In my e-mail a little while ago, a Princeton University Store ad offering Princeton pinnies — one illustrated here:

The text:

The weather is finally starting to warm up and we have the perfect lightweight summer staple for Tigers everywhere – the Princeton pinnie! With a nice loose fit and 2-ply mesh these are sure to keep you cool in all senses of the word! Did we mention, they’re all REVERSIBLE and available in several different styles?!

The term pinnie for such a garment was new to me. But it’s been around for a while, though primarily in British usage.

It all starts with pinafores. From Wikipedia:

A pinafore (colloquially a pinny in British English) is a sleeveless garment worn as an apron.

… The name reflects that the pinafore was formerly pinned (pin) to the front (afore) of a dress. The pinafore had no buttons, was simply “pinned on the front” which led to the term “pinafore.”

… In modern times, the term “pinny” or “pinnie” has taken another meaning in sports wear, namely a double-sided short apron [a cropped t-shirt], often made of mesh, used to differentiate teams. This usage is chiefly British, with some usage in Canada and the United States. This type of pinny is also known as a scrimmage vest.

OED3 (June 2006) has an entry for pinny (pinnie isn’t listed as a spelling variant), but lacks the sportswear sense:

A pinafore; an apron, esp. one with a bib. [first cite 1850]

The etymology is: pin– a clipping of pinafore + the diminutive suffix -y.

Presumably, the sportswear usage  is metaphorical, depending on a perceived similarity between pinafores and the sports shirt.

The pinnie looks just like a sports shirt commonly called a scrimmage t-shirt or scrimmage tee (illustrated and discussed here) , but it seems that reversability is a crucial characteristic of pinnies.

(The Wikipedia article goes to some lengths to distinguish pinafores from other similar garments, as does my posting on scrimmage t-shirts.)



One Response to “pinnies”

  1. Victor Steinbok Says:

    I suppose “pinnie” is better than “wife-beater”. But this one does betray its supposed origins as the scrimmage vest–the idea being that one team wears the orange and the other the inside-out black.

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