The History of the T-Shirt

The t-shirt has an interesting history. It was originally designed to be an undergarment for men. Over the years the t-shirt shifted from that place to become a popular piece of outerwear for both men and women.

It is also interesting to note that for women, a t-shirt is often worn over another type of undergarment. Regardless, the t-shirt has become popular and always will be.

The Beginning of the T-shirt

The t-shirt was first known as the union suit. It was a basic one-piece garment in white that men wore. It buttoned up the front and originated from New York. In 1902 the union suit received an extreme makeover by the P. H. Hanes Knitting Company.

Their version was a two-piece men’s undergarment. In 1938 Sears introduced their version of the union suit but called it the gob shirt.

Two Decades Later

We can thank Hollywood in the 1950’s for catapulting the t-shirt into the spotlight. The trend was launched with such movies as “Rebel Without A Cause” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Actors James Dean and Marlon Brando wore t-shirts in these films and basically made the up-until-then undergarment a cool fashion accessory that all men quickly desired.

The first actual promotional t-shirt hit the scene in 1948. That was when Governor Thomas E. Dewey printed the slogan “Dew-IT with Dewey” on t-shirts to assist with marketing during his Presidential election campaign.

Dewey didn’t know it at the time, but he was making history as his campaign t-shirts hold the record as the oldest ones with a printed slogan on them.

The Message T-Shirt

The 1960’s saw t-shirts become a form of advertising and expression. Different colors, patterns and designs emerged along with slogans, sayings and assorted messages.

Plastisol was also invented at this time which was a special type of ink that could be used on t-shirts and would withstand the wear and tear of daily use. It changed how t-shirts were used in a big way.

Custom T-Shirts

The 1970’s and 80’s saw the introduction of custom t-shirt businesses. Virtually every strip mall had one. You could go in and order a t-shirt that was made to order with your message and graphics on it.

The t-shirt became a personal way of expressing one’s self and it took just minutes with heat transfer equipment. Advertising also started appearing on t-shirts as well.

Internet T-Shirts

Well, in the present world of new technology, the t-shirt continues to live a long and full life. It is even easier to customize a t-shirt to say anything you want it to say.

The t-shirt shops of a few decades ago have disappeared only to be replaced by online t-shirt ordering systems. The process is fast and the cost is low with on demand usage as opposed to stocking full inventory.

YayPrint hosts one of the newer online t-shirt ordering websites, where you will be able to scroll through many different designs that are currently trending.

With the YayPrint app that you can download to your handheld device, you can custom design a t-shirt virtually anywhere you have a wifi signal or internet access to keep you connected.

So you could say that the t-shirt has come a long way in just over 100 years. Where it will be in another 100 years is anybody’s guess.

One thing is for sure, it will continue to make history long before it ends up becoming history. Nothing beats wearing a comfortable, easy to care for garment that can promote your business or express your feelings about something.


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