Gear Geek: The Unplaid

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Gear Geek: The Unplaid

Whether because of some odd, lingering influence from the grunge-era flannel obsession, or just because plaid patterns are as timeless as a Swiss Army knife’s utility, short-sleeved plaid shirts have become the default uniform for lots of guys out there. It’s time to subvert that trend with one (or several) short-sleeved button downs that break the mold of that unofficial casual travel uniform (without sacrificing any tech features or stylish functionality, naturally).

1. Flylow Anderson, $65; 2. California Cowboy High Water, $130; 3. Linksoul Vintage Full-Button Knit, $80; 4. Black Diamond Chambray Modernist, $65; 5. Club Ride Simply West, $80; 6. Marmot Windshear SS, $60; 7. Columbia Silver Ridge, $50.

Top photo by michaeljung/Shutterstock


Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).

Flylow Anderson


Endorsing Flylow's Wild Child Shirt—whose pattern evokes 1970s-era beachside hotel curtains…so, loud!—is tempting. But it would only appeal to the statement makers. If you ain't that ambitious, the Anderson provides, with a pop of contrasting color at the front pocket in an otherwise slightly understated design. The breathable, quick-drying fabric also has a touch of stretch, with snap buttons and a looser overall fit, at home on the singletrack, plane, or board room.
Photo courtesy of Flylow

California Cowboy High Water


California Cowboy's hand-sewn High Water patterns will let you scream or stay more subdued—as with the vintage-inspired floral Georgetown gray design (pictured). But whichever you prefer, the shirt comes packed with features: a terry cloth lining that's breathable and 25% more water absorbent than cotton, a dry pocket made of waterproof fabric and a hydrophobic zipper to keep your phone forever dry, a sunglass loop, and a bottle pocket in the back, inspired by cycling jerseys. It even comes with a bottle opener, and fits slimmer than any of the thrift store Hawaiian shirts you've got tucked into the back of your closet.
Photo courtesy of California Cowboy

Linksoul Vintage Full-Button Knit


A mix of poly, Lycra, and cotton provides performance features that'll keep you comfortable in variable climates (or activities) without sacrificing much style. The darker color also helps camouflage any lingering sweat, with a pattern that nods to '50s-era Mad Men textiles without becoming self-indulgently retro.
Photo courtesy of Linksoul

Black Diamond Chambray Modernist


Another update of a classic, the Chambray Modernist benefits from Black Diamond's climbing pedigree, with gusseted underarms that keep the shirt in place when stretching for a hold (or for the overhead), a shaped front and back hem, and a slightly athletic fit. The two chest pockets—one out, one inside for security—are deep and wide enough to accommodate your passport.
Photo courtesy of Black Diamond

Club Ride Simply West


This one is the most tech-oriented shirt in the round-up, in large part because Club Ride designed it for people who mountain bike, but reject the Spandex cycle scene. But the shirt will work for any sort of warm-weather pursuits. The lightweight fabric breaths and wicks well, with nearly-invisible fine mesh panels at the arms and side to really max out the comfort in hot weather. It also comes with UPF 30 protection, a pen holder next to the snap-down front pocket, and contrast stitching for a touch of class midst all the classic black.
Photo courtesy of Club Ride

Marmot Windshear SS


Available in bright green or "retro" red, the Windshear will appeal to explorers who like to stand out on the ridgeline. The proprietary performance fabric wicks and dries quickly, with mechanical stretch and gussets to expand your range of movement. UPF 20 also protects from the sun, and the lightweight fabric is immensely packable.
Photo courtesy of Marmot

Columbia Silver Ridge


This lower-cost, solid-color classic uses Columbia's own nylon basket weave tech to craft an uber-light shirt, with UPF 30 protection and their own very effective method of moisture wicking. Otherwise, it keeps thing simple with twin flap chest pockets, a slim (but not too slip) profile, and a standard drop hem. Available in a variety of colors.
Photo courtesy of Columbia