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Branching Out: 2024 Plackets & Wovens Trends

No longer a stiff dress shirt for the office, plackets and wovens have embraced softness while permeating multiple markets

By Hilary Daninhirsch, Contributing Writer


Work attire no longer needs to be boring. Have fun with it! Photo courtesy of And Collar

January 25, 2024

A woven dress shirt is a timeless staple that most men, especially, have in their wardrobes, though casual woven shirts, featuring a more relaxed fit, have become wardrobe essentials as well. Plackets, whether conventional or otherwise, can help elevate the dress shirt, adding a business-like element of formality.

“In the foreseeable future, the hybrid nature of life and work will continue to mandate a wardrobe full of comfort-driven clothing that also performs well,” says Vicki Ostrom, trend analyst/futurist with SanMar Corp. “Knits definitely check that box. Particularly when it comes to polos, the popularity of finds from the vintage and resale market has introduced the unique beauty of polos designed in the ’60s and ’70s. Woven shirting is not dead as a category, though. The world is not entirely made of knit clothing, even though it may seem like it since the pandemic made all of our clothing ‘weekend wear’ no matter the day. One vestige is the comfort factor, though, and that extends to wovens as well as knits. There is a more relaxed vibe to wovens of late.”

Taking Comfort

Some manufacturers are noticing that the popularity of this category of apparel is generationally dependent, with older generations sticking to traditional plackets and fabrics. “Workwear has been changing, more so in the last five years, and during COVID it was accepted as a new normal,” says Jose Botello, executive manager of YazbekUSA. “Younger people tend to wear comfortable fabrics and appreciate a less formal dress code versus older generations.”

Who says plackets and wovens can’t have flair? Photo courtesy of SanMar

Even before the pandemic, the country was leaning toward a dressy-casual style fusion for the office, and that includes seeing more polos being worn in the workplace. “Polos continue to be very popular as a comfortable workwear option, particularly when done in comfortable performance fabrics. Performance polos also continue to be a go-to sideline option for athletic coaches and staff,” says Emily Quilter, product design director with Augusta Sportswear. For example, the company has a Coolcore Performance Polo, which offers advanced wicking technology and four-way stretch fabric in a modern design, with upgraded color construction that keeps its shape.

Although there is still a demand for a classic dress shirt for the workplace, some are reporting that the untucked trend is also strong, with people unapologetically wearing untucked polos and other wovens to the office. In fact, And Collar, for example, is a company that started with comfort in mind, which resulted in a wrinkle-resistant, stretchy dress shirt specifically designed to be worn untucked.

“Normal dress shirts have a long hem and can’t be worn untucked, so we make the hem shorter so that it looks good untucked,” says Cody Nielsen, vice president of sales, And Collar. Nielsen adds he views the shirts at And Collar as shirts for every occasion, which can be dressed up or down, wearing it to work, then out to dinner or directly to your child’s soccer game. “Versatility is a big thing in the industry,” he says, noting that the company’s main demographic is under the age of 35.

Influences

Fashion drives changes in everything from fabric choice, fit and silhouette, design detail decisions regarding collar shape and size, and placket length, says Quilter. “Polos tend to follow fashion trends, so we can expect to see a few different looks. Modern minimal looks with visual fabric texture, smaller collars are strong, particularly in performance fabrics. There is also a return to more classic retro-preppy looks inspired by the popularity of racquet sports.”

She adds that the influence of athleisure is strong in the polo segment as well. “As consumers embrace the comfort, versatility and functionality of athleisure, it’s natural that they would seek the same characteristics in their work apparel. We see textured fabrics with performance attributes as key in this category,” Quilter says, highlighting the company’s Electrify Coolcore Polo, which offers advanced wicking technology and four-way stretch fabric.

For his part, Botello says he has not seen much movement in this particular category of athleisure wear. However, he did say that tunic style tops and oversized denim shirts are some of the looks that are trending. “Regarding this style, people are looking for comfort at the end of the day. They want to look good and cool but feel very comfortable, which for us manufacturers is making us think, design and create new proposals in fabrics to satisfy the market,” he says.

Sustainability as a Value

Eco-conscious consumers—of which there is a growing number—demand not only transparency in their commerce but the knowledge that their purchases support sustainable practices. Many companies have these offerings, such as sustainable fabrics that incorporate recycled content.

Yazbek, for example, is not only promoting natural fibers and sustainability but sustainable processes at its manufacturing facilities, such as the attention to water consumption, recycling, solar power electricity, and a company culture focused on volunteering.

For apparel in particular, “sustainability” is a catch-all term for the many methods being explored to find Earth-friendly ways to not create waste, to re-use offcuts, to reduce water consumption and to grow fiber crops in the least impactful way. “The biggest trend in production, for every industry, is the concept of ‘doing better’ in a multi-pronged approach that includes impactful, innovative, sustainable solutions from the manufacturing floor to the finished product,” says Ostrom.

Also being explored, Ostrom says, is manufacturing with carbon neutrality as the goal or simply creating an item that is so valuable to the consumer or so well made, that it (almost) never wears out and is continually recirculated to others, thus staying out of the landfill. “The bottom line is, there is not just one answer to doing better when it comes to creating new products, but it is the most important conversation taking place in manufacturing today,” Ostrom says.

Nielsen confirmed a push toward sustainability is a major corporate value for And Collar and for countless other companies. For example, one polyester shirt at And Collar contains 15 recycled plastic water bottles. “If you have an option to have a sustainable product versus not, nine out of 10 times, people will choose a sustainable product,” he says.

Fabrics

There is no longer a need to compromise comfort or function to be fashionable, as fabric or fabric blends that are soft and luxe but still functional are sought out by consumers. These types of fabrics lend themselves well to business travel. “Even though we want to wear comfortable, casual clothing, it’s still important to look pulled together and work appropriate,” says Ostrom. “Because of this, fabrics that have added functionality are of high value.”

Go from the office to the golf course in fashionable performance polos. Photo courtesy of Augusta Sportswear

Botello adds that the most common blend will continue to be polyester cotton, but that there will be more experimentation with synthetic fibers seeking to replicate greater elasticity in garments. Another fabric that will be incorporated into shirts is ring-spun cotton, which relates to the garment’s comfort factor, as desired by consumers.

Flowing naturally from the demand for performance and versatility, today’s fabrics have such performance attributes as wicking, odor control, stretch and softness.

Per Nielsen, companies are getting away from strict cotton, as it wrinkles and stains more easily. By contrast, his company’s poly-spandex fabric stretches, breathes well, moves well, and features water and stain-repellent features. Nielsen adds, though, that this trend can be demographic-dependent, as the under-35 crowd, which is his company’s primary market, is gravitating toward these kinds of fabrics because they reflect the fabrics with which they grew up. The older generations, on the other hand, still wear cotton dress shirts.

Looking ahead, Ostrom predicts there will be a continuing emphasis on the concept of climate-adaptive materials and design, such as heat protection, a feature that polos and wovens are well suited to address. Other features Ostrom says consumers will be seeking, include long sleeves, collars that flip up and protect the neck, venting that is built into back or side panels, UV protective fabrications, and moisture-wicking fabric.

Patterns, White Collars and Other Neutrals

Because people seek versatility in their clothing choices, core neutral colors are going to dominate the market: bone white, grey, brown and black. “These neutrals are balanced, nature-inspired hues, and easygoing mid-tones will [remain] popular, with a focus on versatility and wearability,” says Quilter. To look “put together,” consumers will also want to find “statement pieces,” including items that layer well and even mix and match, another reason that neutrals remain central—from core neutrals to enhanced neutrals, with such colors influenced by the natural world.

There’s also still a place for pastels, which dominate spring and summer, and non-classic shirts continue to be offered in a variety of colors and patterns: case in point, And Color’s tropical series, with beachy colors and those that are brighter on the color palette.

Big picture, Nielsen says that when it comes to style in this apparel category, the market goes through cycles, where sleek and simple gives way to flashy. Currently, Nielsen says that the patterns trend toward the flashy and the bold, which could be a post-pandemic effect.

Ostrom adds there is continued interest in creating “well-edited capsule wardrobes” as well. “Prints, patterns and the energy of bright, joyous colors are peppered into this capsule for the sake of seasonal variety and personalization of our looks,” Ostrom says. “The choice of pattern is individual and varied. Small prints add the subtle energy of visual texture to work outfits, and traditional plaids add a satisfying and grounding heritage vibe to elevated basics.”

Botello notes that while the continue advance of technology has led to the creation of new patterns, classic patterns will continue to be in constant demand, while busy designs are waning in popularity.

“The trend for plackets is to improve their look and feel, make the necks less rigid and much softer in their finishes, along with styles and fabrics that can be comfortable for casual or more formal wear preferences,” Botello says. “There will be an expansion in colors and combinations, but most of all the focus is on the touch of the finished piece.”

Social Media and Marketing

Social media undoubtedly plays a huge role in these days, as consumers garner much of their information this way. Companies that want to stay competitive need to have an active presence, with continual updating with relevant messages that recognize consumers’ needs and want to help them solve their problems. Simply put, Botello says. “Brands have to capture the potential client’s attention and keep them engaged with content that brings value to their end customer.”

“If you’re placing advertisements on social media platforms, it’s easier to hit specific target markets and demographics. These platforms are big. That is where consumers are spending their time,” Nielsen agrees.

When thinking about markets, however, it is important to keep in mind that office workers are not the only potential customers for plackets and wovens, as the market has the potential to expand to other niches, including religious organizations, clubs, schools, sporting events or any organization that wants to display its company name.

“These niches have been growing and have relevance because they are our client’s customers. As a brand we limit ourselves to provide information, show what colors we offer, the fabric and the blends and to listen the feedback we get from our customers—they are the ones who get the information firsthand,” Botello says.

“Polo shirts are the ideal step-up from a T-shirt and offer greater flexibility of wearing occasion and offer a more polished look than a basic tee,” agrees Quilter. “Thus, polos are the perfect option for a variety of end-use customers including corporate events, clubs, teams – any customer looking for an elevated look.”

In this same vein, And Collar’s Nielsen says that even though dress shirt are its bread and butter, the company is able to upsell to ties, polos and pants once consumers gain trust in the brand. Similarly, Nielsen says that with his company’s poly-spandex blend, there are many markets still waiting to be tapped.

“We had a funeral home reach out,” Nielsen says by way of an example. “They needed dress shirts for folks who didn’t have dress apparel for the deceased.” Other markets he says his company has reached are golf shops and staff at a water park, where they outfitted 250 people in their polos. Additionally, And Collar recently launched an effort to increase its share of the kids’ market, including such organizations as private schools and summer camps.

As part of its commitment to inclusivity, the company has also started entering plus sizes and big and tall. “The biggest thing is, there are thousands of different industries you can tap into that all need decorated apparel,” Nielsen says.

Hilary Daninhirsch is an award-winning freelance writer based in Pittsburgh. Her work has been featured in a number of lifestyle and trade magazines. She can be reached at hdaninhirsch@gmail.com or hilarydaninhirsch.journoportfolio.com.