Tee shirt through the century has attained the status of fashionable, standalone outerwear garment answering the need of all gender needs. What once was used as an undershirt/ undergarment by the US Army in the early 19th Century has now become the statement of political as well as personal expression reaching every wardrobe as an essential feature eventually building a billion-dollar industry worldwide.
For what once was a typical round neck slip-on comes now in all different versions and variations including polo, printed, raglan and whatnot. The most classic version, a white cotton jersey crewneck worn by miners, stevedores, and soldiers came into limelight after Marlon Brando styled in with a pair of trousers in “A streetcar named desire” It was the first instance when our everyday tee became the expression of our everyday lifestyle.
What started as an experiment of putting a tee-shirt in the mainstream took channels of unthinkable expression. The earliest example could be ‘screen printing’ in the late 50s and early 60s where big brands used tee shirts as a medium for advertising themselves led by brands like Coca-Cola and Mickey Mouse. The era of the 70s led to shape-shifting of the future of tee shirts from advertising to making statements, political and personal. The United States now was booming with more and more understandings of how to tee shirts weren’t just the usual comfy slip-on, they were emerging as the newest most attractive way changing how people perceived clothing and its forms, the mid-80s started a trend best to understand how teenagers and young adults using prominent designers names screen printed on their tees flaunting their interests and trends in an expensive way, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, FUBU, GAP were some of them.
One’s expression was now expressed through ways never thought before. Interestingly, tee shirts now were the definition of showing culture and influencing followers, 90s included representation of Rock bands, explicit psychedelics, cult movies, and popular shows. The trend roamed around Tee shirts bearing the evergreen ‘Beatles’ to ‘Metallica’ to ‘pulp fiction’ and other cults which back then “were the thing”. The next best thing was wearing words, early 21st century was the pioneer of the idea of tee shirts large print slogans, our innate inclination to humor and irony largely celebrated this trend and accepted it with open arms.
Every day we are coming up with ideas of styling, addressing, reflecting and proposing an emergent identity of fashion which answers so many questions. Tee shirt from what it was to what it has successfully worked its way creating a shapeshift movement in the industry. It is the canvas that we are repainting with expressions and ideas defining our culture, our society and finally us!