History of Customized T-Shirts

History of Custom T Shirts

Over the years, our cotton t-shirts have illustrated a bit of everything: our musical tastes, our holiday destinations, and even our political orientation. With more than two billion t-shirts sold worldwide every year, the t-shirt has become a benchmark of the twentieth century, just like the jeans.

history custom t-shirt

As of today, custom T shirts have become most popular forms of personal expression through clothing. There is. however. a stormy history of how t-shirts which were once used as an underwear have gone through a long journey to become one of the most fashionable clothes to wear.

History of the T-Shirt

Ancestors of our modern t-shirts are the clothing that the medieval warriors wore under the armor, to defend themselves from the cold or the one that the nobles wore in order to avoid the “good” clothing from getting dirty by being in contact with the skin.

life magazine t-shirt soldierThe early version of T-shirt evolved somewhere around 1880. The invention of the tubular jersey fabric, patented in 1863, replaced the wool in the intimate lingerie sector, making cotton jersey a popular outfit.

Blacksmiths and miners who worked in high temperature conditions, also preferred these cotton jerseys. During the First World War, the soldiers on the front wanted fabrics lighter than wool, which could withstand the cold and humid weather condition in the trenches.

The popularity of the t-shirts increased when US soldiers started to wear it as underwear. In their spare time, soldiers used to wear their jerseys in public places, in combination with military trousers, exposing their masculine bodies. And, thus this underwear became a symbol of fashion.

On July 13, 1942, the t-shirt occupied the front page of Life magazine, where it was proudly worn by a soldier. During the Second World War, khaki shades of t-shirts emerged due to the demands for camouflage.

Being cheap, comfortable and practical, T-shirts were successful among workers and farmers who wore them during work. Parents started dressing their children with t-shirts when they sent them to play, the children grew up and began to wear them as informal wear. The white t-shirt were soon replaced with colorful jerseys, with various patterns and cuts.

However, the t-shirt has long been an object to wear underneath, making it hard to win ground in front of the normal long sleeve shirts. The v-neck t-shirts appeared, especially to be worn under the shirt without being visible in the collar area.

In the 1950s, the T-shirt became a symbol of fashion, in tandem with the black leather jacket – that went well with other elements of social status: good haircut, a comfortable home, household appliances, a garden in the back and a bright car parked in the garage.

che guewara t-shirtOn March 5, 1960, the famous photographer, Alberto Korda immortalized the hero of the Cuban revolution – Ernesto “Che” Guevara – in a portrait that symbolized rebellion. T-shirts printed with that image, became popular with college students and young adults who adored Guevara as a symbol of rebellion. Even today, the Che Guevara t-shirts are a fashion trend.

Even the hippies embraced t-shirts in defiance of corporate culture and consumerism. Multinationals also started using t-shirts to promote their own products. One of the first brands to use the printed t-shirts around 1965 is the Budweiser beer, followed by Cinzano, Martini and Xerox.

marlon brando streetcar t shirtThe t-shirt trend continued slowly and shyly in the early 20th century. But, stars like James Dean and Marlon Brando wore them in some movies. Since then the t-shirt was unstoppable!

Bob Marley, the Jamaican icon for Reggae music also popularized Bob Marley t-shirts with the colors of the Jamaican national flag. Black t-shirts worn by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John in Grease (1978) also led to popularity to t-shirts as a fashion wear.

The minimalism of the ’90s led to new fashions entirely in black, gray and beige. And, the plain cotton jersey made a sudden turn to formal clothing from its earlier role as an underwear. T-shirts became a new fashion symbol.

History of Personalized T-shirts

It did not take long for the custom shirts to follow. May be someone thought that it is easy to print on cotton t-shirts to customize them. So, people started writing something on the t-shirts in the early versions of custom t-shirts to make them look interesting. One of the first personalized t-shirts is that of the Air Corps Gunnery School, created in 1942, which you can find for sale on various sites even today. These earlier personalized t-shirts were created using the silk screen printing technology.

The rise of the custom t-shirt has occurred quickly, as companies found it a good vehicle to use promotional messages, ideology or principles. There are no limits to what can be imprinted on a t-shirt: images, texts, artworks, and humor! So, custom t shirts soon became most expressive clothing ever used by the masses. Your t-shirt can be your banner, your artistic space, your principles or your advertisement.

Over the last few years, new printing technologies such as the sublimation printing and DTG printing were developed. These technologies further revolutionized the t-shirt industry and gave rise to Print on Demand Custom T-shirts.

One thought on “History of Customized T-Shirts

  1. I enjoyed reading the history of customized t-shirts. In India, it is Salman Khan, who made custom tees popular with his ‘Being Human’ t-shirts.

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