The Dress Shirt: A Brief History

The Dress Shirt: A Brief History

August 18, 2020

Everybody has at least one dress shirt in his wardrobe. Some have more. They are commonly worn for every day purposes and in particular when you want to dress up. But not many people know that the shirt is one of our oldest garments.

Early shirts

Since before the Middle Ages the shirt has existed as a piece of clothing, but then only as underwear for men or as a night gown. In the early days the shirt had neither collar nor cuffs, but a hem that could be tightened and buttoned. And you always put it on by pulling it over your head. In the Middle Ages one could choose between fixed or detachable collar. The garment was often made out of linen and some times silk. In the 18th century the shirt was no longer worn only as underwear, the collar grew into enormous proportions and was decorated with embroidery and lace. Later the the collar grew back to smaller sizes again.

The golden days of tailoring

During this period of time no shirts were mass produced in factories. The well suited man bought his shirt from the tailor, just like many do today again, whilst the common man wore shirts made by his wife. For long the shirt was a garment of simple design, but in the middle of the 19th century the shirt was tailored more to the shape of the body, the fixed collar disapeared and the shirt started to show up in more colourful designs espescially as sports shirts and labour shirts. The white shirt was, until the end of the 19th century, considered to be an important attribute of prosperity.

The modern shirt

At the end of the World War 1 the shirt went through a major transformation. It was only at that time the modern shirt with buttons all along the front became popular, even if the first buttoned shirt was registered by Brown, Davies & Co as early as 1871. In the 1930’s the shirt with the fixed collar revived and it has been with us ever since. Twenty years later the nylon shirt was introduced and during the same period of time the more daring short sleeve shirt became high fashion. In the 1960’s the chest pocket was introduced as a consequence of the vest under the suit jacket becoming more and more uncommon.

Nowadays the shirt is a piece of clothing for him as well as for her even if most of the shirts are manufactured for males. The styling and design variations of modern shirts are endless. The collar comes in many different cuts and sizes and is very sensitive to fashion fads. The fabric used come in many qualities and constructions. That is the way it has always been. You can find shirts in various qualities in almost any store today including well assorted food stores. But a fine shirt - one that you wear with pride - you get custom made from your tailor.

The tailored shirt

A tailor-made shirt is a valuable garment that you treat with dignity and care and you are quick to put it on as soon as you get it in your hands. And then you long for wearing it again and again. Accompanied by a suit and a tie of superb taste or casually unbuttoned together with your favourite jeans the tailor-made shirt make your outfit complete. Your are quite simply very comfortably well dressed.

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