What Is A Raglan Shirt?

Popularly known as baseball tees, the raglan shirt has transcended many years. Apart from being commonly worn by major league baseball fans, this wardrobe also appeals to casual wearers and fashionistas across different generations, thanks to the shirt’s ability to provide utmost comfort, great versatility, and supreme mobility.

What’s great is that the raglan shirt also boasts a rich and fascinating history before it turned out to be today’s cult favorite. If you’re interested to learn more, continue reading below, as we’ll formally introduce you to the creative and nostalgic raglan shirt.

What Is A Raglan Shirt?

Instead of the fabric it is made of, the raglan shirt’s name actually stems from the style of the shirt. It is characterized by diagonal seams starting from the neckline and extending to the underarm area, producing a long, continuous sleeve rather than stopping at the shoulders.

Initially, raglan tees feature a three-quarter length sleeve of a different color from the commonly white shirt. Today, designers and manufacturers are becoming more flexible and creative, providing consumers with lots of options. You can now find raglan shirts in the usual ¾ length, in short sleeves, in long sleeves, and in a wide array of colors. 

History of the Raglan Shirt

You might be surprised, but the raglan shirt has some beguiling origins. It can be traced to the historical Battle of Waterloo in 1815, where the British Army faced the French army spearheaded by Napoleon Bonaparte, the ruthless emperor who dominated much of Europe in the 19th century.

After fighting his way up within the ranks of the French during the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte’s efforts finally paid off in 1804 when he became emperor and gained control of the French government. In the entire span of his tenure, “The Conqueror” began a series of wars to take over territories across Central and Western Europe and extend his empire.

Among these wars was the Battle of Waterloo, which occurred on June 15, 1815. It lasted for over 3 weeks but resulted in a massive number of casualties (injured and dead) on both sides. One of the injured was Fitzroy Somerset, a distinguished officer of the British Army who acted as the Duke of Wellington’s military secretary.

Though Napoleon Bonaparte and his army launched a fierce attack, the dominant French army proved to be powerful, causing “The Little Corporal” to retreat and signaling the end of his imperial reign forever. However, also lost in the battle was Fitzroy’s right arm. While fighting alongside Wellington, Fitzor was shot by a French sniper. The shot dealt severe damage, requiring his arm to be amputated.

Illustration of the Battle of Waterloo

After losing an essential limb, Fitzroy didn’t stop serving England, as his persistence allowed him to overcome this major blow. He had to relearn how to fight with only one arm and eventually rose to the position of Full General. To reward his unmatched courage and perseverance, he was promoted to the peerage and became the 1st Baron Raglan of Raglan.

While he was able to cope with pretty much everything with only his left arm, what he had trouble doing was getting dressed and swiveling his sword. With that, he ordered his tailor to devise a new sewing method that will grant more mobility and unrestricted movement. And so, the raglan sleeve was born, enabling Lord Raglan to dress and swing and wield his sword more easily.

The raglan shirt lived on ever since and the great ease of movement made it ideal for athletes. It’s little wonder why it catapulted into popularity as a baseball shirt. Today, the raglan tee is donned by a different army. It’s now worn by baseball players under their team jerseys, helping allow easier pivoting, lifting, and batting on the field.

Raglan shirts

Common Characteristics of Raglan Shirts

After learning its history, it’s now time to know what are the specific characteristics that make raglan shirts different from other clothing tops:

1. Color-Blocking

While raglan shirts are now available in various colors, one of their most striking features is color-blocking. Raglan shirts’ body is usually white, but the long, continuous fabric on the sleeve is of a different color, such as black, red, navy, and so on.

2. Long, Continuous Diagonal Seams

Unlike the shorter seam and simple loop that are utilized in normal set-in sleeves from above the shoulder to the bottom of the armpit, raglan shirts use long, diagonal seams, starting from the collarbone to the armpit.

3. Extra Fabric on the Sleeve

What makes raglan shirts perfect for baseball and other sports is the extra fabric on the sleeve. With the added room, you gain greater freedom of movement. You can easily reach down or up, or side to side without tugging the sleeve’s fabric, something that happens when you wear normal tees.

4. Three-quarter sleeve length

Three-quarter length sleeves are the classic length you’ll see for raglan tees used in baseball. However, as we’ve talked about earlier, designers and manufacturers have become more innovative, providing us with raglan sleeve baseball shirts of different lengths, sizes, and colors.

Benefits of Raglan Shirts

There are several reasons why raglan shirts remain to be a popular choice for baseball players, as well as for casual wearers. Truth to be told, it’s an ideal mix of functional and fashion benefits that allows raglan shirts to do so. These benefits include:

  • Greater Freedom of Movement: As it was originally invented for this purpose, the most important functional benefit of raglan shirts is their ability to provide more natural, better, and more shoulder movement.
  • Wider Underarm Fit: With the wider underarm fit, raglan shirts become more comfortable to wear, as they can smoothly accommodate various body sizes and shapes.
  • Lack of Shoulder Seam: Apart from removing the restriction in movement, the lack of shoulder seam can also allow you to show off well-defined shoulders without yanking any stitched seam.


Thanks to its ingenious construction, the raglan shirt has been a hallmark not only in the battlefield but also in the realm of baseball. If you still haven’t, make sure to try this iconic wardrobe when playing the sport, reap all its amazing benefits, and discover for yourself why it’s affectionately referred to as the “baseball shirt.”