The Camp Shirt: History & Fit

The Camp shirt is an easy casual piece that’s made a comeback in recent years. It calls to mind the carefree style of icons like Ernest Hemingway and Sean Connery as James Bond circa Thunderball—men with a rebellious edge who embraced the elevated leisurewear look. Here we provide a bit of background about the genesis of the Camp shirt, and how to create the perfect fit for your Proper Cloth Camp shirt.

History and Style

The origins of the Camp shirt can be traced back to 19th-century Filipino and Cuban shirt styles. It was introduced to the United States largely by Cuban men who migrated to Miami and New York in the late 1950s and ’60s during the exodus after the Cuban Revolution. Style-wise, the Camp Shirt is related to the Cuban Guayabera, the classic bowling shirt, the safari shirt, and the Hawaiian Aloha shirt.

The Camp shirt was mostly inspired by short sleeve, lightweight work shirts Cuban men wore to keep cool while working outdoors in hot weather. The design was much more relaxed than that of the dress shirts worn by most American men at the time of its introduction—a refreshing escape from the buttoned-up and suited looks that were so prevalent in the lives of many men of the time. The Camp shirt became a summer staple in North American style for its comfort in the heat, and because it represented an idealized laidback lifestyle than most men were able to have in reality.

model in striped camp shirt

A classic Camp shirt design in a unique, modern fabric.

Creating Your Camp Shirt Size

Since Camp shirts will fit differently from your typical dress shirts, we recommend you adjust your usual shirt size and save a separate size specifically for Camp shirts. 

The Fit: Boxier than your more formal dress shirts

The relationship between the measurements of the Midsection and Bottom Widths of your Camp shirt is the most important factor in achieving a classic, unfussy look. These shirts are intended to have a roomy fit and boxy appearance, so they shouldn’t hug your torso or fit too close to the body. The Bottom Width should be increased to ensure it isn’t tight around your hips; how much it’s increased will depend on the size you’re starting with. To specify the Bottom Width, click ‘Automatic’ and manually change the measurement. The Midsection Width should be no more than 0.5″ smaller than the Bottom Width in order to avoid creating a curved silhouette. The less noticeable the difference between these two areas of the shirt, the better.

model in white camp shirt

A seersucker Camp shirt with a Straight Hem.

The Straight Hem: Reduce Shirt Length

We recommend reducing the shirt length for shirts designed with straight hems because the lack of rise and the side gussets makes Straight Hem shirts look and feel longer than Rounded Hem shirts when they’re untucked. The Camp shirt is typically worn untucked with a Straight Hem and having the appropriate shirt length is therefore crucial to achieving the perfect look and fit. The Back Length for a casual shirt with a Straight Hem should be 2-3” shorter than a traditional tucked-in dress shirt. This is about 0.5” shorter than your typical untucked casual shirt with a Rounded Hem. 

Camp collar close-up

The collar and top button placement of a Camp shirt show more chest than you might be used to.

Keep in Mind: The lower top button and looser neck

If you’re interested in wearing a Camp shirt you should be comfortable showing a bit more chest than you usually might. The Camp collar and front design includes a lower top button placement, and the lack of structure in the collar and placket exposes more neck and chest. We recommend leaving 1 or 2 buttons open below the collar to achieve the perfect laidback look. Consider lowering the Top Button Placement to further widen the collar opening, and increasing the Collar Around by .75″-1″ to allow the collar to sit a little lower on your chest and away from the neck. Note: The button loop on the Camp Collar design is for show and should never be buttoned.

Short Sleeves: No shorter than mid-biceps

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to create a short sleeve size. Use our easy converter to change one of your long sleeve sizes into a short sleeve one

If you already have a short sleeve size and the Short Sleeve Length is on the shorter side, you’ll want to increase it to ensure it hits at the middle of your biceps. This is key to achieving an easygoing look. A good rule of thumb is for the end of the short sleeve to hit about 4″ above your elbow. Any shorter and the fit will be a little too sleek for a classic Camp look, while a short sleeve that’s much longer will start to look like it doesn’t fit you.