The Evolution of the Henley

From Humble Beginnings to Sustainable Mainstay

From its humble beginnings as men’s undergarments, or undervests as they were called, almost 200 years ago, the henley shirt has evolved into one of the most well-liked shirts of all time, for men and women alike. At its most basic, the henley is a knit shirt, with a placket of at least two, but sometimes more, buttons and a banded collar.

Their initial popularity initially stemmed from them being so easy and comfortable to wear, so it didn’t take long for it to become the sportswear of choice in the town of Henley-on-the-Thames, located in western England. This town held the annual Henley Royal Regatta, one of the first organized rowing events in British history.

The rowers originally wore collared undershirts that were uncomfortably bulky. Over time, these shirts became lighter, lost their collar, and gained the three to five-button placket. The rowers liked the increased ventilation the placket gave them, and soon these shirts were standard rowing attire. They also found this new style of shirt worked well for their sport. It kept them cooler, and with less fabric, its streamlined style gave them more mobility.

The shirt was so well-liked that eventually, rowers began wearing only the undershirt, a trend that quickly caught on among the rowers. But there is another reason why the love of these shirts became so widespread: the crew tradition of losers giving their shirts to the winners.

These shirts became popular as Britain’s Industrial Revolution picked up steam, the cotton gin was invented, and water-powered milling made it possible to produce the shirts on a large scale.

Fast Forward One Hundred and Fifty Years

For approximately one hundred and fifty years, the henley was considered sportswear, but by the last half of the 20th century, as t-shirts became standard casual wear, the henley came into its own.

A buyer for Ralph Lauren brought a vintage henley to his attention, and he added the style to his fashion line. The rest, as they say, is history. Now you can find henleys in a variety of cuts, colors, materials, and styles, including long or short sleeves.

The Next Evolution of the Henley

Our classic, long-sleeve henley is the next evolution of this traditional and loved shirt. Just as the originals, it is incredibly soft and features the traditional three-button placket and collarless neck. But that’s where the similarities end.

Made of a proprietary blend of tree bark (Tencel), recycled plastic bottles, and spandex for just the right amount of stretch, this henley goes beyond its predecessors in style, functionality, and sustainability. It also features UPS 50 woven into the fabric so you can enjoy a day at the beach without worrying about getting burned by the sun.

Lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking, this shirt expresses the true spirit of the henley. The style was born on the water, and now, with this innovative fabric, this update to a classic gives back by helping to keep plastics out of our oceans.