Not since The Talented Mr Ripley (which we wrote about here) has a film come along and redefined men’s summer style in quite such a significant way as Call Me By Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino. The protagonist in our sartorial sights is Oliver, the charming, worldly, and athletic American college graduate played by the brilliant Armie Hammer. He finds himself on a working sabbatical in 1980s northern Italy, where the sun is as ripe as the abundant fruit hanging from the trees, it’s ever-present glare teasing out a tense romantic relationship between Oliver and the 24-year-old Elio, played by Timothée Chalamet.
The tension between the two young men may be fraught at times and exquisite at others, but the costuming, led by Giulia Piersanti, is a work of art in itself, not least because of the way Oliver adapts his preppy Ivy League style to the Italian environment. The dusty summer heat plays nicely into the hands of Oliver’s wardrobe, which is replete with thigh-skimming cotton shorts and short-sleeve shirts, which he wears oversize and boxy, showing more chest, one fancies, than he might back home in the States. While Oliver often rolls up the sleeves on his long-sleeved shirts, it's a white and green pinstripe short-sleeved shirt that steals the show. The lines seem to accentuate the boxy, relaxed fit, while the soft roll of his collars, the slightly cropped shorts, and the brown low-heel slip-ons (as opposed to his battered Converse high-tops) play nicely into the holiday vibe.
Oliver pulls off the short-sleeve shirt with aplomb, thanks to his Ivy League aesthetic, but in reality, the style had long suffered from the label of uniformity, most likely propagated in 50s corporate America, with the advent of cheap, mass-produced white shirts. This style, if you can call it that, is brilliantly brought to life in the 1993 thriller Falling Down, starring Michael Douglas as a recently unemployed defense engineer whose life begins to violently unravel while stuck in a Los Angeles traffic jam. Douglas’s character and his clothing are the very picture of no-nonsense corporate America, lacking even the remotest vestiges of personality and individuality, a far cry from the billowing soft cotton styles that Oliver wears.
Call Me By Your Name aside, the short-sleeved shirt's previous zeniths were on the back of Ian Fleming’s infamous spy, James Bond, perhaps the best of which can be attributed to Sean Connery. In Thunderball, we're served up a sartorial buffet of short-sleeved delights: Bond is seen wearing a pink linen camp collar shirt while on an ‘assignment’ in Nassau, which he pairs with a pair of short shorts, then a romantic beach rendezvous requires him to switch it up for a pink and white gingham check. For a chopper ride over the ocean, he goes for a blue and white gingham check, but for lunch at a private estate, he goes for a blue and slate pinstripe number to keep us on our toes. Just when you think you’ve seen all his Caribbean wardrobe has to offer, Bond whips out a silky blue three-pocket camp collar shirt with questionable matching trousers for an excursion to the shops no less. Throughout these looks, Bond prefers linen trousers (cream or brown) and his aforementioned black-belted short-inseam swimming shorts.
With such a masculine stamp of sartorial approval, it’s a wonder that the short-sleeve shirt did not become a mainstay in men’s wardrobes throughout the years, but the widespread popularity of the polo shirt and the general trend towards more casual summer dressing may have had more than a hand in that. Either way, the short-sleeved shirt is undoubtedly back and not before time. This season, we’ve been enjoying wearing our styles with classic cotton shorts on casual days, while our collection of linen trousers work really well when you prefer not to bare any legs. Our pleated style is a nice nod to 50s tailoring as they are cut slightly higher on the waist, but for a more relaxed summer look, try our linen judo and drawstring options.