Streetwear T-shirt : From underwear to trendy clothing

Do you have a good knowledge of the history of the T-shirt? Don't panic! By reading this article, you will be able to know the real history of this essential garment of the streetwear culture T-shirt. You will know when it all started and how things evolved for this men's clothing.

Nowadays, having a men's T-shirt in your wardrobe is an inevitable thing. And if you don't mind, we'll tell you how things got to this point.


The US Navy adopts the T-shirt

t-shirt at the navy

BAlthough it is important to point out that the origin of the T-shirt is quite unclear, it is essential to reveal exactly how it all began.

Indeed, since the 19th century, the T-shirt already existed. It was found in the wardrobe of men belonging to the so-called popular class in the United States. The latter used it as underwear since they wore it under their work clothes.

In 1913, the American army, in this case the navy (US Navy) was quick to adopt it, which will make it popular. The characteristic at the origin of this adoption: it is a garment very easy to wash.

In 1910, a lightweight cotton knit suit with a round neck and short sleeves was chosen by the US Navy to be used as a complement to their regulation uniform. Like a body suit, it served as an undergarment for those who wore it.


Technical information of the T-shirt :

Because its shape was similar to a "T", it was called "T-shirt". The T-shirt or Tee-Shirt can therefore be literally translated as "T-Shirt". It was during the 1920s that the word was introduced in the pages of the dictionary called Merriam-Webster. It was defined as cotton underwear with short sleeves and no collar.

The terms "gob shirt", "skyvvies" or "jimshirts" were no longer used. In addition, the T-shirt has no collar. However, it is used of T-shirt with round collar or T-shirt with V-neck.

What justifies the success of the T-shirt with the US Navy ?

The main reason was related to the cost of maintenance.

The T-shirt is easily washed. Because it is usually in contact with the human body, it absorbed all the sweat. Therefore, it was necessary to wash it regularly.

The T-shirt could be washed several times without spending a lot of money, which was not the case with the uniform worn by the American soldiers.

The sailor has a younger brother: the man T-shirt

marinière in the cinema

It is for the French Navy that the sailor's shirt was created in 1858. It existed long before the adoption of the T-shirt by the US Navy.

On the marinière, there were 20 indigo stripes and 21 white stripes. Thanks to these stripes, it was possible to spot the sailors who would fall into the sea.

It was made of cotton and served as a uniform. However, although it looks like a T-shirt, note that it is not.

We all recognize that the T-shirt was created by the Americans. However, we can still be proud to have contributed to this invention, as there is really not much difference between the sailor suit and the T-shirt.

For more information, please read our article about the best brands of sailors.

The pioneers in the making of the T-shirt in 1920

t-shirt on black man

In 1920, under the influence of movies and sports, the population adopted the T-shirt as a tracksuit.

At that time, it was really worn because it had a functional side. It had a wide neckline and shorter sleeves than what is worn today.

From 1910 to 1960, the style will not change.

On his blog called "Jamais Vulgaire" (Never Vulgar), Valery says: "it remained a purely functional garment and going out in the street would have been like going out in underpants or socks".

However, changes are already taking place…

Around 1938, one of the first fashion companies to have T-shirt models in its catalog was Sears. The model was called "gob shirt". The word "gob" means "sailor" in French. It was made to be used as an undershirt or an outershirt.
gob t-shirt

The T-shirt manufacturers that history would have remembered are Sears-Roebuck, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom and Jockey. Today, these offer T-shirts at the best price.

Several categories of T-shirts have been developed over time. These include V-neck T-shirts, ragan T-shirts, henley T-shirts, etc…

The T-shirt, a garment put forward in 1940

Thanks to the cover of a magazine, the T-shirt left its position of underwear for that of clothing.

A photo was featured in July 1942 by Life, an American magazine. On the cover of this magazine, one could see a T-shirt worn by a soldier with the mention "Air Corps Gunnery School". The choice of this magazine was deliberate, because Life has a good reputation: the importance of photography in journalism.

The image published by the weekly magazine was strong, because it allowed the men's T-shirt to be considered a garment.

The T-shirt made international by the United States Army

If the T-shirt is now worn by everyone as a real garment, it is thanks to the US Army.

The U.S. Army adopted the T-shirt because of its features and benefits. Not only is the T-shirt comfortable and light, but it is also more hygienic than all the woolen clothes that soldiers used to wear directly on their bodies.

During World War II, Europeans were introduced to wearing T-shirts by U.S. Army GIs.

The wearing of the men's T-shirt was strongly encouraged by American soldiers in the aftermath of the war. It was therefore not uncommon to see veterans using them to dress up.

The T-shirt, an advertising tool

We cannot talk about the history of this garment without remembering that it was initially used as a real advertising tool.

In 1948, Thomas E. Dewey used the printed T-shirt in his communication strategy during a presidential campaign.

Hollywood makes the men's T-shirt popular

The T-shirt became an iconic garment in 1950 thanks to Hollywood. In the men's wardrobe, the T-shirt became the most famous of all clothing.

James Dean in a tshirt

It was even used as a tool of rebellion by James Dean, the actor of the movie Rebel Without a Cause and Marlon Brando, the actor of the movies The Wild One and A streetcar named Desire.

Thus, a man who wants to be seductive and rebellious would wear a white T-shirt. Since its first release in 1951 through Marlon Brando, the models of the T-shirt have evolved until it was consecrated in 1950.

The model remains a model that hugs the body. As for the sleeves, they are quite short. Hollywood films show the symbolism of the T-shirt in the clothing of many men of 1950.

Steve McQueen is one of those who helped the T-shirt to have more visibility. Thus, the casual wear par excellence was the T-shirt.

With the recognition of the T-shirt, brands had changed the cuts of their men's T-shirts.

Remember the Sears Gob Shirt? It was renamed "T-style shirt" by the brand. And everyone can now wear it to go out like an outdoorsman. The other reason for the success of the white T-shirt is that it is easy to wear.

Here are the 7 tips that will allow you to wear your T-shirt in a stylish way.

The tie-dye and the colored T-shirt

If Hollywood actors have made it "sexy", the T-shirt remains a military outfit.

In 1960, the hippie movement will use it to express their opinions peacefully. (#PeaceLove). The T-shirts will now take the appearance of a psychedelic outfit. This is a form of "demilitarization" of the T-shirt, as Benoit states in his blog "Bonne Gueule".

Thus, the hippies will use the "tie-dye" for their struggle. It is an exceptional dyeing technique. According to Urbania magazine, it consists of first dyeing a plain T-shirt rolled in a rope before drawing psychedelic circular figures. This knot dyeing technique was made popular by hippies. It is no longer the sexy white and thick T-shirt that Marlon Brando proposed.

Graphic T-shirt, its development

From 1960 to 1970, graphic T-shirts occupied a large part of men's clothing.

The new generation would quickly change the plain T-shirt, as they felt it had lost its revolutionary force. It was important to focus on something else

Thus, the T-shirt became a real means of self-expression. With the help of the drawings printed on it, good mood can be spread. They also allow you to give your opinion, show your membership in a group and easily exchange with strangers.

If several graphic designs ended up being produced in a massive way, this is due to the transfer to the fabric.

The technique used was easy. It consisted in choosing a design and sticking it on a plain T-shirt with an iron.

The T-shirt had become a means of communication. Thanks to him, the unconditional ones of marks, the musical groups as well as the tourist sites are transformed into men-sandwiches.

You have probably seen the famous T-shirt "I love NY" that Milton Glaser designed in 1977. We can also mention the language used by the Rolling Stones.

The triumphant return of screen printing on the T-shirt

In 1980, ironing was used less and less to make transfers because the printing was no longer of good quality.

Indeed, because of the washing machines, the drawings were fading little by little. So, the fans of prints decided to drop the system D and to opt for the silk-screen printing applied on T-shirt. We will thus witness the return of screen printing. The quality of the T-shirts was much better than the cheap T-shirts.

This type of T-shirt is also used to express itself. Katharine Harmnett became famous for her over-sized cotton T-shirt. Indeed, she used it to give her opinions on the political opinion and to replay the messages of the hippies conveyed in 1960.

The graphics that are used in 1990 are revolutionary.

For this, there are certainly works that caught the attention of people during the 1980s and 1990s.

If you followed the series called Friends, you will definitely see those over-sized T-shirts that were still in fashion.

See the short sleeve T-shirts of the 1990's.

However, since 1990, things have changed. The choice of an ideal size T-shirt is no longer done in this way by men.

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