The history of the shirt: the middle ages - part I


Where do the shirts we wear today come from? What’s the story behind them? How did shirts come to be?

The ancestor of the shirt is the linen Roman tunic, with sleeves, and in the natural colour of the fabric.
It first appeared in the early years of the third century AD, and was a soft flowing garment, fastened at the waist by a belt.
We don’t have many visual sources for this period, but the written ones tell us that shirts were worn by people in all different social classes.
The men’s tunic was generally in linen, mid-thigh length and with sleeves down to the wrists.
Charlemagne wore a shirt underneath his tunic and refused to wear foreign dress.
He wore it with a relaxed style and it was never missing from his wardrobe, since it embodied the synthesis of all three of his roles as sovereign: soldier, ruler and servant of God.
In the period of Frederick II, shirts also began to be made in a light cotton, known as fustian, and in dobletto, a linen and cotton or linen and cotton wool blend. They had no buttons, but there were large ruffles on the shoulders.
During the coronation ceremony, the king would wear a white shirt, which represented a new skin.

At this point, shirts began to become associated with elegance, a connotation that continues today, worn mainly for special events and occasions.

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