BBQ Shirt


After World War II, many newly affluent Americans flocked to the tropics, visiting Pacific islands, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia, as well as warm places closer to home, including Mexico, California, Hawaii, and Florida. People developed a taste for casual living and the distinctive local foods and drink. Returning home, they re-created these experiences in their new suburban backyards, with patios, tropical drinks, and the grill, where they cooked meals craved by a postwar meat-mad America.

In the 1950’s, the new fashion for life in the backyard, on the patio, and at the grill, produced new tools, clothes, furniture, and serving ware to go along with grilled meals on the patio. The shirt pictured here, around 1965, which went with a hat of the same design, pictured the new tools and possessions, even food and drinks of the new life on the patios, decks, and lanais. This shirt, with its matching hat, offered watermelon, pickles, skewers of meat (shish kebabs), grill racks with steaks and hot dogs, spatulas, flippers, even corn on the cob in its decorative design.

Related to the tropical aloha shirt, with its tropical motifs from Hawaii and the cool cotton guayabera from the Caribbean, the BBQ-wear topped the more casual shorts (Bermuda) that men had traded in from their long pants. Summer grillers appeared to relish the barbecue/grilling shirts, hats, and aprons developed for them, outfits that often poked gentle fun at the aspiring backyard chefs. Aprons, in particular, often carried titles that boasted of the culinary accomplishments of these Daddios of the Patio, these Grill Masters. Others joked or bragged about the wearer’s presumed interests in both alcohol and women.

Location: Currently not on view

Subject: Food CultureEating


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Domestic Life, Food, FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Nanci Edwards

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2011.0210.02Catalog Number: 2011.0210.02Accession Number: 2011.0210

Object Name: shirt

Physical Description: cotton (overall material)Measurements: overall: 28 in x 32 in; 71.12 cm x 81.28 cm


Record Id: nmah_1416075

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