T shirt, Tee, Under shirt – whatever you call it, these pieces of fabric have had our backs for over 100 years! We throw them on when we’re off to school, heading to the gym, or just kicking back. They’re our go-to piece of clothing because they’re simple and comfortable – but they weren’t always around! Read more to see how the T shirt because a main staple of American fashion.
The United States Navy gave life to the T shirt in 1913 when they began issuing it as standard military gear. Military dock workers and mechanics enjoyed the lightweight, breathable shirt as they worked around the clock.
Sub mechanics in the US Navy pose in their standard-issued white tees
By 1944, companies across the United States adopted the T shirt as the standard work uniform for factory workers, mechanics, oilers and more.
Construction worker in uniform
1950s – 1960s
In the 1950’s, teen movies “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Rebel Without A Cause” were released. Lead characters from these films, Marlon Brando and James Dean, gave the T shirt new life and created the “rebel chic” fashion craze. Sales soared during this time as more and more of the American public began wearing T shirts.
Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire”
James Dean in “Rebel Without A Cause”
Between the 1950s and 1960s, the T shirt also took on a new purpose as an advertising medium. People began promoting companies, ideals, slogans, events and more on this new fashion craze. A new ink was also developed during this time that made printed images durable and stretchy on fabric. This opened many doors for companies to start screen-printing T shirts.
1960s – 1970s
As the T shirt progressed through the 1960s and 1970s, it took on many more important roles in American history. During the 1960s, a time of political protest and quest for peace, T shirts were largely used to voice opinions and promote ideals. People began tie-dying white T shirts as a sign of peace, a fashion trend that is still popular today. T shirts in the 1960s and 70s were also widely used to promote classic rock and metal bands, such as The Rolling Stones, and began surfacing at rock shows all over the country.
Tie-dye T shirts from the 1960s
1980s, 1990s and Today
In the 1980s, T shirts were transformed into fashion essentials. When characters from popular TV show “Miami Vice” wore tees under their blazers, T shirts became accepted into the high fashion world. More high-quality T shirts hit the market as they worked their way into American households. People also began experimenting with Do-It-Yourself fashion, and began cutting T shirts into crop-tops and more.
Despite the fashion world’s attempt to turn T shirts into a high-quality staple, the T shirt became the leading character in 1990s “grunge” style. Grunge T shirts were usually worn, full of holes, and faded – vintage style was a plus. Band logos and lyrics were usually plastered all over the front of these tees, and defined a new world of fashion for teenagers throughout America.
Typical 90s “grunge” fashion, complete with ripped jeans and flannel
In the last 100 years of its’ existence, the T shirt has seen immense growth from military garb to basic staple of all-American fashion. Today, there are thousands of different T shirt styles: V-necks, scoops, long tees, short tees – the list goes on! They feature anything from designs and logos to slogans and photos.
Advances in technology have allowed people from around the world to upload their artwork and get it printed onto a T shirt. This has allowed millions of people to share their message and art with the world, and that’s where we come in!
Designbyhumans helps international artists upload, share and sell their artwork on tees, phone cases and art prints. Our artists earn a profit for every sale they make, and it’s a great way for them to get exposure for future work. If you are interested in applying to be a DBH artist, click here to learn more.
So whether you’re an artist or a fan, make a statement and celebrate the T shirt when you grab your next DBH tee and illustrate YOUR lifestyle.