14 June 2018
The History of T-shirts
The t-shirt is an outerwear clothing that is worn by both males and females ranging in a variety of colors, styles, and sizes (Ooshirts). It is known for its light, comfortable fit making it very popular in today’s apparel. The T-shirt’s major characteristic includes the T-shape made with the body and sleeves. It often includes short sleeves, a round neck line, and no collar. However, it may also include long sleeves, buttons, collars, or V-necks. Also, it can be worn by anyone no matter the age group (Factsfoot). Its length, cut, fabric, and printing procedures continue to advance. After one hundred years of evolution, its appearance is still constantly changing from tie-dye baggy to the tight fitting tank tops. The t-shirt is a garment that has evolved in style, popularity, and purposes since its origination over a hundred years ago.
T-shirts initially started out as underwear and they were hardly ever worn in public. However, people are now wearing undergarments such as bras underneath their T-shirts although it was once used for the same reason. T-shirts were started in 1868 in New York and was founded on a similar kind of underwear that had been popular with Victorian Women (Today I Found Out). Additionally, t-shirts are thought to originate from an underwear made from red flannel known as the Union Suit which was popular with workers in the 19th century (Today I Found Out). The Union Suit was successful at keeping men warm, but it was hopeless at keeping their body’s cool in hot weather. As a result, many workers cut them in half accidentally creating the top half of what is known as “Long Johns”, which is similar garment consisting of two pieces of long underwear.
Long Johns have existed since the 17th century where they were also popular within the work forces and amongst the unfortunate (Today I Found Out). Just like Union Suits they were most common during the Victorian Era, where women were being targeted in advertisements to keep their waists slim, while having to wear fewer layers around the waist, and keeping them warm. Around the 19th century, the inventors of these undergarments began to experiment with fabrics that could stretch back into shape to make the product more comfortable (Today I Found Out). As a result, the buttonless undershirts made from wool and cotton was invented. You could pull it over your head without messing up the collar.
The first dramatic change of what the t-shirt came to be occurred in 1904, when the Cooper Underwear Company began advertising them to single men as “bachelor undershirts” with a slogan that said: “No safety pins, no buttons, no needle, no thread” (Today I Found Out). Single men were being targeted the most because they didn’t have females around to sew the ripped buttons on their shirts. They were advertising that the “undershirt”, as it was then known, consisted of a single piece of fabric that had no buttons, meaning it would be more durable than its buttoned counterpart, with less maintenance (Today I Found Out). Their main goal was to bring out the shirt in a whole new way and make it into a regular day-to-day clothing.
Within a short amount of time after this advertisement, the US Navy, who hired many young bachelors with inadequate sewing skills, officially incorporated the button-less white undershirt into its uniform. Other parts of the military such as those working in submarines caught onto it rapidly. The reason for this popularity was that the working men could take off their uniform jacket without getting them dirty. Instead, the plain white T-Shirt wasn’t a hassle because it could be easily washed. The T-shirt became popular amongst bachelors of all ages. By 1940 T-shirts even became common among high school boys and teenagers worldwide. Although the main purpose of the shirt was to help bachelors cope with the lack of sewing skills, nobody thought the garment would become so popular.
American soldiers in Europe, at the time of World War II, had noticed something that was very interesting regarding their European allies. They saw that as the Europeans took off their jackets, they put on light-weight cotton shirts. The American soldiers were wearing a heavy wool uniform which would get easily overheated. For this reason, the American soldiers returned home with news of this comfortable top. It wasn`t long after that the U.S. military decided to issue the same type clothing to their soldiers. Instead of changing into these shirts, the soldiers were required to wear them under their war uniforms. Its main purpose was too keep the body cooler or warmer during battles, especially while doing heavy labor activities. During this time, it wasn’t seen as “well-mannered” to be in public wearing underclothes, but due to the conditions, it was allowed (Factsfoot).
The T-shirt is known to have gotten its name because of how its shaped. When you flatten shirts out from neck to waist and pull the arms out to the side, it forms the letter T. Also, the T-shirt became a major problem to all military men and women during the early 1940s. This was because many branches wanted to ensure that the T-shirts were easy to keep track of. They printed their unit names on the shirt. Some soldiers even had their names printed on the shirts, so they didn’t get lost in the laundry. You might have seen a T-shirt imprinted with “Air Corps Gunnery School” on it to show that the soldier had attended training at a specific school (Factsfoot).
The T-shirt had many advantages such as it was easily fitted, easily, cleaned, and inexpensive which promoted it among young boys. At that time, they were made in many colors and styles. Many people wore them when doing errands or tasks especially around the times of the Great Depression, when working on the farm or ranch. In addition, it was used as an undershirt for workers in industries including mining and agriculture. However, during the 1920s it became more than just an undershirt to American people. As a result, the Merriam-Webster made it official to add the word “T-Shirt” to their dictionary (Historythings).
The 1960’s was mainly known as the “psychedelic generation” (Ooshirts). During this time the T-Shirt once again began to evolve. A new product was invented which was the reason to this evolution which was known as plastisol. It was a product for the wear and tear T-Shirts needed to handle during the day. In addition, the plastisol was durable enough to last on the fabric of T-Shirts. During this time, bright colors and tie-die patterns became popular because it was a way many people expressed themselves. Many company logos, images, and other events were placed on T-Shirts. In addition, famous people including Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, who were music legends, wore these shirts that had this ink with these patterns.
A few outstanding shirt designs over the past few years include the yellow happy face T-Shirts, The Rolling Stones’ “tongue and lips” logo, “Kiss me, I’m Irish” St. Patrick’s Day slogan, and the legendary “I Love NY”. Others include “My parents went to (name of place), all I got was this lously T-Shirt!”, “Who farted?”, “I’m with stupid”, and many others with tie-dye patterns. In addition, many new styles and adjustments were made making T-Shirts even popular because of all these options. They include crew neck, tanks, spaghetti strap, polo, and many others (Teefetch).
In the 70’s and 80’s, custom T-Shirts continued to become popular. As a result, mass productions became essential as well as ideas such as printing methods such as litho-transfer. Malls became the most popular places to have a custom T-Shirt printed right in front of you. Many businesses and rock bands noticed how effective and powerful T-Shirts were in sales and branding. One major invention of this decade was the wrinkle-free T-Shirt. It was made with a mixture of both cotton and polyester. Also, in 2010 another important discovery was the bullet-free T-Shirt, which is a way to save lives (Printbar).
According to the printbar, about 70% of men and 54% of women own over ten T-Shirts. The most popular T-Shirts that continuously sell and become more popular includes the ones with Disney characters, the Coca-Cola logo, and album art from the Beatles. Although T-Shirts once started out as an undershirt, it is now very popular worldwide, and many individuals enjoy it as under and outer pieces of clothing. Many people buy T-Shirts as souvenirs or gifts for their loved ones. Also, people of all ages wear them to various occasions whether casual or formal. In addition, the T-Shirt continues to evolve in many ways from the long underwear they once were.
Over time, t-shirts have gone through many phases and have become a normal part of everyday life because of their light-weight and comfortable fit. They are appropriate for all ages and genders. Also, t-shirts are an effective way of advertising businesses or any community event.