Nowadays the modern T-shirt has spawned a vast textile and fashion industry, really worth over two-billion dollars to the planet’s retail trade. The unlikely birth of the t-shirt was a rather unspectacular event, however this humble piece of attire was set to change the designs and fashions of cultures regarding generations to come. Eventually the T-Shirt would be used as a political device for protest and in certain times and places in history, a symbol of trend and change.
At the very beginning the t-shirt was little more than a piece of under garments, an extremely utilitarian one at that. In the late 19th century the union suit, (also colloquially referred to as long johns), was in its hey day, worn across America and northern parts of Europe. Popular throughout class and generation, this moderate knitted one-piece covered the whole entire body, from the neck to the wrists plus ankles. The designs pièce sobre résistance featured a drop argument in the back for ease of use within the old outhouse. As cotton became more and more widely available, underwear manufacturers grabbed the moment to create an alternative to this mainstay and rather cumbersome design. Knitted material is difficult to cut and sew seams and thus with natural cotton a radical shift towards mass-made fashion could begin.
In European countries times were changing, as the Americans ongoing to sweat and itch, a simple “T-shaped” template was cut twice from a piece of cotton cloth and the two pieces faced and sewed together in a lowly European workhouse. It was half a pair of long johns, but it soon took on a life of its own. As the Industrial Trend reached its inevitable conclusion, Holly T. Ford created the planet’s first production line, the tips of functionalism, efficiency, and practical style entered the mainstream consciousness of societies across the world, and Europe in particular. Many began to question the particular Puritanism of the past, Victorian buttoned-down ideas of modesty were beginning to give way to scantier and scantier swimsuits, ankle-bearing skirts, and short-sleeved shirts. As World War One particular loomed upon the horizon, the particular t-shirt was about to be conscripted to the army.
Historical researchers define the very first recorded incident of the introduction of the T-shirt to the United States occurred throughout World War One when US soldiers remarked upon the light natural cotton undershirts European soldiers were issued as standard uniform. American soldiers were fuming, their government were still issuing woolen uniforms, this particular wasn’t fashion, it was practically a tactical military disadvantage. How could a sniper keep still and aim his rifle with beads of sweat pouring in his eye, and an itch that just wouldn’t go away? The US army might not have reacted as quickly as their soldiers would have liked, but the highly practical and light t-shirt would quickly make its way back to the popular American consumer.
Due to their highly well-known shape, and want for a much better name, the word “T-shirt” was gave, and as the word found its place in the cultural lexicon, people around the world began to adopt the new and more comfortable alternative to the union shirt. A number of American experts claim that the name was coined in 1932 when Howard Jones commissioned “Jockey” to design a new sweat absorbing shirt for the USC Trojans football team. However the ALL OF US army contests the origins from the word come from army training t-shirts, being the military it was shortly before practicality ensured the abbreviation. There is one alternative theory, small known and rather graphic in the interpretation. Essentially the idea that shortened-length arms were described as akin to the shape of the amputees torso, a common sight within the bloodier battles of the past, although this speculation cannot be verified, the idea has a gory ring of reality about it. During World War II the T-shirt was finally issued as regular underwear for all ranks in both the particular U. S. Army and the Navy. Although the T-shirt was intended since underwear, soldiers performing strenuous battle games or construction work, and particularly those based in warmer climes might often wear an uncovered T-shirt. On July the 13th, 1942, the cover story for Life publication features a photo of a soldier within a T-shirt with the text “Air Corps Gunnery School”.
In the first few years after World War Two, the European fashion for wearing T-shirts as an outer garment, inspired mainly simply by new US army uniforms, spread to the civilian population of The united states. In 1948 the New York Periods reported a new and unique promotion for that year’s campaign for New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey. It was the first recorded “slogan T-Shirt”, the particular message read “Dew It for Dewey”, closely repeated by the more famous “I Like Ike” T-shirts in Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential campaign.
In the early 1950s ambitious companies based in Miami, Florida, started to decorate tee shirts with Floridian holiday resort names and even cartoon characters. The very first recorded graphic t-shirt catalogue was created by Tropix Togs, by the creator and founder, Miami business owner Sam Kantor. They were the original licensee for Walt Disney characters that included Mickey Mouse and Davy Crockett. Later other companies expanded to the tee shirt printing business that included Sherry Manufacturing Company also based in Miami.
Sherry began business in 1948, the owner and founder, Quinton Sandler, was quick in order to catch onto the new T-shirt tendency, and quickly expanded the display screen print scarf company into the largest screen print licensed apparel producer in the United States. Soon more and more celebrities had been seen on national TV showing off this new risqué apparel which includes John Wayne, and Marlon Brando. In 1955 James Dean provided the T-Shirt street credibility within the classic movie “Rebel Without A Cause”. The T-Shirt was fast changing into a contemporary symbol of rebellious youth. The initial furore and public outcry soon died down and within time even the American Holy bible Belt could see its functionality of design.
In the 60’s individuals began to tie dye and screenprint the basic cotton T-Shirt making it an even bigger commercial success. Advances within printing and dying allowed a lot more variety and the Tank Top, Muscle mass Shirt, Scoop Neck, V-Neck, and many other variations of the T-Shirt came in to fashion. During this period of cultural experimentation and upheaval, many independent T-shirt printers made copies of “Guerrillero Heroico, or Heroic Guerilla”, the famous portrait of Ernesto “Che” Guevara taken by Alberto “Korda” Diaz. Since which it is said to be the the majority of reproduced image in the history of photography, mainly thanks to the rise of the T-shirt.
The 1960’s also saw the particular creation of the “Ringer T-shirt” which usually became a staple fashion for youth and rock-n-rollers. The decade furthermore saw the emergence of tie-dyeing and screen-printing on the basic T-shirt. In 1959, “Plastisol”, a more durable and stretchable ink, was developed, allowing much more variety in t-shirt designs. As textile technologies enhanced, new T-shirt styles were shortly introduced, including the tank best, the A-shirt (infamously known as the “wife beater”), the muscle shirt, scoop necks, and of course V-necks.
More and more well-known T-shirts were designed and made throughout the Psychedelic era, including a growing number of home-made experiments. A tidal wave of tie-died t-shirts began to appear at the burgeoning music festival moments in Western Europe and America. By the late 60’s it was virtually a required dress code between the West Coast hippie culture. Music group T-shirts became another extremely popular kind of T shirt, cheaply printed and bought at live gigs and concerts of the day, the tradition continues to the present, music group T shirts are as popular because ever, however the price of them has risen dramatically.
In 1975 Vivienne Westwood makes her mark on 430 King’s Road, London on the “Sex” boutique with her brand new Punk-style t-shirts, including her notorious “God Save The Queen” style. Punk introduced an explosion of independent fashion designers and in particular t-shirt designers. To this day many modern designs pay tribute to the “grunge-look” of the rebellious and anarchic period of Traditional western culture.
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The influx of business funding of the 1980’s changed the whole face of the T-shirt market. Slogan T-shirts were gaining popularity again, “Choose Life” was produced to promote the particular debut album of George Micheal’s music group “Wham”, whilst “Frankie Says” helped push a string of highly controversial singles to the top of the UK charts for Liverpool based music group “Frankie Goes to Hollywood”. Bands, soccer teams, political parties, advertising organizations, business convention organizers, in fact anybody after a piece of cheap promotion started to commission and sell vast numbers of T-shirts. One noble exception of the time was your now iconic “Feed the World” T-shirt, created to raise funds and awareness of the original and groundbreaking Band Aid charity event.
During the 80’s and 90’s T-Shirt production plus printing technologies vastly improved, including early forms of D. T. Gary the gadget guy (Direct to Garment Transfer) printing, increased the volume and availability. Whilst in financial circles, the world’s share markets took notice as the American T-Shirt was classed as a commodity item in the apparel industry.
Top quality corporate labels soon made their own massive mark on the industry. A whole new generation of T-shirt designs swamped the market, promoting conformity and allegiance to a brand name, such as Nike, rather than an expression of individuality. This particular rather uninspiring tradition still continues to this day, the now iconic “Vintage 82” T-shirt from “Next” by way of example. Within a few years of its first printing, this design was allowed to ton the market, until cheap copies plus black market knock-offs have over loaded the world. There are many similar designs which have a similar limited cultural shelf-life.
Recently an inspiring movement towards re-politicizing the T-shirt has enabled pressure groups and charities to push their message to a wider target audience. Over one million people marched into London wearing a vast array associated with anti war, anti Bush plus anti Blair T shirts at the anti Iraq rally. Another example, reminiscent of the earlier Band Aid event, noticed The Make Poverty History campaign of 2005 receive global press coverage. Soon after Vivienne Westwood re-emerges in the T-shirt world with the girl new slogan T-shirt “I am not a terrorist, please don’t arrest me”. Catherine Hamnett, another famous British fashion designer is well known for her protest Tee shirts, including her work to emphasize Third World debt and the Aids pandemic in Africa. Then again, Catherine has been quoted as saying political slogan shirts allow the consumer in order to “feel they have participated in democratic action”, when in fact all they have got done is a little clothes shopping. This particular maybe true, however they still provide enormous media attention to any just cause.
Over the years the styles, images, and contribution to free society that T-shirts have provided are taken as granted, the T-shirt has become an essential accompaniment for any fashionable wardrobe, no matter what part of the world. Still yet more technical advances in the industry possess allowed for more choices in style plus cut. Oversize T-shirts that expand down to the knees, are popular with hip hop and skater fashions. Periods change, however from time to time the female marketplace embraces more tight-fitting “cropped” T-shirt styles, cut short enough in order to reveal the midriff. The rise of the “hoodie” or hooded lengthy sleeved T-shirt cannot be ignored, it is also fast becoming an essential addition to any street wise fashionista’s collection.