Where did “birthday suit” come from?


The phrase “Birthday Suit” today tends to see us heading into X-rated thinking. Try “birthday suit song” on Google and the responses are marked “explicit.” E.g. the Canadian singer The Weeknd wanting to see “his baby” in her “birthday suit” on her “special day.”

But did you know that the phrase actually dates back to the days when a monarch would throw a lavish celebration of a birthday? The birthday suit was the livery (uniform) that the castle servants were given to wear at the big event.

There’s some disagreement about how we got from elaborately clothed valets or scullery maids (actually they probably didn’t get one since they were in the scullery) to nakedness today. One suggestion I read said it was related to the servant’s state of undress if the uniform did not arrive. This explanation didn’t resonate as much, though, as the proposal that the contemporary meaning can be traced to the gradual disarray the servants’ suit would be in after repeated wearing. After all, the suit was often their only wage.

This word origin insight got me thinking also about the many ways we today get spiffed up for our own special days. Searching “birthday” on Twitter returns many people posing in front of mirrors in their planned outfits. What I have yet to figure out is why the people who publicly share their proposed dresses are often wearing so little fabric! I like to think it’s because on their birthdays all body consciousness is forgotten; they are ready to be bold and say, “look, look at me. I am the birthday Queen.”

I have worn a tiara on a birthday as an adult, but it’s a little sad we don’t get to wear “It’s My Birthday Biatch” T-shirts now that we’re all grown up. OMG, I so love this idea I need to get these printed and up on etsy!

Why is it only little ones get to wear the self-congratulatory items like these (and the one above)?

Well, OK, now that I think about it, I’m not sure I’m willing to wear a shirt with “44” written in balloons on it.

Although I was pleased to wear my new birthday socks a friend gave me this year!



2 thoughts on “Where did “birthday suit” come from?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s