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History Of The Tee Shirt

By Expert Author: Ravii Sharma

Not much historical evidence is available about the origin of T-shirts. But some available documentation shows that its presence was felt way back in 1913. The sailors of the US Navy loved the short-sleeved, crew-necked undershirt to hide the ugly patches of chest hair. It soon became the standard ensemble of the army recruits.

Origin of the Name

A t-shirt mostly resembles in shape the alphabet "T" and hence the famous nomenclature came into being. What happened as a mere chance became a permanent member of the fashion lexicon and is still the preferred choice for many.

The lightweight fabric is the obvious choice in hot weather conditions. Construction workers, miners, farmers took to it easily. The easy to wash option made mothers make a beeline towards this inexpensive fabric. By 1920 the Merriam Webster Dictionary embraced it as part of the official American –English word.

It's Reincarnation

Till the 1940s working men loved the feel of a "singlet" or a sleeveless undershirt. The popularity of the "union suit" received a jolt from the immensely popular actor Clark Gable. An innocuous gesture of letting people catch a glimpse of his bare torso changed the narrative of fashion once again. The movie It Happened One Night fanned the attraction in favour of a bare chest.

The year 1938 witnessed the introduction of T-shirts at a mere price of 24 cents per piece. Sears labelled this new variety as a "gob" shirt. The sailor's shirts were loved for their comfort and they were accepted as either an undershirt or an inner garment.

The Impact of the World Wars

The importance and presence of T-shirts were felt much before the commencement of the World War II. The Navy T-type shirts were mostly patronized by the marines. For the purpose of easy camouflage the soldiers were issued sage green shirts which helped them to blend naturally with the hostile surroundings in a war front. The adorability of the Navy type T-shirts gained momentum because of its greater comfort and better absorption capability. They eased the discomfort of a backpack. Moreover they gave ample protection from sunburn.

The functional utility of T-shirts came into the forefront during the Second World War.

Role of Film stars

Marlon Brando gave an entirely new makeover to T-shirts when he donned on a tight- fitting shirt in the movie A Street Car Named Desire. The rebellious note was again echoed in the 1954 movie The Wild One. His cultural compatriot James Dean carried the legacy forward in the later movies. Elvis won people's hearts with his soulful numbers and a hip T-shirt.
The advertising prowess of T-shirts was later unearthed by far-sighed marketers like Walt Disney and Roy Rogers.

Later Innovations

Later innovators like Ed Rother screen printed the shirts with car designs. In the late 1950s the sports shirts and college shirts were given a colourful look with "flocking". The statement shirts were a rage in the 1960s. The British rock ‘n' roll and the Vietnam War found expression in the T-shirts. Tee shirts has now become an industry. Their ubiquitous presence is felt in most state fairs or car shows. The graphics craze has found a new expression in them.

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