The Classic T-shirt Celebrates 100 years
orn in the U.S.A. from humble beginnings, the T began as an undershirt in the U.S. Navy. They were first issued to sailors (vintage 1913) to force them to button up. The T-shirts were modest endeavors to hide any chest hair that might show through a uniform’s V-neck collar. Because they were so lightweight, comfortable and versatile, servicemen returning home brought this popular item back with them. Following World War II, it became common to see veterans wearing their uniform trousers with their T-shirts as casual clothing, and they became even more popular in the 1950s after Marlon Brando wore one in A Streetcar Named Desire, finally achieving status as fashionable, stand-alone, outer-wear garments. The T-shirt, named because of its configuration, soon became popular as a bottom layer of clothing for workers in various industries, including agriculture. The T-shirt was easily fitted, easily cleaned, and inexpensive, and for this reason it became the shirt of choice for young boys. Boys’ shirts were made in various colors and patterns. The white tee is the one piece of clothing worn by people of every age, gender, nationality, race and economic status. In the words of Giorgio Armani in his introduction to Alice Harris’ book The White T: “I’ve always thought of the T-shirt as the Alpha and Omega of the fashion alphabet. The Creative universe begins with it essentially, and, whatever path the imagination takes, ends with its purity. And then, I love the T-shirt as an anti-status symbol, putting rich and poor on the same level in a sheath of white cotton that cancels the distinctions of caste. It also excels as a means of communication: writings, drawings, poems, slogans, photos, worn as a way to tell the world who you are, what you think, where your ideas are directed.”
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