Epaulettes: Faded Or Fad?

Author: Tyra 'nell Pille

Dress Shirts With Epaulettes

Sometimes fashion finds inspiration in some pretty unlikely sources – like Napoleon and Dr. Livingston.  One was a famous military leader who conquered most of Europe and the other a pith helmet wearing explorer of deepest Africa, neither was exactly synonymous with fashion.  But what did they have in common with the trendiest dress shirt wearers of last summer?  One word: Epaulettes.

Also known as shoulder straps and epau loops, those small stripes of fabric found on the shoulders of pilots, soldiers, sea captains, dictators, adventurers and Michael Jackson were everywhere last year, hence the reason why so many guys looked like they were preparing to invade the Hapsburg Empire or go lion hunting in the savannah.

Sure, it might have seemed a little strange since it wasn’t that long ago that epaulettes were thought of as vintage at best, or Victorian at worst. But if you think they’re too obsolete to be worn these days, or were just a one-season wonder, then you might have to think again.

While outdoor apparel companies have been cranking out shirts with epaulettes for campers and outdoor enthusiasts for years, more stylish fashion brands are starting to get into the act for their summer collections this summer, too.  Numerous designers with the biggest names in the fashion industry are now borrowing military uniform rudiments to incorporate into the concepts of their casual garments.

Although epaulettes might have their origins in the military world, they might not be quite ready for the office just yet (unless your boss is an ex-marine or an amateur archaeologist).  However in the urban jungle they are still au courant with shirt wearers trying to pull off a look simultaneously adventurous and hip.

Epaulettes look great on both long and short sleeve shirts, in a variety of different colors – we’ve already seen them on everything from brown and olive, to orange and red so far this season – depending on what kind of look you’re going for.  Earth tones will give you a more martial bearing while brighter colors provide a sportier edge.  Epaulettes also look great with a chest pocket or two, especially if you’re looking for a more functional look (and need easy access to treasure maps).  Don’t try to match them with cargo pants though, since this might be going too far with the military/backpacker vibe; try a pair of jeans instead for a more balanced look.

Tailored dress shirts with epaulettes are also perfect for guys who might be self-conscious about being narrow-shouldered. Depending on length and style, epaulettes on dress shirts create the appearance of masculinity and authority – not only will you look fuller around the shoulders, but also you’ll probably find yourself standing straighter and taller when you wear them.

Trolling the fashion forums, there are some people who say that epaulettes have always been in the background of fashion men’s fashion to some degree, but it’s definitely been a while since they were so ubiquitous in the world of high style.  No one can say for sure how long the new epaulettes craze will last, but it seems safe to say they’re back again for at least one more summer.


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One Response to “Epaulettes: Faded Or Fad?”

  1. Max says:

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