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The History of Half Sleeve Shirts

Posted on 27 October 2022

Here at The Stiff Collar, we’re big fans of short-sleeved shirts. Short-sleeved shirts, also known as ‘half sleeves’, offer the perfect solution for those living in warmer climes. Not only are they less hot and stuffy than their long sleeved counterparts, but they also provide increased mobility and the ability to do practical work without getting dirtied.

So, here’s a little history about how Half Sleeves came to be…
Short-sleeved shirts were originally conceived and worn by tennis players in the 1920s. They devised this style of the shirt so that they could play with more ease. Long-sleeved shirts, even if rolled up, restricted the range of the player's swing.

Subsequently, short-sleeve shirts became very popular amongst other sportspeople and also with artists, particularly painters, who wanted to avoid getting their sleeves dirty while painting: Picasso, Léger, Albers and Matisse all wore half-sleeve shirts when painting in their studios.

The Second World War brought with it an age of austerity and restrictions. Companies were subject to very strict quotas on fabric and therefore began producing short-sleeve shirts, as these required less material to make. The garment then spread throughout society.

1960’s and 1970’s
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the midst of the space race, NASA engineers opted to wear half-sleeve shirts as the lightness of the garment allowed them to withstand the heat and humidity of Houston and Cape Canaveral. 

Office culture was born. People, in their millions, began to work in offices around the world and therefore the variety of appropriate garments was expanded beyond the typical long sleeve shirt and tie. 

Half-sleeve shirts can be found in a vast variety of colours, fabrics, and styles. They are no longer the preserve of corporate environments but can be comfortably worn in all manner of informal situations too. Half-sleeve shirts can be worn with shorts on the beach, with chinos when out in the evening, and with jeans at the weekend.

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