Trend Alert: Rugby Shirts

While rugby shirts (or jerseys) began as the traditional uniform of rugby players, the style was long ago appropriated into fall and winter fashion wear. Featuring either short or long sleeves and either solid or alternating horizontal stripes, the shirts are made to withstand the rigors of an actual rugby match; while the collar resembles that of a polo, it is made of durable twill with a rubber-button placket.

Retailers like L.L. Bean, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren are offering rugby shirts this season for a preppy or outdoors-ready look. In fact, Ralph Lauren has a new line called Rugby Ralph Lauren with rugby-inspired garments for both men and women. Rugby shirts' 100% cotton or cotton/polyester constructions are durable and warm, and the collar provides extra protection from the elements.

"The traditional rugby stripe is key on this item," says Kate Souza, public relations specialist at Charles River Apparel, of the supplier's Classic Rugby Shirt (9278) for men and women. "We opted for a higher-quality yarn-dyed stripe where the garment is actually woven into the stripe pattern, as opposed to pieces of colored fabric being sewn together. We feel this produces a much nicer-feeling garment with a higher-end construction." The shirt is available in eight color combinations, four of which are new to the 2013 line. The garment also features a traditional heavy-duty twill collar with reinforced stitching and rubber buttons. "This piece can truly stand up to the test of a grueling game of rugby," says Souza.

Charles River sees sales of rugby shirts year-round, with some bounce in the spring and fall with schools and teams. "Teens and college students are attraced to this item, as it is a great spirit piece," says Souza. "We're seeing a trend in retail with '90s vintage-inspired items, which has brought this look back and is giving it mass appeal." Charles River is also seeing a positive response from the corporate marketplace: Companies are offering a branded classic rugby in their online stores as a casual Friday or weekend-wear item for employees.