Where did shirt come from?

Cotton the First is all about shirts!  As a fundamental piece of wardrobe, the word "shirt" has a long history. 


The English word "shirt" comes from the Old English word "scyrte" and is related to similar pieces of clothing in other Germanic languages like the Old Norse "skyrta" or Swedish "skjorta."  Everyone around northern Europe owned one of these short tunic-like garments, including Anglo-Saxons, the people living around what today is England, who spoke Old English.  


Many of the English words we speak today come from a mixed history, but "shirt" survived the Norman Conquest in 1066, when the French speaking Normans took over not only the land, but the language.  When the high ranking Norman nobles feasted, they didn't want "swine" or "cow" at their dinner table. No, they have "pork" (porc) and "beef" (boef)! The Old English words that the Anglo Saxons spoke became replaced with the Norman French of their conquerors, especially words to do with the areas the Normans cared about, like food (cuisine), law (tort laws), and housing (mansions).  However, as a cornerstone of your wardrobe, Anglo-Saxon and Norman French alike owned shirts and didn't need to give it another name.


As history marched on, the basic design of the shirt did not.  The length fluctuated, the fit would become looser or tighter, but shirts still covered the torso, and have two openings that cover your arms.  While the physical form of the shirt didn't evolve too much, the meaning to us did. This basic article of clothing came to mean more than something to cover our modesty -- it represents everything we own.

"Only the best of friends would give the shirt off their back to you.  And you must be careful not to lose your shirt when you're doing business."

Wearing shirts even represent our dignity as reasoning human beings.  You're urged to "keep your shirt on!" to have patience, because if you take it off . . .!

. . .and now there's Cotton the First!

Written by Irena Kuo
Illustrated by the Founder of Cotton the First, Charles Suwannaporn 

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