What is a bowling shirt and what does it look like? You may have seen one without knowing, or perhaps, you already have one sitting in the back of your closet. There have been small glimpses of the bowling shirt’s return back into mainstream fashion; starting all the way back from Fall 2016 Men’s Fashion Week in New York City. This year, we witnessed even more brands showcasing the beauty and versatility of the bowling shirt. A style, that also goes by the names ‘Camp Collar’ or ‘Cuban Collar’ shirt. Once known for its boxy shape and short sleeve design, as well as its standout vibrant color block pattern detail. “The bowling shirt has always been around. It has just not been given the true spotlight it deserves,” says Caroline Ellingsen, a Swedish stylist who has worked with brands such as H&M, Afound and Filippa K. “It is such a fun and versatile men’s fashion piece that can be style in so many ways”.
Marked by its history in pop culture, the bowling shirt first became popular in the bowling alleys, then transported outside to the football games, and at parties across America by the younger generation of the 1950s rockabilly era – a time when everyone drove to their favorite diners for the consumption of root-beer floats and milkshakes, while tuning their radios listening to Little Richard and Chuck Berry’s rock and roll music.
As style and music began shifting during the 60s and 70s, so did the appreciation and the popularity of this fashion staple; a new wave of thinking and fashion emerged. However, the bowling shirt still remained relevant in bowling alleys. Fast forward to the late 90s and early 2000s where the bowling shirt witnessed a small resurgence when styled on well-known characters in popular tv sitcoms and movies. Seen on Chandler Bing from Friends, and Charlie Harper from Two and a Half Men, who had an endless amount in his closet. Lastly, with the timeless and elegant styling on the playboy jet-setting character Dickie Greenleaf from one the most notable films of the 90s, The Talented Mr. Ripley.
The bowling shirts of this era are available in an array of colors, shapes and sizes, bold prints, and fabrics. But how should you style it? If unsure, here are a few suggestions from Ellingsen: “You could wear it oversized paired with a slim linen or cotton trouser and sandals, or true to size with a pair of shorts with matching prints for a relax vacation look. As well as tucked into a high waisted tailored trouser paired with oxford shoes or sneakers for the office or a formal event”. With a bowling you can be both casual and neat when on vacation, as well as formal and fun when heading to the office. It’s clear this trend is sticking around for a while, so if it’s yet to be found in your wardrobe, you still have plenty of options to choose from. And remember, you can wear it however you want – just don’t forget to challenge your styling.