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History of the T Shirt – From Creation to Now

History of The T Shirt

The t-shirt is now a fashion staple, worn by people from all over more often than not, on a daily basis. People enjoy t-shirts for a variety of reasons, but comfort and versatility rank highly on the list. A person can simply throw a t-shirt over their head and go about the day, without having to worry about button, snaps or heavy-duty material. Since t-shirts are lightweight and simplistic in nature, it becomes easy to display messages, graphics and all sorts of information or statements on a t-shirt. For this reason, it's not uncommon to see companies, families, organizations and event coordinators take advantage of this versatility, using it to advertise or allow people with a group to recognize each other.

The vast majority of t-shirts are made with cotton. Cotton is a material that is plentiful and allows t-shirt wearers to not sweat profusely when wearing the shirts. These shirts are easier than ever to customize, as many people create their own or do business with a screen-printing business. T shirt creation is big business, as screen-printing allows a person to apply an image or portions of text to a t-shirt. These t-shirts come in a variety of colors and styles today, allowing people to wear different types of t-shirts for different reasons.

The term t-shirt comes from its resemblance to the letter "T", with the shirt featuring a body and two portions to its side. T shirt history shows that these shirts are popular amongst both men and women, and have played a significant role in culture and society throughout the course of t shirt evolution. Studies show that approximately 70 percent of men and more than 50 percent of women own more than ten t-shirts. Introduced to soldiers as an undergarment during the Spanish-American war, the t-shirts were worn as underwear for decades. While Nearly every era is marked by the fashion worn, and unlike other forms of apparel, t-shirts have been popular every step of the way since they gained popularity in the 1950's. People can now purchase t-shirts of all types, from uses for undergarments to high end t-shirts, designed by fashion labels. Regardless of what type of t-shirt a person enjoys, it's always interesting to take a glimpse at t shirt history throughout the years.

The 1950's

By World War II, the t-shirt was a staple amongst military members of all branches. At the end of the war, soldiers began wearing their t-shirts as casual wear. Once the 1950's approached, the t-shirt was a popular item amongst military members and civilians alike. Movie stars Marlon Brando and James Dean wore t-shirts in classic movies during this era, making the shirt a status symbol.

The 1960's

Hippy culture dominated the 1960's, and tie dyed t-shirts were all the rave in terms of t shirt creation. Certain companies marketed dye toward hippies, who began using the material to dye their t-shirts throughout the decade. This became a means of expression, as a t-shirt was cheap to come by, and it took little effort for people to tie dye their favorite shirts. By the end of the 60's, performers at the festival Woodstock began wearing tie dyed shirts, heightening the craze of this fashion trend.

The 1970's

During this decade, New York City's reputation was at a low, and people routinely complained about its crime, grime and overall unpleasant vibe. To counteract this reputation, the tourism and commerce department were tasked to find solutions. They came up with a simple, yet catchy t-shirt that used the letter "I", a heart and the letters "NY", to spell "I Love New York". This shirt caught on like wildfire, and New York's tourism benefited because of it. Since the I Love New York t-shirt, numerous similar t-shirt designs have been created throughout eras of t shirt evolution.

The 1980's

In the 80's, popular English band Frankie Goes to Hollywood released a song that was banned from radio, due to its sexual content. The song, "Relax", went on to become a number one hit. People from all over began wearing t-shirts that read "Frankie Says Relax", as a statement about censorship. Throughout this era, millions of people wore these shirts, and the t-shirt crossed into pop culture when appearing on an episode of The Simpsons.

The 1990's

The 90's marked the designer era of t-shirt wear, with high-end fashion labels getting into the mix. It was very common during this era to see people wearing t-shirts with big and bold fashion labels on the front, as a status symbol. Labels like Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, FUBU and Ralph Lauren were incredibly popular at this time, and the t-shirts worn by people in this area reflected it. People who may not have been able to afford suits or dresses by these brands were able to express their style through the use of t-shirts.


By Sheryl Perkins

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