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Men's bowling-style shirts are some of the most iconic pieces of clothing in America today. They first hit the mainstream American clothing culture in the 1950s, and you can still see people wearing them today. As a type of camp shirt, their design offers ultimate comfort and gives wearers a unique look. While they're a quintessential look associated with bowling leagues, you can wear them in several other contexts for a traditional, yet modern, appearance.
Learn more about what makes bowling and camp shirts so unique. You might also want to know more about their origins and how you can style these shirts to make you look your best.
Sometimes referred to as Cuban shirts or aloha shirts, camp shirts all feature a one-piece, double-notched collar. Sewing this soft collar to the shirt's body makes it lie flat. Occasionally, camp shirts will feature a loop closure or a top button, but most don't have either. The flat collar is the most defining feature of the camp shirt that separates it from other collared shirts.
Alongside their distinctive collar, these shirts also have short sleeves, a button-up front, a box-cut fit and a straight hem. This design makes them breezy and perfect for hot climates and temperatures, allowing wearers to stay cool and comfortable. Usually, clothing companies will make these shirts out of lightweight materials, such as viscose, lyocell, silk, cotton and linen.
Men's bowling shirts are a type of camp shirt featuring the same one-piece, flat collar. They also feature an identical boxy fit, short sleeves and a button-up front. These shirts distinguish themselves from other, more standard, camp shirts by always coming with two-color block patterns that give them a distinctive, retro '50s appearance. Typically, men's retro bowling shirts consist of cotton or a cotton and polyester blend.
Vintage bowling shirts never have any patterns other than those featuring contrasting piping as accents or heavy solid lines. For example, a classic bowling shirt is white with a black collar and front panel. If a men's camp-collar shirt has another print or pattern, like polka dots, plaid or paisley, it's not a bowling shirt.
Camp shirts originated somewhere in the 19th century, but they didn't begin influencing North American style until the 1950s. Some believe the shirts first came from the Philippines, while others believe they originated in Cuba. Regardless of this style's origins, it's more likely the Cuban men's camp collar shirt is the version that made it a popular style in the U.S.
Before men's camp shirts became a style icon, Cuban people wore them while working outdoors. These work shirts, called guayaberas, featured a loose collar and a relaxed fit to help people stay cooler when working outside, even in the most blazing temperatures.
In the 1930s, the guayabera started to shift from a work shirt to a stylish casual shirt. As a precursor to the eventual camp shirt, this more fashionable version of the guayabera had a broader, longer collar than the better-known camp shirt of the 1950s.
The camp shirt we know today hit the United States in the 1950s, as exiled Cubans began to make new homes in New York City and Miami. Americans quickly fell in love with the casual guayaberas, ushering in the camp style. The men's retro camp shirt represented a refreshing alternative to the more formal, traditional American shirt-and-tie style of the day.
Once the camp shirt hit the mainstream in the 1950s, clothing companies began to produce bowling shirts. These shirts put a spin on the camp style by coming with two-tone color schemes and heavy solid lines. Many youths in the 1950s loved the bowling shirt's look and relaxed fit, and they wore them to bowling allies, where professional and amateur bowlers still wear them today. Men's bowling shirts also became popular to wear at bars, malt shops, football games and dance clubs.
Today, camp and bowling shirts are enjoying a renewed turn in the spotlight. If you want to look great in this traditional attire and give it an attractive modern spin, you have various styling options. By knowing more about styling men's retro bowling shirts, you can wear them in various contexts and look perfectly at home, sending the message you know how to dress.
Check out some of the primary camp and bowling shirt styles below.
At Penner's, we carry high-quality men's bowling and camp shirts to help you look and feel your best. When you turn to us for your bowling shirts, our in-house tailors will ensure you get the perfect, custom fit at no extra cost. If you order online, you'll receive free USPS shipping on orders over $99, excluding hats. Along with carrying men's bowling shirts, we also have short-sleeved guayaberas, straw hats and Stacy Penner shoes, among many other options.
If you have any questions, please free to contact us.