The History of the T-Shirt

Updated: Feb 5, 2019

It’s a wardrobe staple that can be found in the closet of everyone in the entire family, regardless of their age or fashion sense. Known for their comfort and the ease of dressing them up or down the t-shirt is the only item that never goes out of style. But where did it all begin?

T-Shirts Have Been Around For Over 100 Years

The first t-shirts were issued as a layering item and undergarment worn under military uniforms during World War I in the early 1900s. It was the alternative to the bulky and uncomfortable long-john style of undergarments most men wore at the time. Soldiers continued to wear their t-shirts in their civilian life, both casually and for warmth. They had both long and short-sleeved options and as with many other military-inspired fashions the t-shirts was soon made available to the public.

Cooper Underwear Company

In 1904 Cooper Underwear Company, who is today the Jockey brand, introduced the crew neck t-shirt for bachelors—which we still know as the classic white undershirt. The primary appeal was that the shirt was a pullover and had no buttons. However, it took about 20 more years for wearing a t-shirt as an outer garment for anything other than work or household chores to become acceptable. It took another 20 years for t-shirts to be introduced to women’s wardrobes, other than the still common trend of lounging around the house in your boyfriend or husband’s tee.

The First Graphic Tee

The first graphic tee was introduced in 1939 in the movie The Wizard of Oz, with Ozians wearing green shirts with “OZ” printed on the front in large font. At the time, both the color choice and the printing made the look feel like a movie costume—not something the everyday person would wear. Slowly but surely the idea of screen printing for branding and artistry caught on. By the 50s and 60s you could find t-shirts with company logos, band t-shirts, political tees, branded uniforms, and DIY screen printing by artists of every kind. By the 1970s the statement tee with quotes and bold statements had been introduced, which is a trend that continues to flow in and out of style.

How T-Shirts Have Evolved Over The Years

While the classic cotton tee is still a popular layering item they are far more popular as a top. Whether speaking of layering items or tops, tees are a timeless wardrobe staple which has evolved in many ways over the years. From plain white to a rainbow of colors, varying necklines, fitted t-shirts for women, hem length, and the endless options of artistic detailing with cut, design, and stitching. Another factor not to be forgotten is the range of the materials tees are made from, with 100% cotton being the standard for quality and comfort.

If you enjoy expressing yourself with graphic tees we invite you to browse the selections at SlightlyDangerousCo. We have a versatile collection of empowering statement tees, nostalgic tees featuring Hollywood legends, and creative graphic designs. We also have leggings, hoodies and throw pillows.