The T-shirt: A basic makes history
The T-shirt, now unisex and universally usable, was initially designed as underwear for men. In the Middle Ages, T-shaped shirts made of woven cotton or linen formed a layer between the body and the clothing worn over it. These shirts were easy to wash and provided hygienic protection for the skin. A clean, washed shirt indicated the wealth of its wearer. However, the shirt’s shape – large, rectangular pieces of fabric sewn into a T-shape with long shirttails and tucked between the legs – changed in the 19th century. They reduced the main body of the shirt and the shirt ends to a slimmer fit.
Then, in the 19th century, the t-shirt went through some significant changes. New textile technologies allowed and made the garment in larger quantities and better fitting, with additional details and a more comprehensive range of textiles such as calico, jersey, and wool.
In the late 19th century, British seafarers also began to wear a white flannel T-shirt under their woolen uniforms. At the end of the century, the British Royal Navy finally allowed its sailors to wear undershirts allowed to wear when working on deck. As a result, working-class men began wearing the T-shirt as outerwear on weekends. Then, in 1880, the US Navy incorporated a loose-fitting flannel shirt with a square neckline into its uniform; In 1913, she adopted a white cotton T-shirt as her official undergarment. The cotton dried faster than flannel and was also more comfortable.
The T-shirt in the 20th century: Marlon Brando and James Dean wear it
In the early decades of the 20th century, the T-shirt business was booming. PH Hanes Knitting Company began producing men’s underwear in 1901, while Fruit of the Loom started extensive T-shirt marketing in the 1910s. In the 1930s, T-shirts became the standard for college athletes.And in 1938, American retailer Sears and Roebuck began selling white cotton shirts they called “gob” (colloquial for sailor).
During World War II, the US Army and Navy outfitted their troops in white, short-sleeved cotton T-shirts. War and post-war images show how the soldiers in their T-shirts helped popularize the garment’s association with male heroism. “You don’t have to be a soldier
Hollywood’s up-and-coming method actors also began wearing the white t-shirt, lending their characters an expression of rebellion. Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun (1951), Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953), and James Dean in Because They Don’t Know What They’re Doing (1955) have the T-shirt introduced into the men’s wardrobe as an official garment, ready to be worn outside of the workplace. However, it will still take about 60 years before we recognize the T-shirt as office wear.
Tight-fitting and body-hugging, actors and singers first took advantage of the T-shirt’s sex appeal in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the T-shirt finally became a genuinely unisex item. In 1977, Jacqueline Bisset outraged American moviegoers in her wet, see-through T-shirt in The Deep.
The t-shirt as a marketing weapon
With the transition from underwear to outerwear, the t-shirt became a blank canvas for political, promotional, graphic, or humorous messages. The technological advances in screen printing in the early 1960s also made it easy, quick, and inexpensive to print on T-shirts. Custom-made and personalized t-shirts first became available in the 1970s. Companies, bands, and record labels quickly recognized the potential of t-shirts for marketing purposes.
Because of its association with the working class and the subversive message of wearing underwear as outerwear, the T-shirt has appealed to generations of musicians, writers, actors, and intellectuals. Who sported rappers, pop stars, and models in the 1990s. And while the t-shirt can lower one’s social and economic standing — Who can find t-shirts for just about any salary bracket — a designer shirt can be a definite indicator of “conspicuous consumption.”
Many designers have reinterpreted the high-fashion variant of the t-shirt has been around since the 1950s: Yves Saint Laurent and Dior in the 1970s, Chanel, Lacoste, Calvin Klein, and Polo Ralph Lauren in the 90s. And Giorgio Armani, Helmut Lang, and Nicolas Ghesquière wear the T-shirt like a uniform. From its humble beginnings as functional clothing over a century ago, the garment has come a long way to the present day. And in fact, you can no longer imagine a wardrobe without a T-shirt.