There is probably no more iconic clothing piece to come out of the twentieth century than the t-shirt. The fantastic thing about t-shirts is that no matter what else happens in the fashion world, t-shirts have never stopped being in style.
The t-shirt was created right at the beginning of the twentieth century when modern clothing manufacturing became standardized. T-shirts were intended to be worn underneath men’s button-up shirts.
Because they were intended as undergarments, and shirts were typically white, t-shirts also were pretty much exclusively always in white for the first fifty or sixty years they existed. This makes sense for multiple reasons.
The design of t-shirts led to a bit of a cart and horse paradox. They were white because they weren’t intended to be seen, but no one wore them as shirts, in part because they were simple and straightforward.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that t-shirts became something you would wear as a primary garment. After James Dean made the white t-shirt and black leather jacket combination cool in “Rebel Without a Cause,” the t-shirt went from being a standard article that everyone owned to a provocative symbol of counter-culture.
Since T-shirts were viewed as underwear, to wear them out in public was almost as revolutionary as walking around in your briefs. Those who adopted the t-shirt were seen as rebellious and wild, and the t-shirt became a symbol of youthful revolt.
T-shirts might have been rebellious 70 years ago, but they are perhaps the most common clothing article in the world now. That is in part due to their simple evolution.
For a decade, t-shirts moved from a symbol of rebellion to standard wear for most young people. This was still several years before the advent of silk screen printing, so t-shirts stayed simple and solid but did start to see some different colors through the early sixties.
`As silk screening became commonplace, pretty much every young person in America had a rock band t-shirt. Graphic Ts became memes before memes existed.
Generations have now grown up with the t-shirt as a style standard. Graphical Ts have their time and place, but the basic t-shirt is universal.
T-shirts are Versatile
Basic t-shirts can be worn as a standalone garment or used in layered looks. They look as good with jeans as they do pair with a modern suit.
The basic t-shirt is the single most versatile article of clothing in anyone’s closet. Almost every look you will wear should start with a simple t-shirt.
When you are wearing a dress button-down, you should start with a simple t-shirt. This keeps your shirt looking great by leveling the colors that might show through and helping to prevent sweat rings on your freshly pressed dress shirt.
Even the Classics Can Use Some Updates
Just because something is classic doesn’t mean it is perfect. Traditionally, t-shirts were made of 100% cotton, which is known to fade and stretch. Cotton also tends to hold moisture, so they don’t do much to keep you smelling fresh.
Modern t-shirts are made of blended fabrics that make them better in several ways.
Poly cotton blends don’t lose their stretch as time goes on. This means they look better for longer than other t-shirts.
Poly blends are also better at wicking moisture away from the body so it can evaporate, making them much better at keeping you comfortable throughout the day.
In summary, basic t-shirts will always stay in style because they are comfortable, versatile, and classic. You will wear a t-shirt at some point almost every day for the rest of your life, so make sure you buy good ones!