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What Is a Rugby Shirt?

By B. Winger
Updated May 17, 2024
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A rugby shirt, sometimes called a rugby jersey, is a horizontally striped shirt that can be worn both on and off the rugby pitch. Most rugby shirts have short sleeves, but long-sleeved rugby shirts are sometimes worn in colder climates. Rugby shirts are also characterized by a buttoned open collar at the top of the shirt that is reminiscent of a polo shirt. The collar on a rugby shirt, however, usually tends to be a little shorter and a little stiffer than those found on other shirts.

The key difference between a rugby shirt and a polo shirt is the broad horizontal stripes across the chest that originally marked team affiliation. Every athletic rugby shirt is marked with five to six broad stripes, called hoops, in alternating team-specific colors. Casual rugby shirts do not use color to mark team affiliation, so do not always feature the five stripe alternating color format. Non-athletic rugby shirts typically have thinner stripes than their competitive equivalents, as well.

When a ruby shirt is intended to be used for athletic wear, it is often made out of breathable fabric that allows the player to sweat. Team rugby shirts often feature a large number on the back of the shirt to identify the player. The rugby league typically regulates the colors that can be used for each team’s shirt. Furthermore, athletic rugby shirts sometimes feature unique adaptations, such as rubber buttons, to avoid ripping or tearing the shirt during the game.

Generally, an athletic rugby shirt is similar to an old-fashioned soccer jersey with its short sleeves, stripes, and collar. Both forms of athletic wear are also made out of breathable fabrics that are easy to wash, such as polyester blends. Some players feel that the slippery feel of the polyester is more challenging to grab a hold of during a tackle than natural fabrics. Additionally, the colors on both rugby shirts and soccer jerseys are carefully regulated by their specific leagues. The main difference between a rugby shirt and a soccer jersey is the fact that the stripes on a soccer jersey run vertically instead of horizontally.

Non-athletic rugby shirts are typically made out of comfortable fabrics, such as cotton. When not designed for use in a competitive game, rugby shirts often have a striking white collar that shows off the hoops to the best advantage. Colors of hoops are not regulated for casual rugby shirts.

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Discussion Comments

By bluespirit — On Sep 19, 2011

Growing up I did not know that rugby was a sport so I just thought it was a type of shirt as they were quite popular when I was younger. Besides the style of the stripes, the rugby shirts I had seen were made of a thicker material than your typical cotton shirts.

Now I wonder if that thicker material was also inspired by the sport - since rugby is such a rough and tumble sport, maybe the uniforms were originally made of more durable material.

One of the official rugby shirts that I like is the English rugby shirt, but that is likely because I love the clean look of the red and white.

By letshearit — On Sep 19, 2011

The Wales rugby shirt is a great option if you are looking for something that is a solid color and isn't too busy. It is a simple solid red with a white collar and accents. Another good bet is the Guinness rugby shirt if you want something that is great for heading out to the pub.

I actually have quite a few rugby shirts in my collection and I pretty actively follow my local team. I am not one of those people though that will only wear one team's rugby shirt, as I feel that there is nothing wrong with having several teams you support. I suppose the only real trouble comes up are when two of my much loved teams play one another.

By manykitties2 — On Sep 18, 2011

My husband loves his rugby shirts and is pretty insistent on wearing them whenever he has some down time. I actually don't mind too much, as even though they are very sporty, they are still collared shirts, so I feel like he looks neat and presentable even when he is just lounging about the house.

I have actually swiped one of his rugby shirts to wear, and I have to say, they are really comfortable, so I can definitely see the appeal of them. I find the all black rugby shirt to be a stylish option as I am not a huge fan of the big stripes across the chest.

By anon88459 — On Jun 05, 2010

They are nice, casual shirts.

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