Have you ever stop to think about how t-shirts have become such a fashion statement nowadays? Seriously, it actually evolved from undergarments used in the 19th century, through cutting the one-piece “union suit” underwear into separate top and bottom garments, with the top long enough to tuck under the waistband of the bottoms. It got its name because when spread flat, it formed a letter ‘T’.
T-shirts were worn by miners and stevedores in the late 1800′s when they worked, and became popular in the United States when they were issued by the U.S. Navy during the Spanish American War in 1898. Solders worn the crew-necked, short-sleeved and white cotton t-shirts under their uniforms. It later became very common for sailors, Marines and workers in agriculture to wear them as a bottom layer of clothing.
As it was easily fitted, easily cleaned and inexpensive, it soon became the shirt of choice for young boys, and it manifested into various colours and patterns, and became so ubiquitous that Charlie Brown, the popular cartoon character, was rarely seen without his signature zig-zag t-shirt.
By the 1929, the times of the Great Depression, the popularity of the t-shirt spread rapidly to Europe and the rest of the world. Lasting close to a decade, the Great Depression caused massive levels of poverty, hunger, unemployment and political unrest. Hence, the t-shirt, an inexpensive garment, was often the default choice to be worn during farm or ranch chores, as well as other times when conditions required lightweight fabrics.
After World War II in 1945, it became very common to see veterans wearing their uniform trousers with their t-shirts as casual clothing. The t-shirt became even more popular and trendy after Marlon Brando, a famous actor during that time, wore one in the movie ‘A Street Car Named Desire’. The t-shirt has finally achieved its status as a fashionable, stand-alone garment.
Today, the t-shirt has become a canvas for images and striking messages, and comes in all shades and sizes. Emblems of schools and teams, bold texts and slogans, colourful cartoon characters and every design imaginable get printed onto t-shirts, a piece of garment that the modernists use to make a fashion statement.