History Of T-Shirt

T-shirts are pretty common today, more so, because they are unisex. They have no limitations regardless of your age and sex. Originally, T-shirts were designed as military undergarments that soldiers would wear under their shirts.

Even today, most people still wear T-shirts under their shirts for different reasons. For some, it is their lifestyle; others wear them to protect themselves from cold, and they are also part of the police and military uniform, etc. T-shirts are also worn as casual wear with multiple printed designs, especially together with jeans and sneakers or other casual shoes.

History Of T-Shirt

When were T-shirts invented?

T-shirts first surfaced on the face of the clothing industry in the 19th century. At first, labourers cut jump suits into two to help them keep cool in summer. However, these were crude garments that were made out of other clothes.

The first manufactured T-shirt was done between 1898-1913, and it was part of military uniform. The US Navy began issuing the soldiers with standard undershirts. However, the term T-shirt that is used today was not incorporated in the English dictionary until 20 years later. F. Scott Fitzgerald was the first person to publish the term T-shirt in his novel.

Ever since when the T-shirt was created, it was always worn as an undershirt. Only military men wore it alone after World War II. Afterwards, in 1955, Marlon Brando and James Dean popularized wearing the T-shirt on its own without anything else on top.

When these two people went out of the norms to make T-shirts a garment that people can wear independently, their use also went a notch higher. With the ancient trend of textile printing, T-shirts provided an excellent platform for people to pass diverse messages. In 1948, T-shirts were used in political campaigns by a presidential candidate called Thomas E. Dewey. He had his campaign slogan printed on T-shirts “Dew-It with Dewey”.

In the 1960s, there was significant innovation in the textile printing upon the invention of plastisol, that greatly facilitated printing and tie-dying. At that time, wearing different patterns and shouting colours became common. Textile printing on T-shirts was widely embraced and people would express themselves using T-shirts. This trend has continued until today, and different messages are printed on T-shirts.

In the 1970s and 1980s

Since there was a boom in the demand of customized T-shirts in the 70s and 80s, new methods of T-shirt printing were invented. For instance, the litho-transfer was invented and also on-the-spot printing. Musicians and companies also found T-shirts to be powerful sales and branding tools.

Branded T-shirts later became a lucrative business and they were used to rake in good sums of money. Entrepreneurs would get people to wear their branded T-shirts wherever they went for events. Some Luxury brands of the time like Yves Saint Laurent and Dior began selling topnotch quality T-shirts.

This significantly accelerated the printing techniques and facilitated T-shirts to be made and sold by all and sundry. In late the 70s and early 80s, printing of T-shirts for local events like sports became quite normal, and the trend increased and has continued until today.

Also read other post: Screen Print Vs. Vinyl T-shirt Printing & Which One and Why? and How Does Heat Press Machine Work

Normalizing the T-shirt

T-shirts were invented as undergarments, but their usefulness and versatility eventually broke that dormancy, and today you can see people confidently wearing them just like other clothes. They graduated from being hidden underneath other clothes to being used to shout different messages to the entire world.

No wonder they are used far and wide in different campaigns like fighting FGM in Africa, fighting drug abuse and abortion, condemning war and domestic violence, etc. They are also used by politicians for campaigns and in advertisement to promote products. That is a very effective way of passing messages because T-shirts are durable than posters. They are also cheaper because once you print them, they last for a long time, and you will pass the message everywhere you go even without opening your mouth.

That made them a source of income because they are custom made and sold even for hundreds of dollars. You may see some high-end brands like Gucci selling their T-shirts at $1000 each. This is quite lucrative.

Consistent design

Regardless of the huge time span that T-shirts have been on the market, their design has never changed. It has remained unchangedthroughout the years until.


Initially, T-shirts were invented as part of military uniform, and as an undershirt and mostly they were white in colour. Later, they were also manufactured for civilians, but still remained plain in colour. In the 1960s, they were diversified and became multi-coloured, and designs were imprinted to them and they became versatile like how they are today.

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