Many of the details that we assume are essential parts of our clothing were originally there to serve purposes that no longer exist. Clothing enthusiasts often fall into one of two categories – those who embrace these superfluous details (often the more superfluous the better), and those who eschew anything extraneous. It tends to be men who fall into the former basket, seeking out lovingly reproduced military parkas with authentic map pockets, despite not having so much as glanced at an Ordnance Survey map since year 9 orienteering.
Across the divide, many men are card-carrying members of the latter tribe, taking full advantage of contemporary clothing’s ability to be as streamlined as possible, in a sort of echo of the Great Male Renunciation. One clothing detail we all take as a given is the shirt collar, but of course, the shirt collar (originally a detachable part of a man’s shirt, allowing for it to be easily washed and replaced) was created to house a necktie, an accessory few men still wear on a regular basis.
So, with its raison d'être – the tie – fading into irrelevance, where does that leave the shirt collar? One way of navigating this collar conundrum is to cast off the starchy trappings of a previous century and embrace the collarless shirt. Why concern yourself with needless details and enforced discomfort, like a latter day Prufrock with collar mounting firmly to one’s chin?
The SNJP Hakone Shirt has been elegantly distilled to its essentials, each subtle detail a necessity. Cut with a loose shape, it has a placket and a pocket, and that’s about it. I would be lying if I said I’ve never purchased an item of clothing just because I was enamoured with some small, useless embellishment (like a belted back or a western yoke) but there is so much joy to be found in a minimalist, fuss-free approach to dressing.
When a piece of clothing is stripped of unnecessary features it allows the materials and craftsmanship to take centre stage. The Hakone Shirt is made entirely in Japan, using an exquisite Japanese cotton. The Western fascination with Japanese fabrics would feel like a fetishisation if the textiles coming out of the Land of the Rising Sun weren’t so darn good. In this case we’re looking at a densely-woven poplin, which combines satin smoothness with a pleasingly substantial weight – two qualities you don’t often find in the same fabric.
It’s a shirt that delights in simplicity, with an emphasis on craft, quality and precision. So, free your neck, and your mind will follow.
Nathan Sharp - Menswear Historian