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Sink me, if you haven’t come to the right place to learn all about the shirts worn by pirates during The Golden Age of Piracy. Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “What are pirate shirts called?” or “How do you dress like a pirate with regular clothes?” Well,  grab your grog and read on, and let the PirateClothingStore.com take you back in time to the classic era of buaccaneers and wenches. 


Pirate shirts worn during the Golden Age of Piracy are a fascinating topic of historical and cultural significance. The Golden Age of Piracy, spanning from the late 17th century to the early 18th century, was a period marked by rampant seafaring, exploration, and pirate activities across the globe.

Pirates have long captured our imaginations, and their distinctive clothing, particularly their iconic shirts, are a reflection of the complex lives they led. This essay aims to explore the origins, materials, and styles of pirate shirts during this era, and examine the social and cultural factors that influenced their design.

Origins and Influences

The origin of pirate shirts can be traced back to various influences from different cultures and time periods. Many of the clothing styles worn by pirates during the Golden Age were inspired by the attire of sailors and the working class, who often wore loose-fitting garments to facilitate movement and provide comfort in the harsh conditions at sea. Additionally, the influence of the European fashion trends of the time, particularly those from France and England, played a significant role in shaping the design and style of pirate shirts.

Materials and Construction

Pirate shirts during the Golden Age were typically made from readily available materials like linen, cotton, or a blend of both. The choice of fabric often depended on the location and climate in which pirates operated. Linen was a popular choice for its breathability, making it suitable for the hot and humid conditions of the Caribbean, while cotton was favored for its durability and affordability.

The construction of pirate shirts was simple, with minimal frills and adornments, as the focus was on functionality and comfort. However, there were instances where pirates who had acquired wealth would wear shirts made from more luxurious materials, such as silk, as a display of their status and success. The manufacture of shirts in the 17th and 18th centuries represents a pivotal moment in the history of textile production and fashion. During this period, the process of making shirts evolved significantly, with changes in materials, techniques, and styles reflecting broader socio-economic and cultural shifts. 

Linen, made from the fibers of the flax plant, was the predominant fabric in Europe and was prized for its durability, breathability, and ability to absorb moisture. Cotton, on the other hand, was a relatively new import from the Americas and India, and its popularity steadily grew throughout this period due to its affordability, softness, and versatility. Wool and silk were also occasionally used for shirts, though they were typically reserved for more formal or luxurious garments.

Techniques and Craftsmanship

Shirt-making in the 17th and 18th centuries was a highly skilled craft that required the expertise of specialized craftsmen, including weavers, spinners, and tailors. The process of making a shirt began with the spinning of raw fibers into yarn, which was then woven into fabric using handlooms. These fabrics were subsequently cut and sewn together by skilled tailors, who employed a variety of techniques to create the desired fit and style.

One such technique was the use of "gores" – triangular or trapezoidal pieces of fabric that were inserted into the body of the shirt to create a more tailored fit. This innovation allowed for greater freedom of movement and was especially useful for laborers and sailors, who required functional clothing for their work.

The Role of Guilds and Apprenticeships

The production of shirts during this period was regulated by guilds, which were organizations of skilled craftsmen that set standards for quality, training, and trade. Guilds played a crucial role in maintaining the expertise required for shirt-making and ensuring the continuation of traditional techniques.

Apprenticeships were an essential component of the guild system, with young men typically beginning their training around the age of 14 and continuing for a period of 5-7 years. During this time, they would learn the various aspects of shirt-making, including weaving, cutting, and sewing, under the tutelage of a master craftsman. Upon completion of their apprenticeship, these craftsmen would be granted the title of "journeyman" and were permitted to practice their trade independently.

Global Trade and Influence

The 17th and 18th centuries were marked by an increase in global trade and the exchange of goods, ideas, and techniques between Europe, the Americas, and Asia. This had a significant impact on the shirt-making industry, as new materials, designs, and technologies were introduced to European markets.

One notable example of this is the introduction of cotton, which was initially imported from the Americas and later from India. The growing availability of cotton led to its increased use in shirt-making, transforming the industry and contributing to a shift towards more affordable and comfortable garments.

Styles and Designs

The style of pirate shirts during the Golden Age was characterized by a loose, billowy fit, which allowed for ease of movement and ventilation in the hot, humid conditions of the tropics. Shirts typically had a wide collar that could be worn open or closed with a drawstring or buttons. Long, full sleeves with wide cuffs were also common, often secured with buttons or ties for adjustability. Ruffles, pleats, and embroidery were occasionally incorporated into the design of pirate shirts, particularly for those pirates who sought to make a statement with their attire.

Social and Cultural Significance

The pirate shirts of the Golden Age were not only practical garments but also a symbol of rebellion and defiance against the rigid social norms of the time. By adopting loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that prioritized function over form, pirates rejected the restrictive and elaborate fashions of the European upper class. In doing so, they forged their own unique identity that set them apart from society and reflected their free-spirited, nonconformist nature. Moreover, the incorporation of elements from various cultures and influences in their clothing further emphasized their global reach and eclectic character.


In conclusion, pirate shirts worn during the Golden Age of Piracy are a fascinating subject that offers valuable insights into the lives and culture of pirates during this era. From their simple construction and functional design to their symbolic significance as markers of rebellion and freedom, these shirts were more than just a garment – they were an expression of the pirate spirit. The history of pirate shirts highlights the creativity, adaptability, and resilience of these seafaring outlaws and provides a captivating glimpse into a world that continues to captivate our imaginations.