The History of the Gentleman's Shirt

The History of the Gentleman's Shirt

The modern men's shirt has a long history. Before the 1870’s males would pull shirts on and off over their heads as they were worn under the outer garments and were only visible by the collar. In 1871 the first shirt with buttons all the way down the front was registered, meaning the shirt then became more commonly known as outerwear.

The standard shirt has barely altered since the First World War, with the exception of the addition of a breast pocket. Traditionally men’s shirts still do not have breast pockets; this may be due to the fact that no-one actually knows what their function should be.

The white shirt was the epitome of elegance until the 19th century. Only a male with enough money to have his shirts washed frequently could afford to wear white shirts.  Striped shirts were only accepted into the fashion industry at the end of the 19th century, as they carried a negative stigma that connected to a lack of cleanliness. By a way of compromise, bright, colourful shirts were teamed together with a white collar and cuffs. These combinations are still very popular with the fashionable shirts in today’s industry.

The collar design is one of the essential features defining the style of every shirt; the collars of the early shirts were cut in various ways with detachable collar styles also available.  Advantages of the detachable collars were that the collar could be washed everyday, without having to wash the full shirt. Also the collars could be styled in different ways. This therefore meant that males could pass off wearing the same shirt, but as the collar was washed or a different style, he seemed to be wearing a different shirt, therefore portraying wealth.

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