Where did T-shirts come from?

As we all know, a T-shirt (tee-shirt, or tee) is so called because it is a shirt shaped like a T. Plain and simple. But where did it come from? Well, this popular top originated in America during the 19th Century when a bright spark decided to cut the fashionable union-suit undergarments (something that looked a bit like a tight-fitting onsie) in half. They were immediately adopted by men in the services who wore short-sleeved, crew-neck (round neckline) versions as undergarments beneath their uniform. The earliest records show they were issued by the U.S. Navy during the 1898 Spanish-American war. Soon, many men were wearing these as an underlayer at work, and in warmer climates they would take off their jackets and just work in their T-shirt. The T-shirt was comfortable, easily cleaned and became very cheap to buy meaning its popularity rocketed. By the 1920s, it was a household item, and even young boys wore them out to play.

Printing and embroidery

One of the first recorded examples of a printed T-shirt was actually in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Printed T-shirts were then used primarily for denoting a person’s job role. However, by the 1960s, people began to realise that T-shirts provided a blank canvas for self-expression. The designs became endless as people personalised them and even used them during protests. Companies began to use T-shirts as a space for advertising, creating souvenirs and other merchandise. The 1980s brought designer T-shirts into focus, along with images of rock bands, actors and quotes. Since the beginning of the 21st Century, T-shirts have portrayed deep social and political statements which resonate with different aspects of society. The wide availability of custom printing has provided the opportunity for people to create truly unique items that stand out above and beyond the rest. Due to their immense popularity, T-shirts will always remain a staple for many people across the world.