All about shirts

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A shirt is a cloth garment for the upper body. Originally an undergarment worn exclusively by men, it has become, in American English, a catch-all term for a broad variety of upper-body garments and undergarments. In British English, a shirt is more specifically a garment with a collar, sleeves with cuffs, and a full vertical opening with buttons or snaps (North Americans would call that a "dress shirt", a specific type of "collared shirt"). A shirt can also be worn with a necktie under the shirt collar.

Charvet shirt from the 1930s, Norsk Folkemeuseum, Oslo


Three types of shirt

  • Camp shirt – a loose, straight-cut, short sleeved shirt or blouse with a simple placket front-opening and a "camp collar."
  • Dress shirt – shirt with a formal (somewhat stiff) collar, a full-length opening at the front from the collar to the hem (usually buttoned), and sleeves with cuffs
    • Dinner shirt – a shirt specifically made to be worn with male evening wear, e.g. a black tie or white tie.
    • Guayabera – an embroidered dress shirt with four pockets.
  • Poet shirt – a loose-fitting shirt or blouse with full bishop sleeves, usually with large frills on the front and on the cuffs.
  • T-shirt – also "tee shirt", a casual shirt without a collar or buttons, made of a stretchy, finely knit fabric, usually cotton, and usually short-sleeved. Originally worn under other shirts, it is now a common shirt for everyday wear in some countries.
  • Long-sleeved T-shirt – a t-shirt with long sleeves that extend to cover the arms.
  • Ringer T-shirt – tee with a separate piece of fabric sewn on as the collar and sleeve hems.
  • Halfshirt – a high-hemmed T-shirt.
  • Sleeveless shirt – a shirt manufactured without sleeves, or one whose sleeves have been cut off.
    • A-shirt or vest or singlet (in British English) – essentially a sleeveless shirt with large armholes and a large neck hole, often worn by labourers or athletes for increased movability. Sometimes called a "wife beater" when worn without a covering layer.
    • Camisole – woman's undershirt with narrow straps, or a similar garment worn alone (often with bra). Also referred to as a cami, shelf top, spaghetti straps or strappy top.
  • Rugby shirt – a long-sleeved polo shirt, traditionally of rugged construction in thick cotton or wool, but often softer today.
  • Henley shirt – a collarless polo shirt.
  • Polo shirt (also tennis shirt or golf shirt) – a pullover soft collar short-sleeved shirt with an abbreviated button placket at the neck and a longer back than front (the "tennis tail").
  • Baseball shirt (jersey) – usually distinguished by a three quarters sleeve, team insignia, and flat waistseam.
  • Sweatshirt – long-sleeved athletic shirt of heavier material, with or without hood.
  • Tunic – primitive shirt, distinguished by two-piece construction. Initially a men's garment, is normally seen in modern times being worn by women.
  • Shirtwaist – historically (circa. 1890–1920) a woman's tailored shirt (also called a "tailored waist") cut like a man's dress shirt; in contemporary usage, a woman's dress cut like a men's dress shirt to the waist, then extended into dress length at the bottom
  • Nightshirt – often oversized, ruined or inexpensive light cloth undergarment shirt for sleeping.
  • Sleeveless shirt – A shirt with no sleeves. Contains only neck, bottom hem, body, and sometimes shoulders depending on type. Also referred to as a tank top.
  • Halter top – a shoulderless, sleeveless garment for women. It is mechanically analogous to an apron with a string around the back of the neck and across the lower back holding it in place.
  • Top shirt - a long-sleeved collarless polo shirt.
  • Heavy shirt - a shirt with the heavy size that covers up under the neck.
  • Onesie or diaper shirt – a shirt for infants which includes a long back that is wrapped between the legs and buttoned to the front of the shirt.
  • Sweaters — heavy knitted upper garments with long sleeves and sometimes cuffs.
  • Tube top (in American English) or boob tube (in British English) – a shoulderless, sleeveless "tube" that wraps the torso not reaching higher than the armpit, staying in place by elasticity or by a single strap that is attached to the front of the tube



Shirts may:

  • Have no covering of the shoulders or arms — a tube top (not reaching higher than the armpits, staying in place by elasticity)
  • Have only shoulder straps, such as spaghetti straps
  • Cover the shoulders, but without sleeves
  • Have shoulderless sleeves, short or long, with or without shoulder straps, that expose the shoulders, but cover the rest of the arm from the biceps and triceps down to at least the elbow
  • Have short sleeves, varying from cap sleeves (covering only the shoulder and not extending below the armpit) to half sleeves (elbow length), with some having quarter-length sleeves (reaching to a point that covers half of the biceps and triceps area)
  • Have three-quarter-length sleeves (reaching to a point between the elbow and the wrist)
  • Have long sleeves (reaching a point to the wrist to a little beyond wrist)


Shirts with long sleeves may further be distinguished by the cuffs:

  • No buttons — a closed placket cuff
  • Buttons (or analogous fasteners such as snaps) — single or multiple. A single button or pair aligned parallel with the cuff hem is considered a button cuff. Multiple buttons aligned perpendicular to the cuff hem, or parallel to the placket constitute a barrel cuff.
  • Buttonholes designed for cufflinks
  • A French cuff, where the end half of the cuff is folded over the cuff itself and fastened with a cufflink. This type of cuff has four buttons and a short placket.
  • More formally, a link cuff — fastened like a French cuff, except is not folded over, but instead hemmed, at the edge of the sleeve.
  • Asymmetrical designs, such as one-shoulder, one-sleeve or with sleeves of different lengths.

Lower Hem

  • Hanging to the waist
  • Leaving the belly button area bare (much more common for women than for men). See halfshirt.
  • Covering the crotch
  • Covering part of the legs (essentially this is a dress; however, a piece of clothing is perceived either as a shirt (worn with trousers) or as a dress (in Western culture mainly worn by women)).
  • Going to the floor (as a pyjama shirt)


  • Vertical opening on the front side, all the way down, with buttons or zipper. When fastened with buttons, this opening is often called the placket front.
  • Similar opening, but in back.
  • Left and right front side not separable, put on over the head; with regard to upper front side opening:
  • V-shaped permanent opening on the top of the front side
  • No opening at the upper front side
  • Vertical opening on the upper front side with buttons or zipper
  • Men's shirts are often buttoned on the right whereas women's are often buttoned on the left.


  • With polo-neck
  • With "scoop" neck
  • With v-neck but no collar
  • With plunging neck
  • With open or tassel neck
  • With collar
  • Windsor collar or spread collar — a dressier collar designed with a wide distance between points (the spread) to accommodate the windsor knot tie. The standard business collar.
  • Tab collar – a collar with two small fabric tabs that fasten together behind a tie to maintain collar spread.
  • Wing collar – best suited for the bow tie, often only worn for very formal occasions.
  • Straight collar – or point collar, a version of the windsor collar that is distinguished by a narrower spread to better accommodate the four-in-hand knot, pratt knot, and the half-windsor knot. A moderate dress collar.
  • Button-down collar – A collar with buttons that fasten the points or tips to a shirt. The most casual of collars worn with a tie.
  • Band collar ~ essentially the lower part of a normal collar, first used as the original collar to which a separate collarpiece was attached. Rarely seen in modern fashion. Also casual.
  • Turtle neck collar – A collar that covers most of the throat.
  • without collar
  • V-neck no collar - The neckline protrudes down the chest and to a point, creating a "V" looking neck line.

Other features

  • Pockets – how many (if any), where, and with regard to closure: not closable, just a flap, or with a button or zipper.
  • With or without hood

Some combinations are not applicable, e.g. a tube top cannot have a collar.


In the 1920s and 1930s, fascists wore different coloured shirts:

  • Black shirts were used by the Italian fascio, and in Britain, Finland and Germany and Croatia. The party leaders of Dravidar Kazhagam in India wear only black shirts to symbolise atheism.
  • Brownshirts were worn by German Nazis of the SA.
  • The Blueshirts was a fascist movement in Ireland and Canada, and the colour of the Portuguese Nacional Sindicalistas, the Spanish Falange Española, the French Solidarité Française, and the Chinese Blue Shirts Society.
  • Green shirts were used in Hungary, Ireland, Romania, Brazil and Portugal.
  • Camisas Doradas (golden shirts) were used in Mexico.
  • Silver Shirts were worn in the United States of America.

In addition, red shirts have been used to symbolize a variety of different political groups, including Garibaldi's Italian revolutionaries, nineteenth century American street gangs, and socialist militias in Spain and Mexico during the 1930s.

In the UK, the Social Credit movement of the thirties wore green shirts.

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