The news of J. Crew’s bankruptcy filing is unfortunate but expected. As a brand, the company has been struggling ever since they strayed from their core aesthetic and demographic, and have also been plagued by financial instability for years. Their demise was inevitable, as my co-worker Hazel Cills wrote, which raises a larger, and more pressing question: What shirt will the men wear now that the J. Crew gingham button-down is on the brink of extinction?
The shirt in question is simple: a long-sleeved collared shirt in a sprightly gingham pattern, spotted in the wild with such frequency that it earned its own Instagram account. As GQ noted in 2014, the shirt is “the Chipotle of the shirt community—a pretty good product that everyone likes, served up at an affordable price”—and for a brief period of time, it was everywhere, on any man. Now that the company that makes the shirt is on its way out, men will need a replacement, something that communicates to the world that they care about fashion just enough to button a shirt, but not enough to choose something even remotely original.
The gingham shirt’s appeal is that it is easy and can, I suppose, be dressed up or down. A man I dated wore the shirt, untucked, to a wedding, paired with khakis and boat shoes—suitable attire for a casual outdoor affair. He also wore the shirt the day after the wedding with jeans and it was, for the most part, fine. That shirt made an appearance in his rotation regularly and though I loved it at first, its novelty eventually wore off. A gingham shirt that every other man on the street is wearing is less a stylistic choice and more a willful surrendering of any desire to think about what you’re wearing at all. And while I support anyone’s choice to wear what they want and when they want it, the prevalence of the shirt during its heyday made the act of wearing gingham a potential sartorial nightmare, as exhibited by this post, below:
Now that the shirt is on its way out, another option must rise to take its place. A sweatshirt is a nice equalizer and can be dressed up or down, just like the gingham shirt. Basketball jersey—sure! A three-pack of Hanes white undershirts costs $16, is widely available, and much like the gingham, if the man inside works then so does the shirt. All of these options are neither bad nor good, just neutral: a vanilla pudding, a lackluster piece of toast, lukewarm oatmeal. It’ll do for now but now is over. Men, pray tell, what is next?