Sunday, March 12, 2006

Rugby Pitch

The Wall Street Journal

Makers from Lacoste to Old Navy are pushing knitted rugby shirts, which have white collars and usually feature wide horizontal stripes called hoops. Bergdorf Goodman started carrying them last year and now stocks $85 Ralph Lauren rugbys and lightweight cashmere rugby-style shirts that go for $725; for fall, it plans to add a heavier cashmere rugby sweater. Gant says it sold out of a slim-fitting version of its $100 classic rugby shirt that it introduced last fall. Other updates include solid colors, thin stripes and wild color combinations.

It's a remarkable comeback for a look that was last popular in the 1980s. Rugby shirts were the big drivers behind a 10.4% increase last year in sales of men's knit shirts, a category that also includes golf shirts and T-shirts, says Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at market researcher NPD Group.

The resurrection of the rugby shirt, first worn in team colors by English rugby players in the 19th century, is part of a shift back to preppy style. Tom Julian, a senior vice president and director of trends at ad agency McCann Erickson, says it began this time in Europe.

But can you wear a rugby to work? On casual days at the office, you can get away with a solid-colored rugby under a sport coat, if you tuck it in, says Judith Rasband, a Salt Lake City consultant who advises professionals on their wardrobes.

"On a weekend, a rugby shirt is actually a step up since it has a collar," she says, suggesting the shirt be worn untucked with khaki or navy blue pants or jeans.

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