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Vintage bowling shirts

September 4, 2015

Bowling shirts are having a real moment on the catwalk right now with many designers adopting the retro style. But, why buy a new version of an old classic when you can get yourself genuine vintage bowling shirts, the original and best?


Bowling shirts, like work shirts and sport shirts, are cool for those with a yen for vintage Americana or a penchant for 50s styling. Find one embroidered with a team name and wear it with your jeans and brothel creepers.

Vintage bowling shirts in the movies

I bet I could find a list of movies based around bowling or even better, starring some quirky guy who won’t take his bowling shirt off: The Big Lebowski, obviously, with Jeff Bridges as The Dude – you can get little Dude figurines wearing his iconic vintage bowling shirts, as well as copies of the shirt himself.


Buffalo 66 is another cult film with a misfit who likes bowling, though I don’t remember Vincent Gallo wearing a proper vintage bowling shirt for the role. He barely wanted to take his shiny red boots off. No, I’ve checked and serious though he is about bowling, he doesn’t go the whole hog. But I’ve always loved Christina Ricci’s wildly inappropriate outfit (though what outfit is really appropriate for being kidnapped in by a bossy, insecure loser?) She finds herself hanging around the bowling alley in a tiny blue mini dress, sparkly silver tights and great sparkly shoes. I love her.


But back to bowling outfits in bowling movies – there’s Kingpin of course, if you’d like to be Woody Harrelson or Bill Murray for the day? What am I talking about, everybody wants to be Bill Murray for the day. And kids, always remember that Kingpin is a spoof, so their bowling shirts aren’t technically accurate…

Classic vintage bowling shirts

A real classic vintage bowling shirt has a blocky, square shape, is quite short, hitting the hip, and isn’t meant to be tucked in, for freedom of movement I guess. Also to allow your arms free motion, the sleeves should be short, and most classic designs have simple colour block designs, no patterns. There may be a contrasting collar, piping or yoke. And your name on the front, team name embroidered across the back.


I have to say, the serious bowlers, i.e. The Jesus from Big Lebowski, and Roy Munsen and Ernie McCracken from Kingpin, are really not wearing proper vintage bowling shirts. They commit sartorial sin by tucking them in and wearing long sleeves. The Dude does it right.

Not for fancy dress!

As a fashion garment on telly, Chandler Bing from Friends was occasionally spotted in a vintage bowling shirt… but his, 90s style, was enormous. Slim it down for up to date styling. Original vintage bowling shirts from the 50s favour a slimmer style too, so look for these to avoid the tent effect.


Pro tip: I know some people who lust after bowling shoes. Those rubber soled, parti coloured beasts hold no allure for me, but if you want to be quirky, then my suggestion would be to a) buy new ones and b) to not pair them with your new collection of vintage bowling shirts – come on, this is not fancy dress here guys!