More than 2 Billion T-shirts are sold per year, equaling to 64 T-shirts sold worldwide – Every. Single. Second. With the significance of this rather simple and universally worn clothing item, the T-shirt has dominated regardless of time and culture, and here at ICON, is our absolute favourite way to help brands and businesses increase their awareness and customer loyalty. To really understand why the T-shirt is amongst the most widely adopted; and preferred form of personalised merchandise by our clients, let’s break down the history behind where this classic, all-American wardrobe staple comes from.
How it started:
The iconic “T-shape” of the T-shirt has origins that date back to the late 19th century Rome, where the tunica, a simple undershirt, was worn by both men and women. Used widely as a layer of protection between the skin and other clothing by many, hygienists of the time recommended the use of thick knitted wool ‘t-shirts’ under your clothing as a means to fight the cold and other flu-like illnesses, evolving into the thermal, heat-tech technology T-shirts and undergarments we have today. Adopted soon after during World War I as a staple undershirt for the United States military and naval services alike, a T-shirt made of a lightweight, breathable material and was worn under the sailor’s uniform and was born to be the most versatile piece of apparel ever created.
How it changed:
In the early 1920s however, the functionality of the T-shirt being utilised as only an undergarment was challenged. Known as the founding fathers of the T-shirt rebellion movement Marlon Brando’s “A StreetCar Named Desire” and James Dean’s “Rebel Without a Cause” were both the first; and most famous on-screen performances where both key characters wore T-shirts as an outer-garment, beginning the business boom of T-shirts world wide. Quickly after the movies were aired, wearing T-shirts outside of work as an outer garment became a sign of rebellion – an association made through the characterisation of the infamous pop culture icons.
How it grew:
The growing political and social unrest of the 1960s catapulted the significance of T-shirts, altering their role beyond fabric and functionality. T-shirts were starting to be used as a means of activism, signifying what we now recognise as the most powerful canvas used of expression, whether political, advertorial, graphic or humorous. Technological advancements in the printing world, specifically screen printing, only enhanced this, making it faster, easier and more inexpensive than ever before to print designs directly onto T-shirts.
By the start of the 70s, custom-made, personalised T-shirts became the ultimate wardrobe staple, and since have grown to become the leading choice of merchandise for creators, brands and businesses of all kinds.
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