An Unlikely American Classic: The T-Shirt
Seeing as summer has quietly come to an end, we decided to close it with a last minute salute to an unlikely American classic. The T-shirt, while not usually finding itself at the sartorial winners podium, has a fairly young history. We won’t concern ourselves with the uncertainties of said history, such as its first recorded use, an already greatly debated question. We will however concern ourselves with its emergence as an acceptable form of casual garb not limited to the barracks.
After it’s introduction in the Spanish-American war, the T-shirt found itself exclusively used as a form of underwear for soldiers. Through trickle down it became accepted in American society as a way to keep a gentleman from sweating through those old button downs and oxfords. It wasn’t until WWII, that American GI’s on the European war front, observed both civilians and European soldiers using the t-shirt as a form of casual wear.
Thereafter, returning GI’s brought back their new found stylish knowledge and wore t-shirts as both functional workwear, with a subtle nod to dress. Following suit, it became the traditional summer uniform at army bases and common during basic training exercises across the nation.
However, it wasn’t until 1951 that one Marlon Brando would raise the profile of the t-shirt to something more than the button down’s buffer from pit stains. With the release of A Streetcar Named Desire, an unprecedented demand for T-shirts emerged.
Our own research turned up an interesting article in 1951, directly addressing and debuting the T-shirt as something more than “your dad’s old undershirt”, published the same year. The t-shirt had come along way since its inception in the barracks – never before had the word “glamour” been associated with the rough and tough purpose of the the Tee.
Needless to say, the American populace was hooked on the Stanley Kowalski look.
With the American focus on efficiency and functionality, the t-shirt was cemented in as a hassle-free, laid back, tool to the beat the heat. Everything which followed remains as history. As for us, we offer a hearty thank you to a man of cool which which made each one of our days a helluva’ lot more dry, and a whole lot more cool. Now if we could only know Stella’s secret to keeping Stanley’s shirts so white…