A brief history of the T-shirt.

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“I’ve always thought of the T-shirt as the Alpha and Omega of the fashion alphabet.” Giorgio Armani

 

It’s commonplace in every wardrobe, it’s sighted in every city, on every continent and you may possibly be wearing one now as you read my post. Yet I wonder, have you have ever considered its origins? 

 

A brief history of the T-shirt.

I speak of course of the humble T-shirt and it’s shadowy (slogan free) beginnings are a much-debated mystery. Some say its first appearance was in 19th Century India (I’m sure with the familiar catchphrase of “Keep Calm and Carry On” emblazoned across it). The more accepted view, however, is that it evolved from an undergarment used toward the end of that period.

In 1913, the now-familiar shape of the T-shirt was part of the regulation uniform of The United States Navy, an undergarment which sailors were allowed to wear as an outer garment in hot weather. As sailors and Marines left the service, they kept their T-shirts and it started to enter into American culture becoming popular with farmhands and workers across various industries so that by the 1920s, its definition had been entered into the American-English Webster’s dictionary as the T-shirt.

Move forward a few years to 1932 and Jockey International Inc launched their ‘crew-neck-t-shirt’, a design intended for football players of the University of South California but one which became very popular among students across all states. The final ‘Fonzerelli’ thumbs-up approval of the humble T-shirt by America’s youth, however, came thanks to Marlon Brando whose character in the 1951 film A Street Car Named Desire wore a tight-fitting, white t-shirt.

The humble workers’ uniform now became the iconic symbol of rebellion. Take a look at the poster for James Dean’s 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause and you’ll see what I mean. To wear a shirt was square but to wear a T-shirt was cool, dangerous and as such, a ‘de rigueur’ of that dangerous new music genre for young people, Rock ’n’ Roll.

Through the 60s and 70s the, by now, boring white t-shirt had been realised as a great place to drop in some advertising. Cue band T-shirts took on a political tone in the early 1980s thanks to British designer Katharine Hamnett and her “Choose Life” slogan T-shirt worn by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in Wham!’s 1983 hit “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”.

history of T-shirt

In the picture on the left a USA Merchant Marine in 1944. In the picture on the right Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. (1951)

history of T-shirt

In the picture on the left George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. In the picture on the right James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. (1955)

One of my rare non-vintage looks!

Mickey Mouse meets Pirates of the Caribbean  T-Shirt, the only one I own, by CATCH brand, originally designed for man but I think they are very unisex.

One of my favourite jackets a-la Michael Jackson by Ted Baker.

Dance sneakers by Sansha.

Reading glasses by Versace.

 

history of T-shirt

A brief history of the T-shirt.

A brief history of the T-shirt.

history of T-shirt

A brief history of the T-shirt.

 

 

 

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