The evolution of the shirt

The shirt has remained largely unchanged over the past half century - but that hasn't always been the case. Detachable sleeves for flirting? Shirt blouses as underwear? Over the years, this garment essential has evolved in fascinating and sometimes fun ways.

approx. 3,000 BC Chr.

Walk like an Egyptian

The shirt has been around for a surprisingly long time. Because the oldest preserved piece of clothing in the world is a linen shirt from ancient Egypt.

13. -15. Year

Good morning, good knight

In Europe, detachable sleeves are considered chic. Women wear them in various combinations, sometimes taking off a sleeve and presenting it to a suitor to show their affection.

Post-Renaissance period

Too posh to dress yourself

Here we have the obscure beginnings of a shirt convention that we still know today: women's shirts are buttoned to the left, men's shirts to the right. Allegedly ladies of state had the habit of having their shirt buttoned by a servant, which is of course easier for a right-handed woman from the left side. Men, on the other hand, dressed without assistance.


Robe thoughts

"One doesn't change one's religion as easily as one's shirt," said King Henry IV, who ruled England at a time of intense religious trench warfare.

16th - 18th century

The origins of the crop top

The "half-shirt" or "pretend" was a popular item of clothing for men at the time. As a purely decorative layer, it only covered the upper chest area and was worn over a shirt that was not classy enough for the occasion or that needed washing.

Early 18th century

Top and tails

he men's shirt from this era falls below the upper body, with the corners also functioning as underwear.


The Enlightenment

The expression "to give someone their last shirt" is documented for the first time - an idiom that indicates the greatest despair, but also generosity and is still in use today.

Early 18th century

Ruffles make the man

hThe long lace flounce - also known as a jabot - is a fashionable accessory for a man's shirt and is pulled over the head.


On a knife edge

Hannah Montague, a housewife in northern New York, invents the detachable collar. Tired of always washing shirts, she cuts off the collars of her husband's shirts and invents a way to fasten them back to the collar after washing.


Brummell is causing a sensation

Beau Brummel dies at the age of 61. The English dandy revolutionized men's style with a more streamlined, tailored look. Central element: bright white linen shirts with high collars.


Cloak and sword

The French cuff first made a name for itself in literature, in Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Christo - although this style is actually an English invention.

Mid 19th century

Chic and easy to care for

In this era, sleeves and collars on the suit shirt are basically removable and can therefore be cleaned separately.


Loads of buttons

The clothing manufacturer Brown, Davis & Co. has a shirt patented with a row of buttons extending all the way down.

In the same year the "epidemic" of the "Monogrammaniker" is mocked in an article in a popular magazine. The rising masses put initials on virtually everything, including their shirts, and not just to identify the owner of clothes to be washed (which was the real - and practical - purpose of monograms).


New money, new shirt

Industrialization creates enormous wealth in Europe and leads to the "Gilded Age" in America. Extravagant dinner outfits are the order of the day. Industry tycoons wear shirts with rolled-up "wing" collars that have decorative rivets at the front and buttons at the back. At the end of the 19th century the button-down collar did not yet exist; instead one speaks of the "polo shirt" because it is worn by the players of the elite sport in question. The collar tips are attached directly to the shirt so that they do not flutter in the player's face.

19th to early 20th century

Can you keep something to yourself?

Frugal contemporaries prefer "chest shirts", which consist of a collar and shirt front made of shirt material; the rest of the under the jacket is made of cheaper material

Turn of the 20th century

High fashion

The high collar often seen on portraits from this era is actually a holdover from the Victorian era. Although long out of fashion, a high, stiff collar still gives the impression of formality.

Early 20th century


With the rise of the washing machine in the home, the soft, firmly sewn collar begins to displace the removable collar. Because the machines make washing the entire shirt much easier (and cheaper).


Driven to extremes

The lace collar begins to dispute the position of the round collar as the most typical style feature in the field of men's business clothing.


Feeling blue

First documented use of the term "blue-collar worker" to refer to an employee in a blue work suit. The color of the shirt is an important class characteristic here. The "white collar" employee - so called because he works in a higher position and doesn't get his shirt dirty so quickly - is already known.

Late 1920s

A question of color

The monochrome suit shirt is becoming the standard in daywear at work. The old standard, i.e. a shirt torso with a contrasting white collar and cuffs, remains an item of choice for formal clothing.

The 1930s

Stays for Days

Collar stiffeners become popular for the first time. However, these early accessories are more like tie clips than the tiny chopsticks we know today. They are used to attach the collar tips to the tie and thus fix them.

The second World War

A war with wool

In the USA, dress shirts are made from synthetic fibers (rayon, nylon, viscose, etc.) for the first time, as wool is a material that is heavily used by the military sector.

The 1950s

Not exactly atomic physics

The short-sleeved suit shirt sees the light of day. In combination with a tie, it is particularly popular with NASA staff and a new generation of tech-crazy office workers.

Late 1960s

It was nice with you, vest

As a direct result of the decline of the vest, the breast pocket appears for the first time on men's shirts.