It’s hard to imagine life without the t-shirt. Yet, the word “t-shirt” didn’t even exist in the English dictionary until the 1920′s. Even then the style didn’t enter mainstream fashion until the 1960’s.
During WW1 American troops wore wool uniforms during the hot summer days over in Europe, but noticed that European soldiers were wearing lightweight cotton undershirts instead. This “cool” apparel caught on fast with the Americans and by WW2, both the Army and the Navy included them as part of their uniforms.
Up until the 1950′s, t-shirts were still considered to be just underwear, until actors such as John Wayne, Marlon Brando and James Dean shocked the public by wearing their “underwear” on TV. In 1955, James Dean helped make the t-shirt a standard item of clothing in his film Rebel Without a Cause.
Advances in screenprinting gave people the opportunity to start printing on t-shirts in the 1960′s. Tye-dying also became popular in addition to other forms of the t-shirt, such as tank tops and muscle shirts. In the late sixties and seventies, people began to realize that printing on t-shirts could be a lucrative business. Rock and roll bands and professional athletic teams started to make huge profits selling custom screen printed t-shirts.
Since then, t-shirt have only become more popular and have become a staple in the American wardrobe. TV personalities have increased the popularity of custom t-shirts and “message shirts” by wearing them on highly rated shows and celebrities have used them as a way to communicate with the public. Because t-shirts are both convenient and fun, it’s doubtful that they will disappear from American culture anytime soon – good news for all us screenprinters!