Vintage History

At the beginning of the 20th Century, at the time of World War I, what we know today as the American T-Shirt came into being when American soldiers fighting in Europe noticed the European soldiers wearing a comfortable and lightweight cotton undershirt. Compared to the wool uniforms that the American soldiers wore, these shirts were cooler and more comfortable and they quickly became popular with the American soldiers. Due to their simple design, these shirts became known in the USA as “T” Shirts and as we know them today, T-Shirts.

By the 1920’s, T-Shirts had become an official word in the American English language with it’s inclusion in Websters Dictionary. By World War II in the 1940’s, both the U.S. Navy and Army had included the T-Shirt as standard issue underwear.

However, it was in the 1950’s that T-Shirts came into their own. With the popularity of Hollywood movies, two cultural icons of American lore wore T-Shirts in famous movies. Marlon Brando wore a T-Shirt in the movie, “Streetcar Named Desire” and James Dean wore a T-Shirt in the movie, “Rebel Without a Cause”. With that movie, James Dean made the T-Shirt a contemporary symbol of the time for rebellious youth.

By the 1960’s, with the increasingly vocal and rebellious youth of America wishing to make their own statement of the time, people began to tie dye and screenprint the basic cotton T-Shirt making it even more popular.

Also, in the mid 1960’s, manufacturers introduced cotton-polyester blends in make the shirts more wrinkle free thereby increasing their popularity as outerwear and not underwear.
With the advances in printing, tank tops, Muscle Shirts, Scoop Neck and V-Neck as well as many other variations of the T-Shirts came into vogue.

The T-Shirt was inexpensive in style and could make any statement you cared to print. The American T-Shirt came into it’s own during the late 60’s and 70’s. Rock bands began to realize that they could make a lot of money selling their T-Shirts. Professional Sports also caught on and soon realized that officially licenses T-Shirts became very popular.