It was nearly 50 years ago that Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard was in Scotland on a climbing trip when he purchased a rugby shirt to wear while rock climbing. He was attracted by the garment's intrinsic properties—namely, fabric and construction tough enough for the rough and tumble game of rugby—and hypothesized that it would translate remarkably well to climbing. He was right.
The fabric made to handle scrum and tackle held up against constant scraping against rock walls, and the shirt's sturdy collar kept a heavy sling loaded with various hardware off the neck. Soon after the trip, rugby shirts made their way into the catalogs of The Great Pacific Iron Works and laid the foundation for Patagonia itself.
Now, newly launched brand Withernot aims to bring the once ubiquitous shirt back to the outdoors.
Though the popularity of rugby shirts within climbing is pretty well behind us at this point, Withernot feels it's time for a comeback. As such, the North Carolina-based brand is devoted to putting out hardwearing rugby shirts in classic hoop stripe colorways fit for everyday wear and sending complex projects in retro style.
It was his own father's college club team rugby shirt from the '70s that inspired Withernot Founder Patrick Hill to use the garment as the foundation for his own brand. And while not a self-proclaimed stonemaster himself, Hill's background in hiking and camping with his family from Maine to Yosemite informs the brand's vision of rugby shirts as general outdoor garments. On those trips, "my dad usually was sporting one of his two or three 'iconic' rugby shirts,” he says.
Unsatisfied by contemporary offerings and tired of hunting eBay and vintage shops for a suitable replacement, Hill took the initiative to produce a rugby shirt that ticked all the nostalgia-laden boxes—heavyweight 10.5 oz cotton body, contrasting twill color, rubber buttons, ribbed cuffs, and double-stitch construction at high-stress points.
With its pattern perfected, Withernot now offers a variety of colorways. Some are inspired by outdoor recreation destinations like the Shenandoah National Park's scenic Blue Ridge Parkway while others like the '93 Til Infinity reference pop culture (if the latter doesn’t spark an immediate association, then you’ve officially made this writer feel old). Hill's dad's old shirt even served as the inspiration for the color and stripe patterns of Withernot's Borealis variation.
Beyond its in-line offerings, Withernot maintains a small rotating vintage selection that’s a mix of personal archives and hand-dug finds, too. The brand also offers a custom program whose minimum orders of 30 pieces is an approachable size for smaller companies, club rugby teams, or, hell, nostalgia-obsessed rock climbing crews. Shirts range in price from $89 up to $98.