sìou’ve heard of limited edition trainers and the possession of the “right” smartphone as crucial social currency for twentysomethings, but what about rugby shirts? The sports staple, beloved of private schoolboys and David Hockney, is re-emerging as a cult classic with the most in-demand those with one-previous-owner status and, forse, a grass stain or two.
Rugby shirts are hot property on secondhand clothing platforms as advocates for this trend seek limited edition designs and cult classics from brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren and Gant.
The secondhand clothing platform Depop, which says 90% of its users are under 26, has reported a 40% hike in the sale of rugby shirts since July, with Benetton and Ralph Lauren the most popular brands to change hands.
Second-hand emporium Beyond Retro, which sells pre-loved fashion via its stores in east London and online, has also noticed an uptake as rugby shirts replace vintage football strips as the most searched-for sportswear style.
“The high demand for this shirt is linked to the resurgence of the preppy look we’ve seen over the past few months,” says Viviana Attard, global curation lead for Depop. Attard also credits a post-pandemic appetite for looser, less structured clothing for the interest in the pre-loved strips. Away from the secondhand market, rugby shirts are being unearthed from stockrooms as brands look to bring their aptitude for good old-fashioned sportswear to a new generation of consumers. Among them is the US label Gant, which has found its Ivy League aesthetic achingly out of date in recent years, only to emerge in 2021 with a laid-back new image in which the rugby shirt plays a leading role.
Cult skater brands such as Palace and Supreme are also joining the scrum – both brought out sellout styles that continue to change hands on the secondhand market.
“Rugby shirts have been overlooked over the years,” says menswear stylist Elgar Johnson. “Whether brands are bringing them back with a sense of irony or not, it’s a relief to see a piece of sportswear that isn’t a rehashed football strip get some attention.”
M&S were less concerned with symbolism when they decided to revive the dormant St Michael’s brand with a rugby shirt emblazoned with the logo. The revival, unveiled in September, is a marketing ploy aimed at young consumers and follows the discovery that clothes with St Michael on the label are in demand on resale sites.
M&S bosses will be hoping that Justin Bieber and Dua Lipa, who were recently spotted pledging their allegiance to the egg-shaped ball, will help to boost sales.