A bowling shirt is a specific style of shirt that is associated with the game of bowling. It is box-cut and short-sleeved with a button-up front, pocket, and has a small lay-flat collar. What distinguishes a bowling shirt from all other box-cut shirts is the use of color. Bowling shirts have distinctive, stark, 2-color block patterns that give them a retro 50’s look.
An example of a classic bowling shirt is a white shirt with a contrasting black front panel and collar. The back of the shirt might also be black, with shoulder piping; the shoulders themselves and sleeves, white. Conversely the shirt might have contrasting side and back. Other examples of color schemes include black and red, blue and black, white and red, etc.
Bowling shirts are usually cotton or cotton/poly blends. Classic bowling shirts are never patterned in anything but solids with heavy solid lines or contrasting piping used as an accent. A shirt patterned in paisley, polka dots, plaids or prints, is not a classic bowling shirt, even if the cut is the same.
Contemporary bowling shirts are available with screen-printed backs, similar to the many designs we see on printed tee shirts.
The 1950’s youth made bowling shirts hip, even outside the lanes, wearing them to malt shops, dance hops, and football games. Today, bowling shirts are still very recognizable and remain a part of our history and pop culture.
Bowling is one of the most popular sports in the world; enjoyed by nearly 100 million people over 6 continents. It’s rudimentary beginnings are believed by some to reach all the way back to 3,200 B.C., when a small child in Egypt was buried with a collection of objects that appeared to have been used for a pin sport. The grave was unearthed in the 1930’s by British anthropologist Sir Flinders Petrie. Also of note, historian William Pehle traced bowling back to 300 A.D. in Germany, and there is record of variations of the game played throughout history in nearly all parts of the world.
By any measure bowling is ancient and beloved.
The American Bowling Congress formed on 9 September 1895 and is credited with standardizing bowling in the United States and organizing official competition. The Women’s Bowling League followed in 1917, just twelve years after bowling saw it’s first non-wood ball — the rubber Evertrue. Brunswick followed in 1914 with their Mineralite ball, and by 1952 automatic pinspotters replaced pinboys in the alleys.