Smart Dressed Man Barton Strawn on the new look of Southern menswear

Smart Dressed Man: Make the popover a summer staple in the South

CorrespondentJune 11, 2014 

With Father’s Day quickly approaching, I hope to inspire you to take a risk and buy Dad something he probably wouldn’t buy for himself: a popover. And if you are one of the gents reading this, then I also want you to break free of those traditional chains and give the popover a shot yourself.

At this point you are asking yourself, what is a popover?

If it were a drink, it would be two parts button-down and one part polo. That is to say, it’s more like a half-way-button-down. The result is a great shirt that can be worn comfortably on a casual Friday and also look great at that cookout on Saturday.

When you are deciding when to wear a popover, it’s best to think of it like a polo that can be dressed up when you need to look sharp and dressed down when you want to be comfortable. Popovers can be lightweight yet structured and tailored, which is the perfect combination for keeping your cool in the vicious summer heat.

Because it is a little off the beaten path in the clothing department, it can get neglected in the South. But with a large selection of chambray and linen options available this summer, it should be thrown into your normal rotation as soon as possible.

The popover isn’t new. It came about in the 1960s when Gant shirt makers made a few minor changes to their button-down pattern. (Gant is often credited with bringing the button-down collar to the mass market in the U.S. after World War II, so with such a rich menswear history, I think even us Southerners can admit the Connecticut company knows what they are talking about when it comes to clothing.)

So this summer, might I suggest channeling your inner ’60s spirit and introducing a popover or two into your wardrobe? J. Crew has some great options, and Sid Mashburn out of Atlanta can also help with some basics to get you started. My favorite look right now is a blue chambray popover (Club Monoco has a nice one) with a pair of summer-weight chinos and an unstructured blazer. Pair it with your favorite loafers and you can champion the coming weekend with ease.

Barton Strawn is the creative director of Lumina Clothing in Raleigh. Email:

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