The t-shirt has undergone a sea change in terms of its style and usage. Not many know that it was earlier used as a form of innerwear. Or that it first became popular in World War I. Today we have reached a point where many businesses thrive on designing wacky and funny t-shirts. There are t-shirt design contests being held the world over.
Quick! What are you wearing right now? No this is not one of those questions; it is posed merely to elicit a very likely response: because if you are reading this lounging at home right now, you are very likely to be dressed in a T shirt, whether you are male or female. If there is one item of clothing that anyone and everyone has in their closet it is the ubiquitous Tee.
So how did this most omnipresent form of attire come into being? Well it is widely believed that the Tshirt design was originally fashioned to be a form of innerwear and the story goes that t shirts first became popular during World War I when American soldiers noticed their European counterparts’ cool and comfortable cotton undershirts when they were forced to bear with their less practical and more sweaty woolen uniforms. The other theory for the origin of the t-shirt design is also ascribed to the men at arms, the US navy prescribed a “light undershirt” to be worked around the year 1913, and this item was described as a garment having “elastic collarette on the neck opening, called “crew neck”.
However, it was still used chiefly as innerwear till the 50s. What finally made the T shirt come out of the closet (and into all of ours) and the reason it was finally perceived as seemly to be worn even without an outer shirt is another story. Widely believed to have really made the T shirt mainstream is the unforgettable and iconic portrayal of the Rebel without a Cause by heartthrob James Dean in the 1955 classic film. It is James Dean that is credited with making the tee a contemporary symbol of youth, and rebellious youth to be particular.
Whatever the provenance of the Tee shirt, it is now probably the most popular and the most versatile item of clothing, so that the t shirt can be anything from grunge and slouchy to elegant and smart. There are tie and dye tshirts, batik tshirts, funny tshirts, plain tshirts, psychedelic tshirt, striped, pattered, distressed, the list goes on and on. Amazingly enough, there are many websites today holding t shirt design contests. There are cash prizes amongst others for the winners. It’s a great way for budding designers to gain repute.
T shirts are increasingly used to make a style statement these days. Although the Tee is viewed chiefly as a casual, informal way to dress, it is very versatile in that it can be smartened up to go anywhere. For instance the long sleeved T shirt is instantly less casual and with appropriate trimmings can become quite a formal garment, especially for women. Graphic tees can instantly make you look cool.
T Shirts have undergone a long evolutionary process. What started out essentially as the round neck short sleeved garment made of knitted soft hosiery cotton, changed dramatically over the years both in terms of design as well as the material used to manufacture it. Cotton was replaced by cotton blends, polyester, lycra, spandex and a whole host of other materials that were used to keep pace with the ever fickle trends of the day. Necklines rose and plunged; sleeves lengthened and shortened and sizes shrunk or expanded in accordance with styles and fashions dictated by the powers that be! And the evolution of the T shirt continues to this day!