“Worn by men, women, rich, poor, old people or kids, it makes no distinction. In the hectic atmosphere of the big cities, it is the continuation of the white shirt. It is the other basic garment par excellence, whose purity of form is close to perfection”.
Maria Grazia Chiuri, Italian fashion designer who worked at Fendi, Valentino and Dior.
NWe don’t know exactly when the T-shirt (named after its T-shape) was born, but we do know that it was not worn under knights’ armours nor worn by sailors who set out to conquer the world on board Christopher Columbus' caravel.
Its creation rather dates back to the 19th century, when it would have been used as an undergarment associated with a work overalls.
It was the American army that brought it into widespread use. In the 1910s, the T-shirt became part of the military kit and begun to be used as an undershirt. This choice was due to its qualities: the T-shirt was more hygienic, lightweight, comfortable and, without doubt, less itchy than the woollen clothes worn by soldiers until then.
From the 1930s in the United States, the T-shirt began to take its place in the civilian clothing while still being essential in the military uniform, especially as it was easy to care. At that time, the T-shirt was made of cotton, white, worn close to the body and with very short sleeves, and this lasted until the 1960s.
In the 1940s, the GIs not only saved Europe and introduced Europeans to chewing gum, they also introduced them to the T-shirt.
At the same time, in the United States, the T-shirt with a message gained popularity thanks to LIFE magazine, which featured an American soldier on the cover of its July 1942 issue wearing a T-shirt printed with the colours of his military school.As the T-shirt was associated with the virility and heroism of American soldiers, it became an important piece of the civilian clothing, especially as veterans continued to wear it as stand-alone garment rather than as an undergarment.
In the 1950s, American film stars contributed to its popularity by giving it a rebellious connotation: Marlon Brando in (The Wild One) or James Dean in (Rebel Without a Cause). Rock'n'roll stars such as Bill Haley and Elvis Presley also took up the T-shirt to complete their "black jacket" look, of which Fonzie, in the Happy Days series that appeared in the 1970s, became a likeable icon.
The T-shirt then became colourful, even very colourful, when the hippies also took it over: they used it to express their pacifist views by colouring it with the tie-dyeing method.
In this way, they contributed to make the T-shirt a medium of expression. This use intensified in the 1960s and 1970s, when the graphic T-shirt became a fully fledged piece of men’s wardrobe.
New inks arrived on the market and made screen printing much more affordable. The T-shirt, by being customisable, became an accessory of expression, with customisations used to make people laugh, to express an opinion or to show one's membership in a group. Brands, bands, political parties, etc. seized on this new communication medium, as well as designers such as Milton Glaser in 1977 with his iconic "I ❤ NY".
Today, the major fashion brands too make use of the T-shirt, decorating it with more or less discreet patterns and designs (polka dots, stripes, flowers, etc.), making it a piece of women's wardrobe.
“The T-shirt has such a simplicity and honesty that allow you to say a lot. Finally, it adapts to all situations, through its fabric, colour or cut. I often think that an evening dress should be as pleasant to wear as a T-shirt and that T-shirt should look as extraordinary as an evening dress...”
Ashish Gupta, designer.
The T-shirt, a recognised promotional item
The T-shirt quickly became one of the main communication media. One of the precursors was Governor Thomas E. Dewey who used it for his presidential campaign in 1948. Despite this innovation, he was defeated by Harry S. Truman. Today, brands integrate printed T-shirts into their communication plans to convey their messages. Customised T-shirts meet everyone's needs: music merchandising, work outfits for staff, advertising gifts, sporting events, associations, institutions, political parties, etc.
SOL'S, the leading brand in customisable textiles, has been offering all types of T-shirts for almost 30 years: long-sleeved, short-sleeved, sleeveless, loose, with straight or fitted cuts, round or V-neck, cotton or polyester made, for men, women, kids and even babies! A range also developed to suit all possible decoration techniques such as screen printing, CAD cut vinyl printing, digital printing, embroidery, etc.
With the development of websites offering customisation solutions, anyone can now create a customised T-shirt to express his/her mood, ideas, literary references or even humour... On this last point, it is useful to remember that a quality T-shirt and a suitable decoration do not guarantee the success of jokes...