A T-shirt (T shirt, tee-shirt, or tee) is a style of shirt. A T-shirt's defining characteristic is the T shape made with the body and sleeves. It is normally associated with short sleeves, a round neck line, and no collar.
T-shirts are typically made of cotton fibers (sometimes others), knitted together in a jersey stitch that gives a T-shirt its distinctive soft texture. The majority of modern T-shirts have a body that is made from a continuously woven tube, so the torso has no side seams. This is accomplished with special weaving machines called circular looms, which produce seamless fabric for tube tops, stockings, and the like. Conventional stitching is used for the waist band, neck band, sleeves and to close the shoulders. The manufacture of T-shirts has become highly automated, and may include fabric cutting by laser or water jet.
T-shirt fashions include many styles for both men and women, and for all age groups, including baby, youth, teen, adult and elderly sizes.
The T-shirt evolved from undergarments used in the 19th century, through cutting the one-piece "union suit" underwear into separate top and bottom garments, with the top long enough to tuck under the waistband of the bottoms. T-shirts, with and without buttons, were adopted by miners and stevedores during the late 19th century as a convenient covering for hot environments.
T-shirts, as a slip-on garment without buttons, originally became popular in the United States when they were issued by the U.S. Navy during or following the Spanish–American War of 1898. These were a crew-necked, short-sleeved, white cotton undershirt to be worn under a uniform. It became common for sailors and Marines in work parties, the early submarines, and tropical climates to remove their uniform "jacket", wearing (and soiling) only the undershirt.
T-shirts soon became popular as a bottom layer of clothing for workers in various industries, including agriculture. The T-shirt was easily fitted, easily cleaned, and inexpensive, and for this reason it became the shirt of choice for young boys. Boys' shirts were made in various colors and patterns. By the Great Depression, the T-shirt was often the default garment to be worn when doing farm or ranch chores, as well as other times when modesty called for a torso covering but conditions called for lightweight fabrics.
T-shirts, made of a light-inexpensive fabric, were easy to clean. The earliest T-shirt dates back to sometime between the Spanish American War and the year 1913, when the U.S. Navy began issuing them as undergarments. Following World War II, it became common to see veterans wearing their uniform trousers with their T-shirts as casual clothing. By the year 1920, the word "T-shirt" became an official American-English word in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. They became even more popular in the 1950s after Marlon Brando wore one in A Streetcar Named Desire, finally achieving status as fashionable, stand-alone, outer-wear garments. Often boys wore them while doing chores and playing outside, eventually opening up the idea of wearing them anywhere and everywhere. In the 1960s the T-shirt became a means for self-expression as well as to convey commercial advertisements, protests, and souvenir messages. Over time the T-shirt has been adapted to the modern world. Many different designs and fabrics along with styles of T-shirts have been created since the beginning of it all. Some of the styles of T-shirts include crew neck, raglan, ringers, tanks, babydoll, spaghetti strap, V neck, A-shirts, camisole, and polo.
T-shirts were originally worn as undershirts. Now T-shirts are worn frequently as the only piece of clothing on the top half of the body, other than possibly a bra or an undershirt (vest). T-shirts have also become a medium for self-expression and advertising, with any imaginable combination of words, art and photographs on display.
A T-shirt typically extends to the waist. Variants of the T-shirt, like the tank top, crew neck, A-shirt (with the nickname "wife beater"), muscle shirt, scoop neck, and V-neck have been developed. Hip hop fashion calls for "tall-T" T-shirts which may extend down to the knees. A 1990s trend in women's clothing involved tight-fitting "cropped" T-shirts short enough to reveal the midriff. Another popular trend is wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt of a contrasting color over a long-sleeved T-shirt. This is known as "layering". T-shirts that are tight to the body are called fitted, tailored or "baby doll" t-shirts.
In the early 1950s several companies based in Miami, Florida, started to decorate T-shirts with different resort names and various characters. The first company was Tropix Togs, under founder Sam Kantor, in Miami. They were the original license for Walt Disney characters that included Mickey Mouse and Davy Crockett. Later, other companies expanded into the T-shirt printing business, including Sherry Manufacturing Company, also based in Miami. Sherry started in 1948 by its owner and founder Quinton Sandler as a screen print scarf business and evolved into one of the largest screen printed resort and licensed apparel companies in the United States.
In the 1960s, the ringer T-shirt appeared and became a staple fashion for youth and rock-n-rollers. The decade also saw the emergence of tie-dyeing and screen-printing on the basic T-shirt and the T-shirt became a medium for wearable art, commercial advertising, souvenir messages and protest art messages. Psychedelic art poster designer Warren Dayton pioneered several political, protest, and pop-culture art T-shirts featuring images of Cesar Chavez, political cartoons, and other cultural icons in an article in the Los Angeles Times magazine in late 1969. In the late 1960s Richard Ellman, Robert Tree, Bill Kelly, and Stanley Mouse set up the Monster Company in Mill Valley, California, to produce fine art designs expressly for T-shirts. Monster T-shirts often feature emblems and motifs associated with the Grateful Dead and marijuana culture. Additionally, one of the most popular symbols to emerge from the political turmoil of 1960s were T-shirts bearing the face of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
Today, many notable and memorable T-shirts produced in the 1970s have now become ensconced in pop culture. Examples include the bright yellow happy face T-shirts, The Rolling Stones tops with their "tongue and lips" logo, and Milton Glaser's iconic "I ♥ N Y” design. In the mid-1980s, the white T-shirt became fashionable after the actor Don Johnson wore it with an Armani suit in Miami Vice.
The most common form of commercial T-shirt decoration is screen-printing. In screen-printing, a design is separated into individual colors. Plastisol or water based inks are applied to the shirt through mesh screens which limits the areas where ink is deposited. In most commercial T-shirt printing, the specific colors in the design are used. To achieve a wider color spectrum with a limited number of colors, process printing (using only cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink) or simulated process (using only white, black, red, green, blue, and gold ink) is effective. Process printing is best suited for light colored shirts. Simulated process is best suited for dark colored shirts. Very few companies continue to use water-based inks on their shirts. The majority of other companies that create shirts prefer to use plastisol due to the ability to print on varying colors without the need for color adjustment at the art level. In 1959, plastisol, a more durable and stretchable ink, was invented, allowing much more variety in T-shirt designs.
Specialty inks trend in and out of fashion and include shimmer, puff, discharge, and chino based inks. A metallic foil can be heat pressed and stamped onto any plastisol ink. When combined with shimmer ink, metallics give a mirror like effect wherever the previously screened plastisol ink was applied. Specialty inks are more expensive to purchase as well as screen and tend to appear on garments in boutiques.
Other methods of decoration used on T-shirts include airbrush, applique, embroidery, impressing or embossing, and the ironing on of either flock lettering, heat transfers, or dye-sublimation transfers. Laser printers are capable of printing on plain paper using a special toner containing sublimation dyes which can then be permanently heat-transferred to T-shirts.
In the 1980s, thermochromatic dyes were used to produce T-shirts that changed color when subjected to heat. The Global Hypercolour brand of these was a common sight on the streets of the UK for a few years, but has since mostly disappeared. These were also very popular in the United States among teenagers in the late 1980s. A downside of color-change garments is that the dyes can easily be damaged, especially by washing in warm water, or dye other clothes during washing.
Tie dye originated in India, Japan and Africa as early as the sixth century. Some forms of tie dye used are called Bandhani (the oldest known technique)used in Indian cultures, and Shibori primarily used in Japanese cultures. It was not until the 1960s that the style of tie dye was introduced to America during the hippie movement, a time when the Vietnam War was being heavily protested. Before the hippie movement Rit dye was known as a hobby for older women. Other methods of designing shirts include using paints, markers, fabric transfer crayons, dyes, spray paint, and many more. Some techniques that can be used include sponging, stenciling, saubing, stamping, screen printing, bleaching, and many more.
Screen printed T-shirts have been a standard form of marketing for major consumer products, such as Coca-Cola and Mickey Mouse, since the 1970s. However, since the 1990s, it has become common practice for companies of all sizes to produce T-shirts with their corporate logos or messages as part of their overall advertising campaigns. Since the late 1980s and especially the 1990s, T-shirts with prominent designer-name logos have become popular, especially with teenagers and young adults. These garments allow consumers to flaunt their taste for designer brands in an inexpensive way, in addition to being decorative. Examples of designer T-shirt branding include Calvin Klein, FUBU, Ralph Lauren, American Apparel and The Gap. These examples also include representations of rock bands, among other obscure pop-culture references. Licensed T-shirts are also extremely popular. Movie and TV T-shirts can have images of the actors, logos, and funny quotes from the movie or TV show. Often, the most popular T-shirts are those that characters wore in the film itself (e.g., Bubba Gump from Forrest Gump and Vote For Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite). Designer Katharine Hamnett, in the early 1980s, pioneered outsize T-shirts with large-print slogans. The early first decade of the 21st century saw the renewed popularity of T-shirts with slogans and designs with a strong inclination to the humorous and/or ironic. The trend has only increased later in this decade, embraced by celebrities, such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, and reflected back on them, too ('Team Aniston'). The political and social statements that T-shirts often display have become, since the first decade of the 21st century, one of the reasons that they have so deeply permeated different levels of culture and society. The statements also may be found to be offensive, shocking, or pornographic to some. Many different organizations have caught on to the statement-making trend, including chain and independent stores, websites, and schools. A popular phrase on the front of T-shirts demonstrating T-shirts' popularity among tourists is the humorous phrase "I did _____ and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." Examples include "My parents went to Las Vegas and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." T-shirt exchange is an activity where people trade their T-shirts they are wearing.
The current holder of the Guinness World Record for "Most T-shirts Worn at Once" with 257 T-shirts is Sanath Bandara. The record was set in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on December 22, 2011. The record was attempted on stage in front of a crowd of people in a public park in Colombo. Bandara surpassed previous record-holder Hwang Kwanghee from South Korea, who had held the record at 252 shirts.
- Concert T-shirt
- Football kit
- Inkjet transfer
- Long-sleeved T-shirt
- Polo shirt
- Printed T-shirt
- Protest art
- Raglan sleeve
- Wet T-shirt contest
- List of censored T-shirts
- Harris, Alice. The White T. HarperCollins, 1996.
- "A Streetcar Named Desire - AMC filmsite". Filmsite.org. 1947-12-03. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
- crew neck, raglan, ringers, tanks, babydoll, spaghetti strap, V neck, A-shirts, camisole, polo,
- Sally Larsen with Neeli Cherkovski, Japlish, Pomegranate Art Books, San Francisco, 1993, ISBN 1-56640-454-1
- Monster T-SHIRT ART, Monster Corporation catalog #3, Mill Valley 1974
- The Most Famous Statement T-Shirts by SoJones Asmara, September 10, 2009
- File:The Rolling Stones Tongue Logo.png
- Taylor, Carol. The Great T-shirt Book!: Make Your Own Spectacular, One-of-a-kind Designs. New York: Sterling Pub., 1992. Print.
- "Most T-shirts worn at once". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2012-05-01.
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