What we call Y-shirts started from here – YAMATOYA SHIRTS



Y-shirts is the Japanese-English word


What we call shirts in Japanese referred to underwear in the western world. Here I mean the dress shirts people wear under the jackets or suits, so called Y-shirts in Japan. You can see the remains of the underwear easily even today. Quite a few shirts have their bottoms cut in U-shape. This is because that the U-shape part used to be clipped or buttoned like a nappy and functioned as underwear.


The shirts as underwear had removable collar and sleeves (cuffs), which meant the unclean part could be easily removed to keep them crispy anytime. And people wore jackets over those kinds of shirts.


Samples of collars and cuffs at YAMATOYA


It is said that Charvet was the first maker in the world to have made the business shirts we dress today like the ones having a collar and sleeves combined with the body part. Charvet, a French high-end shirt maker based in Paris, was established in 1838. And it is the modern tailor to whom the customers have never been unsatisfied with their products since they opened the shop.


Another story tells that either Charvet from France or Turnbull & Asser from England has first offered the colored shirts in pink or blue to the market. Before that we just had white shirts in our fashion. Turnbull & Asser is also said to have introduced the stripe pattern shirts. Going back to the Y-shirts in Japan, so how the word was coined? This is strongly associated with the origin of a ‘white’ shirt with removable collar and sleeves.


White shirt is the origin of the word ‘Y-shirt’


In 1873, the Samurai society just came to an end, leaving the control of Tokugawa shogunate in Japan. Western culture was introduced to Japan one after another through Yokohama port. Seiemon Ishikawa, at the age of 18, was given clothing from a westerner staying at Yokohama port. The man called that closing “White shirt”, but Seiemon have misheard it as “Y-shirt” that could be phonetically sounded ‘wai shirt’ in Japanese.


Seiemon disassembled the shirt that he had never seen before to remake it, through which process he self-examined the structure of a shirt thoroughly. He eventually succeeded in making his own white shirt, starting with cutting white fabric into patterns and closing with sawing them together.


YAMATOYA SHIRTS located at Ginza 6-chome, the center of Tokyo


In 1876, he opened the tailor “Yamatoya Y-shirt” in Kannai, Yokohama-city. Since then, the oldest tailor in Japan has been running successfully, having moved the head office to Ginza, Tokyo.


Mitsuhiko Hishinuma, the shop manager of YAMATOYA, spreads the valuable textile from D&J Anderson


When you visit the shop, you witness more than nine hundred kinds of sample material stocked in wall shelves. Mitsuhiko Hishinuma spreads the textiles at the shop including the Calro Riva called “Jewel of the fabric” from Italy, No. 240 count David & John Anderson from Scotland, and No. 320 count Alumo. Here ‘count’ refers to the thread count, a measure of the coarseness or fineness of fabric, in which the higher count means the finer woven fabric. Thomas Mason, CANCLINI, TESTA etc. I must confess that I am a lover of luxurious shirts, and now can’t stop being excited to see such high quality brand fabric being presented in front of me.


Let take a look at Calro Riva as an example. The brand uses the weaving machine, called shuttle loom, which weaves the fabric at low speed in order to ensure the quality maintained, resulting in the material with very small number of production and rare supply. Another example is David John & Anderson using sea island cotton only for their fabric that occupies just six percent of the entire cotton produced in the world. The textile is woven with exceptionally thin thread 3.1μ to 3.4μ whose luminance exceeds seventy percent of light reflectance, as well as strength durable to weight 40g per fiber. This is also really rare material possessing both softness and robustness.


Calro Riva so called “Jewel of the fabric”


Mitsuhiko Hishinuma, the shop manager of YAMATOYA SHIRTS, says, “We have been running the business for 141 years since established. It is no doubt that the trade between the famous textile makers is built upon trust in our company.” The history of tailor tells that quite a few celebrities has ordered shirts at YAMATOYA including Lafcadio Hearn, a well-known American writer who has become a naturalized citizen of Japan, Prince of Wales, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States. So, why don’t I place an order here to check how I feel when I wear the shirt from YAMATOYA? Of course, I will try it.


The client roster lists the name of Prince of Wales, U.S. President, and so on.



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