The History of the Bowling Shirt

A true P&Co Staple

Image: P&Co Postcards from Somewhere campaign. Shot by John Ryan Herbert, 2024.

The bowling shirt has a rich history, dating back to the '50s and '60s, when bowling blew up as a popular pastime in America. During this time, bowling alleys went from the place to bowl to the place to socialise and hang out, and the bowling shirt became a “youth-quake” staple. This led to the bowling shirt becoming popular away from the lanes and transitioning into a style icon worn by the likes of Elvis Presley and James Dean- solidifying their place in the the fashion trends of the time.

The design of the bowling shirt usually featured bold, colourful chainstitch embroidery featuring graphics of the wearers’ bowling team or the name of the alley they were bought from. Back then, this chain-stitch artwork would’ve been done by hand and taken many hours by skilled workers to achieve. They often featured two-tone block colours and a boxy, short-sleeved fit. Our bowling styles replicate this heritage in its purest form.

Despite its origins dating back over 70 years, the bowling shirt has remained an enduring fashion item across the globe, with top brands featuring the iconic style in their collections in recent years. The style has also become a staple in our own collections, particularly during the summer. When asked about why this is, our creative director, Lee Timms had this to say: “I think for me, they’re like the holy-grail of thrift-finds. If I happen to be lucky enough to land on one in a thrift store, I can’t help but feel excited. There’s just something that feels undeniably cool about them. From block colours, to accent piping, the wearers name chain stitched on the front. They’re a piece of design in themselves. The more the look, the more you notice, like any good bit of design.”

P&Co High Spirits Bowling Shirt, Summer 2020 by Lee Timms, P&Co x Frank Carter Collaboration, 2023 by Lee Timms

Our bowling shirts have been a super popular piece since we released our first ones back in 2020, being seen on the likes of Sam Fender, Don Broco, Pale Waves and even featuring on Netflix’s Black Mirror (Season 6, Episode 1). Last year, we even launched three brand new designs as part of our collection with musician and tattooist Frank Carter, which absolutely flew off the shelves.

Now, in March 2024, we just launched our latest range of bowling shirts as part of our ‘Postcards from Somewhere’ campaign and we’re excited to share a few more exciting designs this year with you all. Think retro nostalgia with a hint of western Americana. We also just introduced a new, cropped womens' fit for a slightly more feminine take on the style.