A (Brief, but interesting) History of the Tshirt

A (Brief, but interesting) History of the Tshirt

Ever wondered how the Tshirt came into existence? Who wore the first Tshirts? Who made the Tshirt so popular? This brief history of the Tshirt will answer all those questions and more!

Tshirts began as underwear.

Originating from the one-piece “Union Suit” patented in 1868, workers began cutting them in half because they were too hot to work in. Sometime after the Spanish-American War, the US Navy began issuing a crewneck, short-sleeved cotton undershirt to be worn under the uniform. Soon these early Tshirts became popular among workers and young boys because it was easily fitted, easily cleaned, and inexpensive.


Tshirt became a word by the 1920s.

The first known use of the word “Tshirt” in print was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise where it is included in a list of items the main character brings with him to university. It was also added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary around the same time. 



Tshirts began with football and soldiers.

The first crewneck Tshirts were worn by football players designed specifically for the University of South Carolina by Jockey International Inc. in 1932. Similar styles were worn by soldiers in World War II who brought the comfortable and casual style home with them.

marlon brando tshirt history

Marlon Brando was the first Tshirt icon.

After his performance in the 1951 movie, A Streetcar named Desire, Tshirt sales spiked probably because he proved that a Tshirt can be a sexy, stand-alone, outer-wear garment. In one scene, he removes a sweaty Tshirt exhibitionist style in front of the “southern lady” Blanche to change into a new one in order to “make himself more comfortable.”

fashion 1970s vintage tshirt history

By the 1960s, the Tshirt became wearable art.

The blank canvas of the the Tshirt became widely used for self-expression, marketing, and even political protests worn by both genders and across the globe. With the rise of the hippie movement, tie-dye and band Tshirts also became a mainstay in Tshirt designs.


Ready to make history with your own Tshirt? Start designing or learn more about printing your own!

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