CPO Season

I will be honest with you. I really didn’t know what a CPO shirt was. I kinda knew what they looked like, but that was about it. I couldn’t for instance tell you the difference between a CPO and a shirt jacket. Not only did I not know that much about the origin of  CPO shirts. I wasn’t a big fan either.

Now I do know a little about the CPO shirt. The CPO shirt was developed by the Navy in the 1930s as a layering piece for cold-weather work. While CPO stands for Chief Petty Officer these shirt-jackets were not widely worn throughout the Navy. While most of my CPO shirts are chamois the originals were wool-flannel. The original also had a single scalloped flap pocket on the breast, but there have been multiple iterations of the CPO shirt with the double front pocket being the most common.

Like most things trad and ivy these shirts became popular post WWII. I am not saying that they were not a popular during the heyday,but I always associate them with late 70’s/early 80’s rugged prep look similar to 60/40 parkas. This could be because I can remember that era and was not around for the heyday.

You can count me as a fan of the CPO shirt these days. I have learned the value of the CPO shirt this past year. I now have 4 different CPO shirts. I have a red chamois version from J.Crew, a vintage navy wool-cotton one from Brooks Brothers (with a button-down collar), a navy chamois from Woolrich, and natural colored chamois from J.Crew.

My current favorite is the vintage Brooks shirt and it even got its own blog post. It is a lot thinner than my others but being a wool blend it offers a great warmth to weight ratio. However I love them all and each has there time and place.

I wear CPO shirts pretty frequently now. How do I wear them? I like to wear them over a tucked in OCBD  on casual Friday. On a Saturday or Sunday I might just throw it over a tee or a henley. Sometimes I wear them buttoned but most of the time I don’t. They have been great for me during the winter adding a layer of warmth while offering up a little texture and color. Its also nice to have mid-layer option other than sweaters and sweatshirts. And as to what is the difference between most shirt jackets and CPO shirts? The answer is nothing.

Woolrich Chamois CPO ShirtIMG_8219IMG_0812

oxford cloth button down
Jerrod Swanton is a simple man interested in simple, classic, and traditional style.

5 Comments on "CPO Season"

  1. Andrew Friedman says:

    This primarily sounds like the thick ll bean flannel shirts I wear over something else or a very old Pendleton shirt I wore for years.

  2. Greg Kitapdjian says:

    Grew up in the Armenian enclave of Glendale,CA and had
    never seen an Oxford cloth button down shirt—let alone heard of
    Ivy style—until I went north in 1962 and started my
    academic and sartorial education at Berkeley. It was there that
    my eyes were opened to the style that I would adhere to for
    the rest of my life. Hard to believe, but Berkeley in the early 60s
    was a Mecca of Ivy/Trad stores. The term then was “Ivy League”.
    Along with OCBD shirts, chinos, navy blazers, tweed jackets (I’m
    pretty sure we called them sportcoats) and Bass Weejuns,
    the woolen CPO shirt (in navy)was a standard element of the Ivy wardrobe.
    I’m glad to see that it has made a comeback, as it’s been a long time since I’ve seen one.
    At 75, I enjoy following this site, and am pleased to see that a young man like
    yourself understands the value of this style.

  3. Pat says:

    CPO shirts are great. I have a wool one from the Vermont Country Store of all places. It’s
    great during the cooler months in the Southwest. And is perfect with OCBD. As always, you pull the look off with style and grace. Glad you are liking your change of venue.

  4. Jon V DiBenedetto says:

    I have one from Buzz Rickson : very comfortable. It’s as you noted basically a overshirt tho it was in the military meant to be worn tucked in. I believe the overshirt use came about after the second World War with the rise of military salvage stores.

  5. oxford cloth button down says:

    Greg – Thanks so much for taking the time to leave your comment. It is always interesting to hear these types of stories!

    Jon – That Buzz Rickson CPO sure looks nice!

    Pat – Thanks!

    Andrew – This may be where some of those manufacturers got their inspiration.

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