Keep Your Shirt On

Have you ever been in an irritating situation that gradually increased your agitation? If so, you might have heard someone say keep your shirt on as a way to advise you to relax. But what does keeping a shirt on have to do with calming down? Let’s take a deep breath and see what this phrase is all about.

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Meaning of “Keep Your Shirt On”

To remain patient even when faced with frustrating circumstances. The phrase “keep your shirt on” means keeping your cool, and it’s typically directed at someone who is becoming increasingly frustrated, implying that they should calm down and maintain composure. Here are three important aspects to consider for the meaning of this phrase:

What It Means
1. Keep your shirt is used to advise someone to stay relaxed and composed even in challenging circumstances.
2. The idiom implies that a genuine effort should be made to keep one’s emotions in check and not get overly worked up.
3. It’s often directed at an individual who is losing their patience and progressively becoming more annoyed.

Similar: If you tell another person to keep their shirt on, that’s similar to saying “hold your horses.” These idioms both emphasize the need to wait and have patience.

Example: I understand that you’re upset about the broken laptop, but keep your shirt on because a replacement is on its way.

Dark Colored Shirt
This idiom says: Keep it on!


1. Keep your cool
2. Hold your horses
3. Calm down
4. Keep it together
5. Don’t lose your head
6. Cool it
7. Simmer down
8. Cool your jets
9. Keep a lid on it
10. Take a deep breath

Have you ever found yourself on the verge of losing your temper, only to be advised to take it easy? That’s basically what the idiom keep your shirt on means, to remain calm, cool, and collected. This same idea can be expressed by using one of the synonyms above.

Origin of “Keep Your Shirt On”

This phrase is over a hundred years old, but where did it come from? Although the origin is uncertain, the saying “keep your shirt on” may be linked to people losing their temper and becoming enraged. Basically, individuals may get so infuriated that they engage in physical altercations with others. In such instances, they might decide to take their shirt off before the conflict starts.

The reason for removing one’s shirt is because it can hinder mobility, especially if it is a tighter fitting one. By taking off the shirt instead of keeping it on, it allows the upper body to move around more freely. While this could be advantageous in some ways, it would be best not to resort to physical fights in first place.

Given that enraged people may occasionally react by removing their shirt before a fight, it’s possible that those who were not interested in a brawl would tell them to keep their shirt on. Therefore, the idiom could have originated from such scenarios.

Now let’s talk about how old the saying is. The earliest I’ve seen it in print with its figurative meaning is from the late 19th century. This first example is from the Geelong Advertiser newspaper, printed on June, 1894:

“Now young man, you keep your shirt on, and don’t be too smart.”

The second example is from the Melbourne Punch newspaper, June 1892, that reads:

“‘Keep your shirt collar on, Gladdy,’ says I.”

Examples For “Keeping Your Shirt On”

To get a better understanding of this saying, let’s examine some examples that demonstrate how it can be used:


1. My friend was urging me to hurry because we were running late. However, I reassured him by saying, “Keep your shirt on, we’ll be there soon.”
2. Although the bus has been delayed, getting upset won’t change the situation. Instead, keeping your shirt on and remaining patient is important in moments like this.
3. After someone cut in line, everyone else became irritated, so I told them to keep their shirts on.

In this next group of sentences, we will shake things up. After all, there are numerous ways to express to someone that they need to calm down. The following examples do this by using other, yet similar sayings:


1. He was getting worked up due to his order taking longer than expected. To help ease the tension, I politely told him to cool his jets since his food was nearly finished.
2. The noisy crowd was told to simmer down because they were becoming too loud and rowdy.
3. We can’t leave yet, so hold your horses and wait until I’m ready to go.

These examples highlight the importance of keeping calm in frustrating situations. In each sentence, try to identify what the problem is and think about how you might react. Afterwards, notice how the phrase “keeping your shirt on” and other related expressions are used to advise people to stay composed.

If you want to read about more popular sayings and expressions, then take a look at the ones below.