May 28 2014
Written By
Paul Jaworski
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101 Years of the Classic T-Shirt

The T-Shirt Ain't Goin Nowhere

We love the classics. Timeless and elegant in their simplicity; blue jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts are staples of the every man. Tee’s are worn, in some shape or form, by all of us. From Street-wear kids wearing their extra-long white tees over some drop crotch pants and trying to be like Kanye - to your great-grandfather who still wears them as underwear, but how did these basic items become classic elements of the male wardrobe?

The First T-Shirts

101 Years ago the U.S. Navy introduced the t-shirt as an undergarment. In those days, it was unheard of to don a t-shirt by itself like we do today. It was to be used for underwear only. However, they did serve a purpose. The Navy valued the t-shirt for the same reasons we do today:

- simple

- cheap to make

- easy to wash

- doesn't restrict movement

 In between wars, t-shirts became the uniform of working class Americans. You know, the kind that worked with their hands and put their backs into their living; the kind of people that Bruce Springsteen would write songs about.

Then, football players wore them under their pads to prevent chaffing. All the sudden you started to see kids stealing them and wearing them all over colleges, so the schools had to write “property of” on them to make them less cool. We still see a nod to that time period today with a lot of companies that suck and write their name on everything you wear so you are a walking billboard for them.

The T-Shirt Becomes Mainstream


 Remember in our History of Denim post when we talked about the way that James Dean and Marlon Brando put denim on the map? Yeah, well they did the same thing for t-shirts. Once they appeared on the silver screen wearing them, t-shirts and jeans become the rebel uniform. I can definitely thank those two dudes for what I wear pretty much everyday. Blue jeans and a white t-shirt.

The rest is history. 

Present Day

Of course, another notable part of t-shirt history is that they used to be made in the states. Now, an overwhelming majority of the t-shirt market is produced overseas. Not only are they made in far away places, the garments most Americans wear are also being produced by people who are, for all intents and purposes, slaves.

The people who make the mass-produced t-shirts for fast fashion chains suffer, at times, immeasurably. It is up to the consumers, people like you and me, to make more responsible choices when it comes to the clothing we buy. We must accept a certain amount of responsibility for the current state of things. We must become willing to spend a few extra dollars on basic items like t-shirts to ensure that the people making them are treated fairly. No one should have to suffer so that we can buy a t-shirt for two dollars. There are plenty of American Made t-shirt's out there for purchase. Always remember:

“Every dollar you spend . . . or don't spend . . . is a vote you cast for the world you want.” - L.N. Smith


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