History of the First T-Shirt

It may be an item of clothing you regard as ordinary, but the T-shirt has come a long way since the late 1800s when it first evolved from men’s undergarments. It was never visible and served more as the top half of some long john type underpants.

Created by Viryabo@Polyvore

The t-shirt was soon to be produced as proper underwear and soon after adopted by dock and mine workers “as a convenient wear for hot environments”, especially like what you’ll find in coal mines or the deep recesses of ships.

T-shirts soon became popular with workers in various industries but not before the US Navy in 1913, made it popular by issuing it to be worn as undershirts. However, in the warmer regions, it soon became commonplace for sailors and Marines to wear their tees without their jackets to their work parties or out to town.

For the US Navy, they came short-sleeved with crew necks (probably where it got that style’s name from), not unlike the round (crew) neck styles you see today, over a hundred years after.

The V-neck styles soon followed and were designed to be worn so as to conceal the shirt’s neckline when an outer shirt or jacket is worn over it.

Tees – From Underwear to Fashion Statement

Now everyone, from newborn babies to the elderly, has at least a couple of t-shirts in their clothing collection.

And now, T-shirts are not only stylish and fashionable, they have also become a “medium for self-expression”, individualism, sports loyalties, musical inclinations, souvenirs, and company advertising, with any imaginable combination of words, art and photographs printed on them.

The t-shirt gradually evolved from being a piece of underwear into an outerwear with symbols, quotes, and signs that express culture, religion, sex, and rebellion.

1940s – Army tees (printed t-shirts were in limited use in the forties); the earliest recorded printed t-shirt “Dew it with Dewey”

1950s – Holiday resort names; general purpose; casual

1960s – Ringer tees (staple fashion clothing for rock-and-roll fans); revolutionary t-shirts; tie & dye tees

1970s – Logos; Happy Face; I Love NY; the Rolling Stones "tongue and lips”; Mickey Mouse; Coca-Cola

1980s – The decade white T-shirt became very fashionable after “the actor Don Johnson wore it with an Armani suit in Miami Vice”; a popular crime drama series

1990s – Designer name logos; movie and TV

2000s - "Think outside the box" . . . Early 21st century designs saw a renewed popularity of T-shirts with humorous text, slogans and designs with a strong inclination to the ironic.

Meanwhile, it’s good that we acknowledge the U.S. Navy for being the first to make the tee a universal item of clothing.

There’s nothing more relaxing and comfy than slipping on a t-shirt when you just feel like being yourself.