Rugby is a game of contrasts, and the best rugby shirts reflect that duality. On the one hand, it’s a sport played almost exclusively by dudes built like The Rock, who crash into one another over and over again with the unremitting fury and general chaos of a hotly-contested round of Hungry Hungry Hippos. On the other, it was invented by a bunch of prepsters at a British boarding school, which means it has all the peculiar etiquette and collegiate traditions of something like rowing baked right in.

Rugby shirts, similarly, are built thick and tough to survive opponents yanking on ‘em for 80 minutes straight, but they’re also refined and collared like their close relative the polo shirt. And they’re Swiss-army-knife versatile: you can throw one on alone with jeans or chinos or shorts, or you can sub it into just about any situation you’d normally wear a V-neck sweater (think over a button-down or under a blazer) to give your look a little extra ruggedness.

Bottom line, you need one. And, wouldn’t you know it, your pals at GQ have done all the heavy lifting for you. Cop one of the best rugby shirts for men below, wear it with everything, rack up the compliments. It’s that simple. Scrum on.


The Ol’ Reliable Pick

Polo Ralph Lauren iconic rugby shirt

You want something classic and preppy and built to last? You go with Ralph Lauren. And, as you might expect, Polo Ralph Lauren’s rugby shirt is damn near definitive: the stripes are thick, the knit is burly, the buttons are rubber (to prevent them popping off mid-tackle), the collar is begging to be popped. But the biggest selling point of all is the fit—trim but not tight, with enough room to wear one of Ralph’s just-as-iconic Oxford shirts comfortably underneath.

The ’80s Heartthrob Pick

Drake’s multi stripe cotton rugby shirt

The rugby shirt had its last great heyday in the 1980s, when fellas like Sam Malone and Thomas Magnum wore them rakishly and ruggedly every week on network television—back when that still really meant something. The latest rugby from Drake’s borrows the flattering trim cut and thin bright stripes from that era, and nails all the minor details—from the heft of the fabric to the length of the cuffs—necessary for a true vintage look. Tuck it into your 501s, leave all the buttons undone, and go have a drink someplace where everybody knows your name.

The Extremely-Right-Now Pick

Rowing Blazers checkered rugby

Rowing Blazers has made its name on faithful reproductions of iconic sportswear, from David Hockney’s striped rugby shirts to Princess Diana’s cheeky jumpers. As far as we can tell, though, this blown-up checkerboard number is entirely of their own invention. It boasts the same old school, heavyweight construction as RB’s other rugby creations, but feels bang on for 2021 as far as aesthetics are concerned.

The 75-and-Humid Pick

Todd Snyder + Champion madras rugby polo

Rugby shirts work wonders nine months out of the year, but when that summer heat rolls around? Forget it. All that impenetrably dense fabric need not apply. Through his always-great partnership with Champion, though, Todd Snyder found a way to lighten up the huskiest of shirts—by flipping it in breezy, slubby madras that’s just the right weight of a cool night on the beach. The result still feels sporty and tough, but won’t suffocate you in sweat the minute the forecast calls for anything above 70.

The Modern Classic Pick

Few labels have done more to set the rugby renaissance in motion than Noah, who made the brawny pullovers a core staple of their punkish prep universe from the very jump. The key to Noah’s rugby shirts is a near-perfect balance of traditionalism (they’re crafted in Canada by an age-old rugby outfitter from game-ready “practice cloth” cotton) and swerviness (they’ve been doused in florals, flirted with Mandarin collars, and even flipped into hockey jerseys). This particular take lands on the subtler side—with black and gray stripes so razor thin it looks solid from a distance—but it’s still a Noah rugby, which means it’s endlessly wearable and effortlessly cool.

12 More Rugby Shirts We Love

Schnayderman’s garment-dyed rugby polo

Looks beat to hell and washed a million times, just the way we like ’em.

Madewell striped rugby shirt

A deep, dark banger for the cost of a PPV movie.

Reigning Champ Three End terry rugby shirt

Nothing like a bold chest stripe to make you look like you’ve been hitting the gym—even after a long pandemic winter on the couch.

Club Monaco long sleeve striped rugby sweater

Do not—we repeat: do not—ever attempt to enter an actual scrum wearing this stupid-soft, ultra-luxe cashmere number. By all means do pair it with your fave leather jacket on a blustery spring weekend, though.

Aime Leon Dore branded rugby

Gilligan vibes.

Pop Trading Company striped cotton-jersey polo shirt

Hot pink and black looks as good right now as it did in your pop-punk days.

Pangaia recycled cotton rugby shirt

Soothingly neutral.

Patagonia work rugby shirt

Patagonia helped make rugby shirts a thing among rock climbers in the ’70s, and they still make some of the best in the business.

Beams Plus rugger loopback cotton-jersey polo shirt

A mostly traditional take with all the cargo space of your favorite hoodie.

Norse Projects “Ruben” colorblock polo

Two tones, one shirt, can’t lose.

Kings of NY classic rugby shirt

Definitely not your forever rugby, but a good cheap way to test the waters.

Barbarian traditional acadia stripe rugby jersey

If you’re looking for authenticity, Barbarian is the way to go—the Canadian company’s knockabout gear has been put to the test on pitches the world over for four decades and counting.



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