The T-shirt Craze

Published on 23rd October 2007

The T-shirt (whose name and origin is a subject of an ongoing debate) is one of the most worn casual outfits by all generations. While most clothing items trace their history back to earlier centuries, the T-shirt’s history (T- Shirt because of its “T” shape when spread flat) dates back to as recent as 1913, a time when it was a ‘light undershirt’ used by soldiers who were overweighed by sweating in their woolen uniforms hence needed something light to put on. The T-Shirt was much more comfortable. Although it was formally underwear, soldiers often adorned it without a shirt while doing heavy labor or stationed in hot environment. It was also a “Training” shirt for the uniformed forces, yet another pointer to the name “T-shirt.” The public was frequently exposed to pictures of armed forces wearing pants and a T-shirt only. Soon it spread among the public and the tag-name ‘T-shirt’ stuck.

By 1950s and 60s, the T-shirt had become a piece of fashion whose presence could not be ignored. The end of World War II was characterized by  pomp, music and color. It is during this time that the T-shirt was ‘reinvented’ to match the rather ‘colourful’ fashion period.

Ideally, a T-shirt is supposed to be short sleeved, but fashion craze adopted one with long sleeves. The rather characteristic round neck was changed to V-neck, U-neck and scoop necklines that gave more variety to the original T-shirt idea. Plain coloured T-shirts received a ‘facelift’ with emergence of screen printing and other color application techniques to decorate the shirts with different names and characters. This made the shirts become a medium for self-expression and advertising, with any imaginable combination of words, art and even photographs. Most people would adorn T-shirts with specific messages to portray their alignment and value systems.

Currently, the tendency to adorn T-shirts with messages is still as rife as it was many years ago; however, the T-shirt has become a marketing and sales tool. Logos of organisations, companies and religious communities have taken root. Young people are wearing T-Shirts with portraits of music icons and other celebrities, just to make a marketing statement.

A more recent trend in women’s clothing involves tight fitting “cropped” T-shirts that are short enough to reveal the midriff. Another popular trend is wearing a “long sleeved T-shirt” then putting a short sleeved T-shirt of a different color over the long sleeved shirt. This trend has been boosted by manufacturing companies who are now making T-shirt with both short and long sleeves in one package. More often than not the sleeves’ colours are different and /or contrasting. 

Naturally, T-shirts are known to be a type of casual wear that is worn  in informal meetings, on weekends and during other social gatherings. A good accompaniment to a pair of jean trousers or skirts, a T-shirt is an ideal piece of fashion that reveals inner feelings through the colours and messages or portraits they carry. 


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