The t-shirt. Such a basic yet essential piece of anyone’s wardrobe. Just take a look around right now and you’ll notice them surrounding you. It’s almost like they’re taunting you, isn’t it? But have you ever questioned how they ended up on everyone’s torso?
From prices ranging from a few dollars to thousands (shout-out to Hermès’ $91,500 crocodile t-shirt circa SS13), let’s go back in time and take a look at the t-shirt’s history.
To the t-shirt with love.
Hey man, where are you from?
It first appeared in 1913, when the US navy began issuing them as undergarments. Worn in its simplest form, white and round-neck, it then became the go-to top for dockworkers, farmers, miners and other workers. A more comfortable alternative to restrictive clothing and itchy wool, the cotton t-shirt was favoured for its comfort and practicality. But it was only in the 1920’s that the word t-shirt came crawling out of American lips.
The Plain White T: Brando and Dean
Cut forward to the 1950s. The credit card was bamboozling country folk, DNA was discovered in a pub in Cambridge and the t-shirt had become a fashionable, stand-alone outerwear item. Thanks to Marlon Brando, who owned the white t-shirt in A Streetcar Named Desire, the t-shirt became a sexy. Casual, laissez-faire. The downtowner who don’t play by anyone’s rules.
And no, you do not have to have Marlon Brando’s torso to rock that style.
We can’t move on without mentioning James Dean who made his own claim to the tee. Cigarettes rolled up the sleeve, coiffed crops, it became the staple of bad boys about town. Greased hair and million mile stares.
Peace & Love, the Psychedelic Tee
The early 70’s was the golden age of Woodstock, LSD and hippies. Celebrities like Janis Joplin or Joe Cocker rocked tie-dye t-shirts and hippies wore them with flares, long hair and round glasses. Smelling of the fruits of the wild (read: weed and patchouli), you’d see them floating around crowds asking where Mr. Tambourine man was at.
And though the total hippie look will be met with looks of bemusement today, the tie-dye tee remains an undoubtedly cool look for laid back summer days. LSD optional.
Excuse Me, I’m With The Band
A cousin to the psychedelic tee, the rock tee is our personal favourite. Initially worn by metalheads and Beavis and Butthead, the rock tee soon became a fashionable item worn with tailored trousers for a sophisticate twist, or with relaxed jeans for a more chilled vibe. You don’t actually have to listen to Metallica to sport a Kill ‘Em All tee, though that does make you a poser which is pretty lame dude.
Or for a more fashionable alternative…?
The ‘I’m making a statement’ Tee
Feel like voicing out your opinion in public, but don’t like actually speaking to people? Want to let people know your political beliefs? Why not try out the ‘I’m making a statement’ tee?
Weather its ‘I’m IN’, ‘#YOLO’ (please don’t) or ‘Single?’ (again, please don’t) written across your chest, you’re making people read your thoughts. And that’s cool, right? (ED Note: totally cool)
Through all its styles and derivatives, the t-shirt has remained a timeless piece of clothing for more than a century. And, if you ask us, it’s not going to die out any time soon. So all hail the t-shirt!