Shirt Jacket Right Now
Filson Hyder Quilted Jac Shirt
Filson has built quite the name for itself over more than a century in business, with ridiculously high standards for its goods, equipment and apparel. It’s an approach that’s paid dividends for hard-working Pacific Northwest explorers and laborers, and now, the brand is delivering tough gear like this quilted shirt jacket for guys who value the great outdoors but also need effective, city-friendly gear. It’s made with lightweight insulation for added warmth, but the real kicker here is the use of “water- and wind resistant waxed cotton,” plus a quilted design that adds even more durability. It’s the platonic ideal of the perfect shirt jacket, in our minds.
Todd Snyder Workwear Snap Jacket
Todd Snyder certainly fits the definition of a brand and a designer you can trust, and if you’re not familiar, then picking up a rugged shirt jacket is but one way to get acquainted with his work. Perhaps it’s Snyder’s Iowa roots, but the NYC-based designer has always done a standout job mixing classic workwear pieces with slightly modern touches. That means this shirt jacket is nicely tailored and made with double-needle construction out of 100 percent cotton. It’s the shirt jacket to wear atop a henley or a fresh, heather grey tee when the occasion calls for something cool, casual and ever-so-slightly rugged.
Taylor Stitch Yosemite Shirt
The Taylor Stitch Yosemite Shirt, as far as longtime fans of the brand are concerned, is a legendary and stone-cold classic. Burly yet soft, able to be worn atop one of the brand’s cotton henleys or as an added layer over a famed Taylor Stitch chambray shirt, it’s always a fast-moving and much-loved layer by the San Francisco brand, season after season. It’s made with cotton flannel chamois, a super-soft fabric that’s nice to the touch, not overly itchy in the slightest. And the Nutmeg color makes this a perfect fall style move.
Carhartt Rugged Flex Canvas Shirt Jacket
If you really want to get down to business and take care of that to-do list in a hurry, the right gear shouldn’t slow you down. That’s where Carhartt enters the fray, and it’s that workman-like, “taking care of business” approach that they’ve managed to distill down into only the most essential gear for the toughest jobs anywhere. This canvas shirt jacket is made to move with you easily, and it should also prove abrasion-resistant and long-lasting. It works as hard as you do, in short.
Outerknown Blanket Shirt Jacket
It’s pretty clear to discerning shoppers like yourself that style and the gear you wear is about more than just looking good. There are added factors at play these days, like sustainability. Outerknown, founded in part by surfing legend Kelly Slater, is a brand that puts sustainability at the forefront, using organic materials and top-notch construction to create gear that gives back. Its Blanket Shirts are a standout style move in their own right, but they’ve beefed up the traditional Blanket Shirt here with added warmth and some truly excellent pattern and color options.