A lot of guys and gals out there consider short sleeve shirts a no-no, and I get it: no one wants to look like Dwight Schrute. But I’m here to argue that they can be worn well.
I’ll start by listing some advice that I’ll call rules but are really just suggestions that I think work well, and then I’ll get into my favorite short-sleeve button-down shirts.
How To Wear Short Sleeve Shirts
Ok, these are my “rules” for purchasing button-down short sleeve shirts.
- Best worn untucked or at least casually. No fancy
- Not too tight, especially in the shoulders and chest, the buttons will want to pull apart but
- Close fit on your upper arm and not too billowy in the bottom half of your torso.
- Choose an informal fabric like linen, hemp, or cotton
- Pick lightweight, breathable materials
Now, naturally, these suggestions depend on your body shape. Also, it depends on your style, it’s fair to say that even if you like straight-leg jeans that billow around the bottom, that’s not an ideal look for a shirt, especially something as risky as a short-sleeve button-down.
You want not-too-loose sleeves that don’t flare out too much, you want to wear it pretty informally, you want an informal fabric and you want lightweight material.
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The Best Short Sleeve Button Down Shirts For Summer
I like having a well-fitted but casual look for my short-sleeve button-down shirts. The first option is my overall favorite: a trim fit and a super breezy, lightweight material.
1. Teddy Stratford: White Linen Cop Shirt
- Fits a wide range of body types, it’s very flattering
- 100% linen, breathable, airy, and lightweight
- Double-breasted pockets hide your nipples
- Variety of colors, but I like white
It’s summer, and you want a short a sleeved shirt, let’s start with the king of summer fabrics: linen. Mine is from my favorite shirt brand called Teddy Stratford. They tick all those boxes I mentioned in the previous section — in fact, they have what I think is the best fit in the industry.
The hook with this brand is that it has a roomy chest and tapers down toward the waist, so it’s really flattering on most body types. Whether you lift or not it makes you look a bit chesty and if you’ve got a bit of a belly, you can usually size up and it’s still good.
There are a lot of these ‘athletic fit shirt’ brands out there, but they tend to only sell products made of bizarre, stretchy material to replicate the feeling of athleisure. Teddy Stratford got the athletic fit but makes it in classic materials you know and love like brushed flannel, denim, and this linen. It’s 100% linen, so it’s very porous, very airy, breathable, and lightweight. Linen is the perfect hot-weather fabric; it’s airy but surprisingly strong, and since it doesn’t stretch, mills give it a loose weave that’s more breathable than cotton.
The Teddy Stratford “Cop Shirt” comes in a few colors like Royal Blue and Burnt Orange, but the reason I went with white is that lots of people want a white linen shirt but few people want to deal with their nipples being visible through the very thin fabric. But this model has two chest pockets, so you can be confident of your nips being covered up. I only ever buy white shirts if they’ve got chest pockets for that reason.
Almost all of my shirts are from Teddy Stratford, I really like them, and they do free returns. The code STRIDEWISE should give you a 15% discount as well, if it hasn’t expired yet.
There’s also a secret to how they get such a good fit: a zip! There’s a zipper underneath the button panel that keeps you from having any gapping between the buttons, and it works so well that no one would know it was there until they took your shirt off.
2. Taylor Stitch: The California
- 100% hemp; stronger and more breathable than cotton
- Three colors
- Fairly form-fitting; pretty flattering
- Eco-friendly; lower environmental impact than cotton
Taylor Stitch is one of my favorite brands. I’ve got Taylor Stitch boots, jackets, shorts, and shirts, and this short sleeve California is my favorite model of theirs for our purposes because it’s 100 percent hemp, which is a really cool fabric in general and for summer especially.
At 4 ounces per square yard it’s lightweight, but because it’s hemp it’s super durable. Hemp is 25% stronger than cotton, similar to linen because they both come from the fibrous stem of plants. But it’s also quite porous and allows air to circulate, all while doing a great job of absorbing moisture, which is why it tends to hold dye better than cotton.
I chose a natural undyed color, though Taylor Stitch sells it in blue and green, this company also has a nice modern fit — fairly form-fitting, high armhole, but with some room in the chest that’s pretty flattering.
Not for nothing but it’s really eco-friendly as well; hemp needs way less water and acreage and pesticides than cotton, it’s cool. Sometimes hemp is a little scratchy, but Taylor Stitch’s is pre-washed so that’s minimized.
3. Faherty: Breeze Shirt
- Chill, summery brand with fun patterns
- Hemp, lyocell, and elastane blend adds stretchiness
- More casual and looser than the Cop Shirt and The California
The next brand I want to draw your attention to is Faherty. My first cool swim shorts were from Faherty after I saw them in Men’s Health like 8 years ago and the brand has a very summery, beachy vibe in general.
If you want to go all the way into really summery patterns then Faherty should be your stop. Specifically, their Breeze shirt: it’s got a more relaxed fit than the other shirts here but the fabric is mostly hemp with 45 percent lyocell, which is a natural material that’s better at cotton than wicking moisture. So the shirt has a lightweight feel to it, plus there’s 2 percent elastane to give it a lot of stretch.
It’s more casual, looser, and more stretchy than anything else here, but since those are qualities a lot of guys want when they buy a short sleeve shirt and if that’s what you want this summer, Faherty makes really good quality stuff.
4. Grown & Sewn: the Dean
- Lightweight Japanese Chambray cotton fabric
- Made in San Francisco
- Loose, but not boxy
Next up, this brand really is very small, so don’t get your hopes up about availability, but I wore this shirt all of last summer and when I heard they were bringing it back this year, I wanted to give them a plug.
I’m pretty big into American heritage-type clothes which is one reason I really like the Dean from Grown and Sewn, this shirt ticks all the boxes of guys who like heritage stuff this is super lightweight chambray from Japan.
Chambray is cotton but it usually has a high thread count and finer weave (so it’s breathable), and this is extra lightweight for chambray at 4.5 ounces per square yard. It’s really good for summer.
It’s got durable double-needle felled seam construction and melamine buttons, it’s made in a family-run factory in San Francisco from Japanese material, and although it’s got all that heritage cred the fit is pretty nice: it’s looser than the other shirts here but not boxy, I wear it a lot.
Again, small company, but if you want a chambray short sleeve and they’re sold out, Buck Mason has a nice fitting one as well that’s very lightweight.
Naked & Famous: The Easy Shirt
- Organic, Japanese grandrelle fabric
- Four colors
- Relaxed but flattering fit
Speaking of heritage-inspired brands, Naked and Famous has some really impressive shirts that probably don’t get enough love because their crazy, fun, high-quality denim gets a lot of the limelight.
But this one’s the Easy Shirt. It’s similar to the Dean, but it’s a Japanese fabric that’s stitched in Canada. While it’s marketed as a relaxed fit, if you get the right fit in the chest, it’s impressive how modern the overall fit is.
It comes in blue, pink, natural, and black, and the fabric has some interesting bonuses like it’s organic cotton, meaning no pesticides and no GMOs, and it’s woven with grandrelle yarns which are more mottled: two colors twist together to make the yarns, which gives it a nice, complex look.
There you have it guys and gals, my favorite short-sleeve button-down shirts for summer. I’ve learned to love them and I wear them a lot. Oftentimes with a hat, which I also learned to love and now wear a lot. Definitely make sure you check out my list of the best straw hats if you want to complete the ensemble! Featured image via Faherty