What is the origin of bib shirts?

Marshall Trimble

Allen Fossenkemper
Fountain Hills, Arizona

Although bib shirts were not common apparel out West, they captured the flavor and romance of the frontier period. The shirt’s military style made them popular with militias, firemen and other groups that wanted a showy appearance.

A pullover made of wool or cotton flannel, the bib shirt featured a distinctive shield that provided extra warmth around the chest, acting as a windbreaker to block cold winter winds.

We don’t know when bib shirts first appeared, but they probably date to the mid-19th century. Early daguerreotypes from the Gold Rush days and during the Civil War show men wearing them. The shirts became popular among Wild West show performers because they could be adorned with floral designs and geometric patterns.

    Hollywood’s Golden Age Westerns truly popularized the bib shirt. John Wayne wore bib shirts in numerous films, including 1939’s Stagecoach, 1947’s Angel and the Badman, 1948’s Red River and 1956’s The Searchers.

If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu

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