T-Shirt - The History and Development of the T-Shirt
In the 19th century, the idea of underwear developed, which had not been common before. At some point near the turn of the century, the underwear shirt was developed; the shirt was always a part of clothing since ancient Egypt, though it slowly became more and more popular. Hence, there have been many garments that resemble the T-shirt, though the general trend supported the possibility of less clothing, which cultural modesty had forbidden until the 19th century. The origin of the T-Shirt is obscure — claims reach at least from California to Britain, and from 1913 to 1948, and it was most likely a slow development during that time.
Most research mentions this possibility that the idea of the T-shirt came to the United States during World War I when US soldiers noticed the light cotton undershirts European soldiers were using while the US soldiers were sweating in their wool uniforms. Since they were so much more comfortable they quickly became popular among the Americans, and because of their design they got the name T-shirt. Other experts credit the U.S. Navy's "light undershirt" from 1913, described with "elastic collarette on the neck opening, called "crew neck". The Los Angeles Times claimed in 2006 that the Navy shirt as described in 1913's regulations state that the "light undershirt" was different from what is commonly worn today, with the Navy's version boasting an "elastic collarette on the neck opening" and other odd features.
On these grounds, there are claims that Howard Jones asked the underwear company "Jockey" in 1932 to develop a sweat absorbing shirt for the USC Trojans football team, which they propose was the "modern T-Shirt".
The origin of the name is uncertain: many refer to the shape of the shirt as a "T", while it could also emphasize the use of the army as a "training shirt". The shape-based theory is supported by the existence of an A-shirt in the 1930s USA, which was the usual undershirt later labeled the tank top. It is also a possibility that the name "tee" comes from amputee, a reference to the shortened length of the arms.
During World War II the T-shirt had become standard issue underwear in both the U.S. Army and the Navy. Although the T-shirt was formally underwear, soldiers often used it without a shirt covering it while doing heavy labor or while stationed in locations with a hot climate, just like their former underwear. As a result, the public was frequently exposed to pictures of members of the armed forces wearing pants and a T-shirt. This became gradually more acceptable, as the cover of the July 13, 1942
issue of Life magazine shows, which features a picture of a soldier wearing a T-shirt with the text "Air Corps Gunnery School".
After WWII the T-shirt started appearing without a shirt covering it in civilian life. According to the New York Times, the 1948 presidential campaign of New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey produced a "Dew It for Dewey" T-shirt, which was followed in 1952 by "I Like Ike" T-shirts in support of Dwight D. Eisenhower. John Wayne, Marlon Brando and James Dean all wore them on national TV. At first the public was shocked, but by 1955 it had become acceptable.
T-shirts were originally worn as undershirts. This still occurs, but T-shirts are now also frequently worn as the only piece of clothing on the top half of the body (other than possibly a bra or an undershirt (vest). T-shirts have also become a medium for self-expression and advertising, with any imaginable combination of words, art and even photographs on display.
In the early 1950s several companies based in Miami, Florida, started to decorate tee shirts with different resort names and various characters. The first company was Tropix Togs, under founder Sam Kantor, in Miami. They were the original licensee for Walt Disney characters that included Mickey Mouse and Davey Crockett. Later other companies expanded into the tee shirt printing business that included Sherry Manufacturing Company also based in Miami. Sherry started in 1948 by its owner and founder Quinton Sandler as a screen print scarf business and evolved into one of the largest screen printed resort and licensed apparel companies in the United States.
A T-shirt typically extends to the waist, although one fashion is for "oversized" T-shirts, namely in modern hip hop fashion (a perfect example of this can be clearly seen in the song, White Tee, by Dem Franchize Boyz). A more recent trend in women's clothing involves tight-fitting "cropped" T-shirts that are short enough to reveal the midriff. Another popular trend is wearing a "long-sleeved T-shirt", then putting a short sleeved T-shirt of a different color over the long sleeved shirt. This is known as "layering".
An example of a tie-dyed T-shirtIn the 1960s, the Ringer T-shirt appeared and became a staple fashion for youth and rock-n-rollers. The decade also saw the emergence of tie-dyeing and screen-printing on the basic T-shirt. In 1959, plastisol, a more durable and stretchable ink, was invented, allowing much more variety in t-shirt designs.
Variants of the T-shirt, such as the tank top, A-shirt (with the nickname "wife beater"), muscle shirt, scoop neck, V-neck etc. eventually came into use.
The most common form of commercial t-shirt decoration is screen-printing. In screen-printing, a design is separated into individual colors. Plastisol or water based inks are applied to the shirt through mesh screens which limits the areas where ink is deposited. In most commercial T-shirt printing, the specific colors in the design are used. To achieve a wider color spectrum with a limited number of colors, process printing (using only cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink) or simulated process (using only white, black, red, green, blue, and gold ink) is effective. Process printing is best suited for light colored shirts. Simulated process is best suited for dark colored shirts.
Other methods of decoration used on T-shirts include airbrush, applique, embroidery, impressing or embossing and the ironing on of either flock lettering, heat transfers, or Dye Sublimation transfers. Laser printers are capable of printing on plain paper using a special toner containing sublimation dyes which can then be permanently heat-transferred to T-shirts.
In the 1980s, thermochromatic dyes were used to produce T-shirts that changed colour when subjected to heat. This brand of T-shirt, Global Hypercolour, was a common sight on the streets of the UK for a few years, but has since mostly disappeared. These were very popular in the United States as well in the late 80's among teens. A downside of color-change garments is that the dyes can easily be damaged, especially by washing in warm water, or dye other clothes during washing.
Since the late 1980s and especially the 1990s, T-shirts with prominent designer-name logos have been popular, especially with teenagers and young adults. These garments allowed consumers to flaunt their taste in designer brands in an inexpensive way, in addition to being decorative. Examples of designer T-shirt branding include Calvin Klein, FUBU, Ralph Lauren and The Gap. These examples also include representations of rock bands, among other obscure pop-culture references.
Screen printed T-shirts have been a standard form of product advertising for major consumer products, such as Coca-cola and Mickey Mouse, since the 1970s. However, since the 1990s, it has become common practice for companies of all sizes to produce T-shirts with their corporate logos or messages as part of their overall advertising campaigns.
T-shirts with bold slogans were popular in the UK in the 1980sThe early 2000s saw the renewed popularity of T-shirts with slogans and designs with a strong inclination to the humorous and/or ironic. The trend has only increased later in this decade; embraced by celebrities, such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, and reflected back on them, too ('Team Aniston').
The political and social statements that T-shirts often display have become, since the 2000s, one of the reasons that they have so deeply permeated different levels of culture and society. The statements also may be found to be offensive, shocking or pornographic to some. Many different organizations have caught on to the statement-making trend, including chain and independent stores, websites, and schools.
A popular phrase on the front of T-shirts demonstrating T-shirts popularity among tourists is the humorous phrase "I did _____ and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." Examples include "I went to Las Vegas and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." and "My parents went to San Francisco and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
T-shirt exchange is an activity where people trade their tshirts they are wearing. Some designs specifically write on the shirt "trade with me"
1 Mark Dixon, From underwear to outerwear
3 Randye Hoder, You Saw it Here First, Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2006.
4 Virginia Lynn. The History of the T-Shirt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 13, 2007.
5 "Cover". July 13, 1942. Life Magazine, http://www.liberatorcrew.com/15_Gunnery/Photos/LifeCover_T.jpg (retrieved 2007-01-21)
7 A History of T-shirts