History of the T-shirt – from undergarment to style statement

From its origins as an undergarment worn by sailors in both the British and US Navy more than 100 years ago, the humble T-shirt has come a long way.

Then called a union suit – a buttoned all-in-one, which was the onesie of its day – it was chopped in half and the tee that we know today was born. By the 1930s, US retailers started selling white cotton ‘sailor shirts’, which they advertised as suitable for wearing under clothing or as an outer garment.

It wasn’t until the movies put the T-shirt in the spotlight that they really caught on, and Hollywood’s leading men wore it well. In the early 1950s, it was mean and moody Marlon Brando in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and ‘The Wild One’, followed by a sultry James Dean in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’, who started the T-shirt-wearing craze.

What does your Tee say about you?

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and this universal fashion staple is still the epitome of style and cool, and it looks set to stay that way. What other fashion statement is also affordable, comfortable, can be thrown on with anything and worn by anyone?

How do you wear your T-shirt and what does it say about you? Do you lazily pick up a tee at the start of the day because it’s the easy option, or would you rather go naked than wear anything else?

Do you go plain – the white T-shirt is, after all, a must-have wardrobe item – or do you make a statement? With modern printing techniques, T-shirts today can be customised in many ways, and the designs and slogans you display tell the world who you are.

Clothing that makes a statement

If you want to share your passion for music, display an iconic album cover or band symbol on your chest. Everyone recognises the Rolling Stones’ lips and tongue logo, and every band’s tour merchandise includes a T-shirt.

If you want to make a political or social statement, your clothing can do that too, spreading the message with a simple ‘Frankie Says…’ or a more overt ‘Save the Planet’.

Let your tee show your allegiance to your football team, or unleash your inner child with a Disney character – Mickey Mouse has been gracing T-shirt fronts since the 70s. Or, spread even more animal magic with a tee printed with a close-up of your favourite pooch.

T-shirts to sell your brand

Marvel characters and superheroes are always super-popular, with Iron Man, Captain America, Superman and Wonder Woman just some of the favourites chosen to transform a T-shirt, and tell the world which movies you watch. And savvy businesses, from Coca-Cola to Nike, cleverly use T-shirts to promote their brand, with wearers effectively providing a free advert.

Not happy with your physique – a bikini-clad figure or a muscle-bound hunk design will certainly bring a smile to everyone you pass, and you don’t need to have visited the US to proudly state ‘I Love New York’.

If you have a design that’s destined to be the next big thing in T-shirts, PrintBerry’s Print on Demand service is here for you. From a one-off to a bulk order, just upload it to our easy-to-use Client Console and we’ll deliver.

Give our team a call 0330 174 1798
Drop us a message at info@printberry.co.uk