Style Blog

Be A Part Of History: The Evolution of Men’s Dress Shirts

Did you know the expression to “look down one’s nose” originated from shirt styles in the early 1800s? Or that only the wealthy could wear white shirts because only they could afford to wash their shirts frequently? Evolving economics, politics, and ideals have heavily influenced the rich history of men’s dress shirts, so that what men wore 200 years ago has both stark differences and surprising similarities to what men wear today.

If you were wealthy in the Victorian Era, you probably owned a few white shirts to show off your status and the fact that you were able to do laundry on a regular basis. The terms “white collar” and “blue collar” originated from this time period. “White collar” men often had rigid, ruffled collars that stood straight up, keeping the head from nodding downward and giving the impression that such a man was “looking down his nose.”

Styles changed as the 19th century rolled along and white shirts without embellishments became favored over the stiff decorative collars. White shirts also became more affordable and were no longer a symbol of wealth. The material, fit, and workmanship quality of a shirt became distinguishing characteristics of class, rather than the shirt’s color. Around this time, polo players in England started buttoning the points of their collars to keep them from flapping around during the sport. An American named John Brooks brought this idea back to his grandfather’s company in America and the polo shirt was born. The style was adopted by tennis players, followed by Ivy Leaguers as part of an East Coast trend copying John F. Kennedy’s nonchalance. Eventually, polo shirts became officially part of the men’s fashion world.

By the end of World War I, shirts began to regularly feature buttons down the entire front, the way we have them today. People also began to prefer more comfortable, softer shirts in different colors, as influenced by the Prince of Wales at the time, Edward VIII. Still, the white shirt never lost its status as proper and respectable wear, becoming the dress code required by the founder of IBM, as well as the attire of the Arrow Collar Man, a fictional character part of a highly successful ad campaign in the early 20th century for dress shirts with fixed collars.

In the 21st century, the white shirt is still considered more professional or formal attire, even though it no longer provides actual class distinction. Shirt collars are still used as fashion statements and the list of cloths used for shirt production has expanded. Every aspect of the dress shirt we have today has been influenced by history, and belongs to a long tradition of menswear.

At High Bar Shirt Co., you will find customizable white shirts, colored shirts, and patterned shirts so you can achieve whatever style effect you wish. Pick your collar spread, your cloth material, your buttons, your cuffs, and your tail length. Be a part of fashion history with your own customized button-down shirt from High Bar Shirt Co.

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