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OCBD, But Make It Fun: The Fun Shirt

OCBD, But Make It Fun: The Fun Shirt

As I write these words, we have already released our fun shirt - and honestly, I expected it to be a much more controversial topic, especially in our local market. Yet, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the positive reception!

I have to admit: while preparing for the article, I was slowly arming myself with retorts. For example, I was contemplating how to refute the accusation that it is the shirt equivalent of a Volkswagen Polo Harlekin - or what to say to someone who questions the sobriety of the person sewing the contrasting elements together. I was ready for a battle; I had a wrong recon. It turns out that there won’t be a need to argue today and discuss for and against points; we can just focus on the history.

However, it won't be that boring - this automotive analogy really stuck with me...


…so yes, I'll revisit it for a moment.

I would like to emphasize that I really admire this stereotypically German precision with which VW conceived this model - "paint it so that elements of the same color never touch each other" - and since I had a closer look at it, the Polo Harlekin no longer seems like something that can be joked about. Rather, I am filled with admiration for both the idea and the execution, especially since it may serve as an example for designing a good fun shirt, as the color-combining scheme is similar.

However, there is one fundamental historical difference: while Volkswagen made the fun car mainly for marketing purposes (a campaign that eventually went so well that it led to a full production series), the reasons behind the creation of the fun shirt were (most likely) pragmatic.

Also, the fun shirt came first.


Apparently, it all started with trial shirts made from scraps of cloth by practicing factory workers - it's easy to believe, as usually for training you would use whatever leftovers happen to be at hand, why waste good fabric? I also have no doubt that the first company to put it into mass production was Brooks Brothers - given the achievements of this clothing giant, it is a completely safe assumption. However, I think we can take the rest of the origin story with a pinch of salt.

Legend has it that in the 1970s, during a factory visit, Ash Wall (then vice-president of BB) noticed multi-colored patchwork test shirts lying around. Out of curiosity, he grabbed one of them and put it on, saying "these are some fun shirts” - the words that were to go down in history.

This origin myth also mentions that the employees allegedly tried to stop Wall from trying on the garment, convincing him that it was not meant to be worn - but he knew better and decided that it was something that had to go into production.

Regardless of whether the whole story actually happened, the patchwork shirt did indeed find its way into the Brooks Brothers lineup and soon into the canon, becoming a staple of the Ivy League style.



Striped designs were first, but soon versions made of plain fabrics and mixes of both began to appear - and today you would probably be able to find any mix of colors, patterns, and designs imaginable sewn together, although not necessarily to a good effect.

Talking about that:

What is the recipe for a tasteful fun shirt?

  1. Wherever possible, adjacent panels should be of different colors.
  2. The fabrics should contrast with each other enough so as not to merge into one big tonal blur.
  3. It is either sharp colors or pastels - mixing them rarely ends well.
  4. The pattern scale must be consistent, with the rare exception of a monochromatic fun shirt.


In practice, it is best to use three, four, or five fabrics for one shirt, more would be too much. Also, the arrangement of the panels has to be thought out carefully, especially when designing the front.

I see a lot of mathematics and logical games in it; it's like shirt sudoku. However, mind that it is still fashion: a fun shirt made according to the rules may turn out badly, while another one made carelessly may turn out well. Experience, sense of taste, and the good old trial and error method come to the rescue.


And while we've mentioned the latter, I'll pull back the curtain for a moment and share the story behind the creation of Poszetka’s Fun Shirt: you must know that our first patchwork shirt could have looked completely different. We made our first attempts last summer, using heavier and thicker oxford fabrics from the autumn-winter collection - the spontaneous idea was to combine the four soon-to-be-available OCBDs into one fifth shirt. However, we quickly realized that the classics work best; for Early Spring, a different, better in our opinion, color scheme went into production.


In the end, it all comes down to what the finished product can be worn with - this is the best test for a garment.

Usually, a blazer is a good companion for a fun shirt - firstly, it fits the Ivy/preppy style (OCBDs and blazers go together, it’s hard to disagree), and secondly, plain dark navy is capable of toning down even the craziest color combinations.

Theoretically, you could wear it with a tie - but why? In this case, keep it fun, not serious.


And how else can a fun shirt be worn?

In winter - under a sweater, preferably in a safe, neutral color. Multi-colored cuffs and a collar popping up from underneath add a subtle touch that no other shirt could add.

In summer - solo; either tucked in or worn over the trousers. A colorful shirt, whether with jeans or beige chinos, will be interesting enough even without any other accessories or additional layers. This is a perfect option for those who do not like to keep it too simple, but at the same time would like to minimize the amount of clothes and accessories they have to put on every day.

Also, think of all the outfits that a normal striped OCBD shirt would fit in, as long as the colors match. There is no great philosophy in this!



Today, I would like to finish with a personal confession and an anecdote.

I won't hide the fact that I'm a fan of this type of OCBDs in general, and the Poszetka version in particular. However, I did not expect that my opinion would be shared by most of the team from Katowice - recently (without any arrangement, I swear!), when I came to visit, I found both Beniamin and Tomek wearing the same shirts. I guess the three of us together probably set an all-time Polish record for the largest gathering of people wearing fun shirts in one place.

And now that we all have our fun shirts, I think it's time to start looking for a Volkswagen Polo that we could use for a small photoshoot...

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