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Am I Over the Popover?

2024-05-30
Am I Over the Popover?

Let me spoil the answer: no, I’m not. In fact, while writing this article, I tested myself by wearing popover shirts for three days in a row—first unintentionally (perhaps subconsciously?), then twice on purpose, to make sure I still enjoy this piece of clothing and can praise its virtues publicly here on the blog.

And oh boy, I do.

After such an introduction, you might be expecting a lengthy story, right? Well, maybe, but I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible and not wander off-topic too much.

 


We will skip a huge part of the story by not delving too much into history - you just have to know that the popover shirt as a concept is anything but new. We can trace its origins back to at least the Middle Ages and simple pullover tunics worn all over Europe by peasants. Until the latter half of the 19th century, basically all proto-shirts were cut this way; one simply had to put the garment on over one’s head, often not even having to worry about buttons as the head opening was simple, with no placket at all. Back then, you could not say that a popover was any particular type of shirt; it was just basic clothing.

Things changed around the turn of the century when the button-up shirt slowly started to take over as a more convenient, arguably easier-to-wear and care-for form. The old pullover cut started to feel outdated and rustic, to say the least.

 

But popovers kept coming back, trying to keep up with changing styles. It is said that the modern interpretation, pretty close to what you may find in shops today, was invented by the famous New England clothiers, GANT, during the 1950s/1960s Ivy Style heyday. For the first time ever, the half-placket was an intentional style move, as the design was supposed to be a casual summer option, something to bridge the gap between an ordinary shirt and a clearly casual, sporty polo shirt.

And thus, the contemporary popover was born.

 

For me, the defining moment was around ten years ago, when the menswear revival was still in full swing. Those were exciting times; seemingly everyone (brands, influencers, vintage collectors) was on the hunt for something old that felt new. Suddenly, lots of forgotten items were seeing the light of day again, be it high-rise trousers, double-breasted jackets, or hand-rolled pocket squares, all springing back to fame in the #menswear community.

Many garments felt trendy just because a cool picture of such a thing being worn by the style icons of the bygone era was everywhere around the internet… I hopped on the hype train, too. I remember exactly the one that got me hooked on a popover shirt—the famous Gianni Agnelli and Jackie Onassis photo (above, on the left).

I also know that for many people, it was more about how jazz musicians like Miles Davis (above, on the right) wore their popovers—but for me, that came much later, as I was all-in Italian then, not so Ivy-enthusiastic.

 

Sorry for that, but for context, I simply had to share a picture of myself from 2017 or so, aiming for my best L'Avvocato impression on holiday.

As with many things during this early 2010s phase, the simple fact that something was a) worn by the famous, and b) not easily available on the market, made it super desirable for hardcore #menswear fans (like yours truly). Getting it was the goal. Today it may seem funny, but I remember going through numerous online shops of all the mall brands I could afford back then, looking for literally any popover I could find. The simple fact that the shirt would have to be pulled over my head, not buttoned up, was that important to me.

Not much later, I took on a huge financial burden and commissioned two popovers made to measure—then the holy grails of my wardrobe. They were made from lightweight jersey cotton, which ultimately made them feel more like a fancy long-sleeve polo shirt, but it did not really matter then.

 

Look what I found in the archive: I think this is one of the pictures we did with the first-ever popover released by Poszetka a long time ago, worn by Tomek himself.

My euphoria was pretty short-lived, a usual case for such fierce human/garment relationships. I quickly got to the phase in which I started asking myself: “Is it really such a big deal to go after a shirt that buttons halfway down?!”. I needed a break.

It took me a few years to realize what it is all about; to fully understand the popover’s place in my—and others’—wardrobe. To appreciate it completely apart from those Gianni Agnelli/Miles Davis connections, to get over my newly found enthusiasm.

I kind of went full circle, getting back to the 50s/60s concept of having something to bridge the gap between the OCBDs and pique polos. Something that has its own purpose; something that fits differently, looks different, and feels different. Something that makes its own category and lives beyond the old pictures.

 

Nowadays, in my idea, a great popover can be described as something designed with this form in mind, not a twist on a different garment or a historical replica.

It should be something that looks good both tucked in and untucked—in the latter case, much better than a shirt with its loose tails; in the former, neat but clearly more casual.

It should be something that looks good in “summer mode,” severely unbuttoned—luckily, with a sensible limit written in due to the cut that tempers the ever-lingering idea of unbuttoning “one too many.”

It should be something that looks good being boxy and flowy—clearly casual and comfortable in the heat, but not oversized or poorly shaped.

 

With this newfound knowledge (enlightenment, half-jokingly), I ended up reviving Poszetka’s popovers this year. I know it may not sound like much… but I’m nerdy and all about the details, so I took it seriously.

It all began with the crazy Japanese multistripe fabrics—two cotton/linen blends and one seersucker—we found during SS2024 cloth hunting. I knew we had to use them; just none of our current cuts really matched the patterns. It was time to make a new one from scratch.

 

Most importantly, the silhouette is shorter, wider, and less fitted through the waist—these popovers fit much differently than the ones I wished to wear ten years ago. And it is one of the many changes for the better!

The placket is quite short, so it clearly looks like a popover—even when tucked in, worn underneath a jacket, and seen from a distance. Even if you skip buttoning it entirely, you are not going to wander into the “exposed” territory.

The collar is pointed and soft, appearing nonchalant but able to stay up even when worn underneath a sport coat. The inside of the placket is finished in a way that the stripes continue into the collar, creating a neat, unbroken line.

There is also a very convenient feature added—the buttoned flap pocket on the left side of the chest. Perfect for securely holding your small wallet, AirPods case or loose change in the summer.

 

It is exactly the thing you would want to wear in the summer, both on the beach and in the city. It can act as both a shirt and a kind of casual tunic, depending on what you pair it with. It is absolutely contemporary, but there is the slightest nod to the past built into the cut.

Honestly, I can’t imagine myself being over such a great popover.

 
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