Here's the long and short of it: Long sleeves are out; short sleeves are in. Sure, for a dress shirt, you're still going to reach for that traditional long-sleeve cotton number that hasn't changed its stripes since your dad wore it to work. But for almost every other occasion, short sleeves rule.
This is a new breed of shorties. They're not the plain, uncool uniform topper with pocket protectors for dead-end dweebs. No sirree, today's short-sleeve shirts are smart and sleek: scattered with hip, geometric prints, basking in rich color or shot through with lycra to produce sheen and stretch. From knit and woven sports shirts to comfy camp shirts to macho guayaberas to retro bowling and Rat Pack stylings, short sleeves are coming on strong.
Almost everywhere you look, short sleeves are staking their claim to the shirt market. Saks Fifth Avenue is showing a wealth of short sleeves, Brooks Brothers continues to revamp its image with trendy short-sleeve offerings, and Jos. A. Banks has washable linen short-sleeve sports shirts and silk camp shirts that look perfect under a summer jacket.
"Short sleeves have been reinvented," said Heather Hested, East Coast fashion stylist for Nordstrom. "I think casualization helped bring short sleeves back to the workplace, but in a different way. They're not worn buttoned up to the top with a tie. The new short sleeves are very luxurious and streamlined."
Hested said there are two important ways that the new breed of short sleeves differs from a simple short-sleeve oxford shirt. First, the new cuts are leaner and squared-off at the hem. The square hem allows the shirt to be worn untucked and still look smart paired with flat-front pants.
Secondly, the new crop of shorties benefits from many sleek fabrications: polished linens; poly/cotton blends with lycra for some sexy stretch; sumptuous rayon; and indulgent silks.