Nat Nast: King of the Bowling Shirt

Posted by Maggie Muellner on

 This is the first in what will be a series of occasional posts with photos of vintage clothing labels and the garments they came from. Now, the Vintage Fashion Guild, of which I am a proud member, hosts the Vintage Label Resource, an extensive library of vintage clothing labels, with helpful information about the designers and companies behind the fashion. I have contributed several label photos myself, and written a few of the designer bios.


My little resource here will be much more limited. I thought it might be helpful to some collectors and fans to see the whole garments  along with the labels, since sometimes there can be some difference of opinion about dating. Sometimes I'll have some background for you about the label, and sometimes the pictures will have to say it all.


I'm going to start with Nat Nast, and I do have information, based on my research. And I have two Nat Nast women's bowling shirts, fairly similar to each other, but with different labels. Both shirt belonged to a woman named Rosemary, who lived in Colorado. I'll be submitting a copy of this to VFG for the label resource, so you may eventually find it there too. 

The first label and shirt:










And the second:


Even though the two shirts look so similar, with the same tiki graphic on the right chest, there are differences - the first one has rolled cuffs. You can see the pleated "Action Back" really well on that one too, although they both have it. I think they are both 1950s vintage but I would put the pink and mocha one just a little earlier, based both on the label design and the style used for the sponsor graphic on the back. And here's some details on Nat Nast and his bowling shirts.


Nat Nast was called “The King of Bowling Shirts”, and is believed to have produced the very first bowling shirts when he started his company in Kansas City Missouri in 1946. Nat Nast created the first shirts with inverted pleats, known as the Action Back. The shirts were made out of washable rayon and the company eventually specialized in customized embroidery for colleges and universities as well as bowling teams and their sponsors across the USA. The Nat Nast company was sold in the 1970s. A revival of sorts came about in 2000 when his two daughters started Nat Nast Luxury Originals, basing their designs on their father’s iconic shirts but adding embroidered artwork.


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