The Evolution of the T-Shirt
Late 19th century America is when undergarments made from hosiery fabric appeared in the market. Initially, the one-piece union suit underwear made for the army came in two parts, with the top which was long enough to tuck into the trouser waist. Available in 2 styles, with and without buttons this garment was preferred because of its breathability and comfort and was very soon adopted as ideal work-wear by miners and dock workers.
As a slip-on garment without buttons, the earliest T-Shirt dates back to 1898 The Spanish-American war and 1913 when the U.S navy started issuing them as undergarments. The t-shirts were white, had a round neck, with short sleeves and were to be worn below the uniform. In a hot tropical work environment, it was common practice for the sailors, marines to remove their uniform jacket and be wearing the undershirt which ended up getting soiled. The T-Shirts soon become a fashionable bottom layer of clothing for workers across industries like mining and agriculture. The t-shirt was inexpensive, fitted well and was easy to maintain and therefore, became popular and a shirt of choice for teenagers. They were now available in various colours and styles. The word t-shirt became part of “American English” in the 1920's and also was incorporated in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
By 1929, the Great Depression, the T-Shirt was the garment being worn for doing farm or ranch chores, when decency demanded that the upper half of the body be covered but, climatic conditions called for lightweight clothing. After World War II, the t-shirt was worn by Navy men as undergarments, and it becomes commonplace to see veterans wearing their uniform trousers with their t-shirts as casual clothing. The t-shirt became even more popular in the 1950's when Hollywood actor Marlon Brando wore one in the movie “ A Streetcar Named Desire,” finally coming out of the shadows to be considered as fashionable, stand-alone and an outerwear garment. Printed t-shirts were in limited use in the 1940's, not till the 1960's the period dominated by the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Protests, the assassinations of US President John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Cuban Missile Crisis, did printed t-shirts gain popularity for self-expression as well as for advertisements, protests and souvenirs .
The t-shirt has come a long way from its humble use as an undergarment in a basic cotton fabric and round neck style worn only by men to its current versions. Now available in different fabrics and designs, the t-shirt is among the most worn garment of clothing used today by both men and women. As an inexpensive garment to make and purchase, t-shirts are extremely popular as branding and promotional attire for companies.