What started as a functional shirt for British rowers is now a style staple. Short-sleeve olive henley by Pistol Lake. Dark denim by Mott & Bow. Glasses by Warby Parker. Stainless steel dive watch by Invicta.
So this site just ran an Online Shopping Picks piece awhile back detailing the best T-shirts for spring and summer — so what makes a henley different than a T-shirt? It’s all in the details. By its nature, a henley, with a two-to-four-button placket on the front, has slightly different visual details than even a pocket T-shirt — and it can sometimes get boring to wear pocket T-shirt after pocket T-shirt (take it from a guy who has about five). The henley has evolved from its origins as sportsman’s shirt into a symbol of rugged 21st-century style — check out how Daniel Craig and Chris Pratt rock the style, for starters. While one shirt won’t turn you into a dinosaur-fighting badass, it doesn’t hurt to emulate that move — and the five selections below just might help you do that.
#1. Buck Mason Short Sleeve Henley in White, $45
Made in the USA the right way for a fair price.
Just as with Buck Mason Oxford shirts, this henley is made in the U.S.A and is but one of the many excellent basics the brand has updated for modern times. The Pima cotton keeps this shirt soft, while small details like a rounded hem, a clean four-button placket and ribbed cuffs at the sleeves all set it apart from more typical henleys. This is the type of shirt you can wear on its own now with rugged denim or slim chinos, and continue wearing under cardigans (a la Mr. Craig) well into the fall and winter.
#2. Pistol Lake Short-sleeve Henley — $35
Rugged and deeply cool at the same time, and made in America on top of that.
You very well might recognize that henley from the above picture, or from this spring Style Pick post. It keeps popping up simply because it’s just that good — as far as made in the U.S.A quality for the price, there’s nearly no better value out there than what the dudes at Pistol Lake are doing. While the olive (or Quartermaster) number has proven excellent and versatile on a personal note, the Faded Black colorway would be the epitome of rugged downtown cool when paired with grey jeans and some white sneakers — the unfinished sleeves are perfect for rolling or styling as you please.
#3. J. Crew Slim Broken-in Short-Sleeve Henley — $34.50
A decidedly brighter shade than other options on this list.
Unlike its counterpart above, this J. Crew henley isn’t made stateside. It does, however, boast a cheaper price, a range of colors to pick from and a seasonally appropriate sunfaded wash. The faded black, navy, red and white colorways all have a large range of sizes available (rather surprisingly), but the red color would be an interesting change of pace and still wearable with navy or light grey chinos and leather sneakers for a high-low look.
#4. Steven Alan Self-Placket Henley — $48
A deep indigo blue color with some unique, sporty touches.
What’s got the texture and striped pattern of a polo, but the more laidback design of a henley? This lovely Steven Alan piece, that’s what. It’s made from a heavier textured cotton blend, so it might not be nearly as breathable as the other options shown here, but it’s got some neat styling touches. The shorter two-button placket adds an almost retro look, while the heavy textured cotton creates a microstripe pattern — can a regular henley do that? Nah. At $48 on sale (marked down from $125), it’s a little pricier but honestly still a downright steal.
#5. Billy Reid Pensacola Polo in Steel Blue, $78
A cool sky or (Steel) blue color and designer details like Mother of Pearl buttons make this a standout piece.
Unlike some of the other entries on this list, this piece isn’t made in America — it’s made at the source in Peru though with heathered Peruvian cotton. It’s the priciest of the bunch by a good amount, but the side vents and four-button placket actually make it a bit dressier — and more versatile, by default. This piece should wear a little more like a polo, so that means you can and should take it for a spin with a khaki blazer. The contrast stitching and mother of Pearl buttons also upgrade it slightly — and with Billy Reid, you know you’re getting quality.
Now if none of these options float your boat (or you don’t fancy spending close to $50 on a henley), be sure to give old standbys like Old Navy or Target a look — you’re getting fairly solid quality for low prices and the option to buy a few at a time if you’re into that sort of thing. On the more lux end of things (but just missing the cut on this list), Club Monaco does a linen henley in a dark blue that you could even wear with, say, a light grey linen suit.
What are your thoughts on this list? Which of the above options would you (or will you) pick up? And what’s your favorite way to wear a henley?