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Thermal Henley Shirt

The thermal henley is a long-sleeved variety of shirt that was created in New York by a printing-press operator named Andrew Henley in 1913. He began development of the thermal henley after the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, an event that took the life of both Henley’s brother and uncle. Henley didn’t originally have the concept of a shirt in mind-- his purpose was to develop a new, safe material to serve as a fire-resistant insulator of factory walls. According to American labor historian James Woodrow, the thermal henley material didn’t work very well as an industrial insulator. Henley’s project to make factories safer was abandoned when most of his writings of his experiments with the material were incinerated in a fire that destroyed the printing press in which he worked.

In autumn of 1912, Henley’s lifelong friend and apparel merchant Mickey Bolo wrote to Henley from Boston about this new material Henley had been working on for his labor safety project. Bolo’s main purpose of writing Henley was to inquire if he could have a sample of it to create a new type of shirt to go with his new line of neckties. Henley was quick to respond, but without writing back; he had shown up in Boston at Bolo’s clothing shop. With Henley’s approval, the duo began the design and production of the first thermal henley shirt, and it was to hit Bolo’s shelves in the spring of 1913. According to Linda Buttonstroppe, American fashion historian, the henley shirt and bolo tie combination was merely a flash-in-the-pan fashion trend, only lasting until the fall of 1915 or so. But both clothing items have since lived on in American culture, celebrating their own individual successes.