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Royal Regatta Sportswear: The History of the Henley

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Royal Regatta Sportswear: The History of the Henley

Named for the town of Henley-on-Thames, site of the famed Royal Henley Regatta, the henley shirt has its roots as an undergarment. By definition, the henley is a pullover shirt that has a band collar and a placket with two or more buttons. In 19th century England, the henley was one of the first collarless undergarments and became an extremely popular choice due to its superior comfort.

Henley-on-Thames, as the global center of rowing, became the site of the henley shirt’s transition from an undergarment to an external piece of clothing. Rowers favored the henley due to the ventilation afforded by its placket and comfort provided by its lack of a proper collar.


A crew tradition of the losing boat handing over their shirts to the winners only added to the henley’s popularity. The henley’s use in athletics spread to other sports like skiing, and was used almost exclusively in a sporting context until the 1970’s when t-shirts became more acceptable as a casual-wear option.


A buyer from Ralph Lauren is credited for seeing the henley’s potential as a casual shirt rather than a sporting shirt or underwear. The henley has since evolved into a go-to option for the everyday wardrobe but its deep sporting roots will ensure that its use in athletics will persist well into the future.   


It is as an homage to the heritage of this classic sportswear garment that Alps & Meters releases the Touring Henley, an ultra-lightweight, "roll it up and put it in your pocket", base layer equipped with classic styling and modern technology.