Henley Shirt – Classic Alternative To The T-Shirt – Stylish Casual Shirts For Men

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ryan-gosling-drive-henleyGuys with stylish wardrobes aren’t necessarily spending more on their clothes than other men.

Often times, they’re just buying a wider variety of clothes that are interchangeable, which gives them a more unique look.

Finding less-common substitutes for the basics of a casual wardrobe (jeans, T-shirts, etc.) can help keep you looking stylish.

Today we’re looking at an awesome T-shirt alternative that way too many guys are missing out on: the Henley shirt.

Below is a quick 3 minute video summary of the Henley shirtclick here to watch.


Meet the Henley

These days you can write “henley” as a generic, lower-case noun. The name comes from the town of Henley-on-Thames, in England, where the local rowing team wore the style for their uniforms.

A henley is a collarless shirt with a buttoning placket or “fly” in the front. The placket is usually two or three inches long, and fastens with anywhere from one to five buttons.

Henleys can be long- or short-sleeved. Short-sleeved versions look much like a polo shirt without the turndown collar, while long-sleeved ones resemble a sweater with a narrow (and buttoning) V-neck.

The style isn’t attached to any one traditional material or purpose the way the polo shirt is.

You can get henleys in everything from lightweight summer weaves to thick, quilted constructions (the latter are more faithful to the garment’s rowing crew origins).


Advantages of the Henley

Because the construction can vary so widely, you have to speak in fairly broad terms when you talk about henley shirts.

But broadly speaking, the henley’s big advantage is that it’s different. Most men don’t one one; ergo, by owning one, you are making a reasonably unique style statement.

This benefit fades, of course, as they become more popular, and lately henleys have been showing up on more and more mainstream store shelves. Still, they’re always going to stand out more than a T-shirt, and just the fact that you’ve chosen to wear something with a bit of style to it often goes a long way.

Another advantage is that the v-cut in the front can send a signal of masculine sexuality – of course you need to have other things in check (a decent build being the big one) to pull this off but just look at the image of Ryan Gosling above.  Yea – he’s putting out the “vibe” .

It’s also one of the more affordable style upgrades out there. You can get a henley from somewhere like the Gap or Eddie Bauer for $10-20, and that’s assuming that you’re buying new and non-discounted. If you’re willing to thrift around a bit or bargain-hunt, you can add a dozen of these to your wardrobe without denting the bank account too badly. In a variety of colors and materials, that adds up to a big boost in your wardrobe’s overall versatility, all without spending big bucks.

Henleys are typically cotton or a cotton/synthetic blend, which makes them both affordable and low-maintenance. You can throw them in the washing machine without worrying too much about your settings.

All told, it’s a cheap, low-maintenance garment that adds a lot of variety to the wardrobe at very little cost or effort.

how-to-wear-a-heley-in-australiaWearing the Henley

How you wear your henley shirts depends a lot on how they’re made.

Light, short-sleeved henleys stand in effectively for T-shirts. They’re not quite as formal as a polo, but fill a similar niche — you wear them when you want a single, short-sleeved layer that still looks like you put some thought into your outfit.

The long-sleeved versions, depending on weight, can be either a light inner layer worn under a jacket or heavier shirt, or they can be the padded top layer on a cool day.

Henleys layer well, so don’t be shy about getting them in a variety of colors and wearing them under sports jackets or light coats. Some guys will even throw them on under casual suits, although this is a bit of a runway fashion-model look — don’t try it if you’re not very confident in your style!

Most important of all, only buy henleys that have a good, close fit. They should touch the body pretty much all the way through their length — no hanging or billowing fabric anywhere. If you’ve got a bit of a guy, the henley might not be the best choice for you, especially lighter, thinner ones. It’s meant to be a pretty form-fitting garment. The only place there should be any looseness is up at the collar when it’s unbuttoned.


The Henley: Worth a Try

If you’ve made it this far and you still don’t own a henley shirt, what are you waiting for? Go try one on. You’ll probably like it.

For their price, most henleys are a cheap, easy wardrobe upgrade. Throwing a few into the mix adds color, visual interest, and uniqueness. Unless you have a very peculiar wardrobe, you can count on getting your money’s worth out of a henley or two.

This post is brought to you by Blue Claw Co.  More than just a sponsor – Blue Claw is the luggage company I use to protect my business wardrobe when I travel.  Their bags look great, and are made to last right here in the USA!  – Check them out by Clicking Here.

  • Marty

    Express sells several henley shirts as well, although those I think are mostly graphic prints.
    Worth checking out.

    I bought a nice black fitted henley from Express. Fits my athletic form well.

    Good idea having this topic; I’ll consider getting a few more, in solid colors.

  • dp

    Not for anyone without a perfect build then?

  • Graham Wilson

    I’m sorry but the closest that vest (the Anglo-Saxon undergarment) has got to Henley was in a Merchant Ivory film. This garment is a “Grandad vest”. It is part of your underwear. No self-respecting male would wear one without a shirt over the top.


  • Ubaydullah Cyprus Sheikh Nazim

    Oh well. That would fit to me i guess… But isnt it just a shirt?

  • bruzote

    After seeing these ads, I’ve a glimpse how women feel about excessive standards.

  • RMRStyle

    Good point – yes, you need to have a decent build in my opinion to pull this off and I feel it works best for young men.

  • RMRStyle

    Thanks Marty!

  • RMRStyle

    Not sure what you mean – I personally feel most men need to up their game physically and mentally to make this world a better place to live. Perfection is impossible to reach, but striving for it we’ll find we achieve greatness.

  • RMRStyle

    There are a few small detail differences!

  • RMRStyle

    To each his own Graham – thanks for thoughts sir!

  • Joe

    I guess he means that just how women are subjected to impossible standards, this is what is happening with men as well.Meaning that if someone is not good-looking he is unworthy and cannot bring something to the world. I’m sorry, but that’s basically the message. It’s really sad that you are not being taken seriously as a man if you are not built! Being a man should have nothing to do with the way you look, it comes from the inside!

  • RMRStyle

    Not sure how this article says you need to be built to be a man – it’s simply trying to raise awareness of a classic menswear piece of clothing!

  • Colin

    Hi Antonio,

    Good style choice. Living in England this is a traditional British style of clothing, although as you say only now being revived. Not too easy to get original style henleys though, a couple of years ago I bought mine from the USA. Now I am trying a modern version of the Henley from Korea. It has a longer placket and is slim fit, but very stylish. I wear my white Henley with a lightweight half-lined beige summer jacket with working cuffs, black trousers, and brown brogue chelsea boots. The jacket sleeves are lined with burgundy material so in the summer heat you can fold up the cuffs and it looks real good. The outfit works very well, and I feel good wearing it.


  • themodestman

    Antonio – one problem I always face with henleys is the length. They will fit perfect in the neck/chest, but the arms and torso are too long. The arms are an easy fix – just roll ‘em up (which looks good with henleys). But the torso length… could you alter that without throwing off everything else?


  • themodestman

    Yeah, and they are ALWAYS on sale (like right now… 40% off). Gotta love Express for that!

  • themodestman

    IF – People (men and women) shouldn’t wear close-fit shirts over protruding bellies.

    AND – Henleys only look good when they’re close-fit.

    THEN – People with beer bellies shouldn’t wear henleys.

    Not biased or mean in any way, just purely logical.

  • menstyle

    That sounds great Colin and it’s great that it makes you feel good!

  • menstyle

    As long as it’s not too tight or not too lose, then they’re great for everyone. You can shorten them, but just remember not to over do it. :)

  • Patrick Wells

    After seeing this article I ran to Target and got a couple of henley shirts, I’m excited to give them a shot but I’m worried the V-neck won’t be deep enough to my liking, hence the reason I’m keeping the receipt. Either way, thanks for the suggestion Antonio!

  • menstyle

    You’re welcome Patrick and good luck. Hope they fit well!

  • bruzote

    I meant that getting cut to the point of having bulging six-packs and pectorals IS excessive for anyone whose goal is simply good health. On the other hand and in hindsight, these models are actually reasonably proportioned for very healthy men. My frustrations with my own health limitations were breaking through – sorry about that. I wish I had fewer health problems interfering with my day and preventing me from working towards achieving a superior level of fitness. I see these guys and I know I can’t be like them, or even like fit men my age. I’m just too broken. And thus, I can never wear a Henley like that. :-b

  • Dan

    I’d say give Uniqlo a chance if u can, i’m 5’10 and the torso and arm length is perfect along with the chest

  • Dan

    I have to laugh. Personally I don’t think wearing a henley on it’s own is any sign of a man’s self respect…but then again I decided to let go of groupthink some time ago. Nice article Antontio, I certainly think the henley is underated, funny you should mention Dan at TSBmen, I think it was his article that originally turned me on to the henley.

  • menstyle

    Thank you Dan!

  • Cody

    You have a typo under your “Wearing The Henley” section. It says, “If you’ve got a bit of a guy, the henley might not be the best choice for you, especially lighter, thinner ones.” I assume you meant “gut”. Just thought I’d let you know. Another excellent article by the way, I swear I read a few a day.

  • menstyle

    Thanks for letting me know Cody! Will definitely edit that one

  • menstyle

    Thanks for letting me know Cody! Will definitely edit that one

  • 007Fusiion .

    I love these tops but I have no idea where to buy them from. Can anyone recommend any shops that sell the Henley’s?

  • menstyle

    Recommending brands is difficult as they change their quality standards/sizing information. I do suggest, though, that you check your options online (Amazon). Good luck. :)

  • itsichard

    Please allow me to mention that among the African and Afro-Caribbean men we wear a similar top to the henley. It leans more on the side of a tunic and is mostly made of brocade and in loud, bold colors with intricate embroidery pattern. The more intricate the greater the status of the wearer. Although ceremonial,it is recognized acceptable business and formal attire in our cultures. here is an example of what I am referring to: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/b8/8f/fe/b88ffe3059376ac11918df9386e5bca8.jpg.

  • Shaun

    Proofread– there’s more than one error in your article. I immediately discount any advice that contains poor mechanics.

  • menstyle

    Thanks for the feedback!