The history of men's dress shirts actually dates back to the Middle Ages. Throughout time, it has become a snapshot of various factors such as economic conditions, culture, class, and social identity. During the Norman era in 10th century Britain, men wore white shirts that were loose and utilitarian in nature called a chemise or smock. Fast forward a few hundred years to the 17th century, dress shirts appeared in European dress as a kind of underwear, designed to protect expensive waistcoats and frock coats from sweat and soil.
By the 1800s, this is where the white dress shirt that we know today really began to take form. Beau Brummell is credited as starting the trend, wearing meticulous white linen shirts with a signature knotted cravat making it a symbol of wealth and class distinction. Only a person of substantial prosperity could afford to have their shirts washed frequently and to own enough of them to wear. The collars were generally detachable and could be quite tall if the man was from the upper class. The terms “white collar” and “blue collar” originated from this time period.
Styles changed as manufacturing became more sophisticated in the early 1900s and laundry became more accessible. White shirts became more affordable and were no longer a symbol of wealth as men began to have more colors and shirt patterns available to them. The material, fit, and workmanship quality of a shirt became distinguishing characteristics of class, rather than the shirt’s color. From the 1930s on, fabric and design options exploded. Flannel, cotton, rayon, and tons of prints and styles were introduced and by the end of World War I, shirts began to regularly feature buttons down the entire front, the way we have them today.
Today companies like I DEUX continue to challenge the boundaries of the dress shirt finding new ways to innovate and elevate men's fashion! Create your I DEUX today and be a part of history!