T-shirt (or t shirt, or tee) is a style of unisex fabric shirt named
after the T shape of its body and sleeves. It normally has short
sleeves and a round neckline, known as a crew neck, which lacks a
collar. T-shirts are generally made of a light, inexpensive fabric and
are easy to clean.
Typically made of cotton textile in a stockinette or jersey knit, it
has a distinctively pliable texture compared to shirts made of woven
cloth. Most modern versions have a body made from a continuously woven
tube, produced on a circular loom, such that the torso has no side
seams. The manufacture of T-shirts has become highly automated and may
include cutting fabric with a laser or a water jet.
T-shirt evolved from undergarments used in the 19th century and,
in the mid-20th century, transitioned from undergarment to general-use
T-shirt has a V-shaped neckline, as opposed to the round
neckline of the more common crew neck shirt (also called a U-neck).
V-necks were introduced so that the neckline of the shirt does not
show when worn beneath an outer shirt, as would that of a crew neck
4 Screen printing
5 Tie dye
6 Heat transfer vinyl
7 Other methods
9 Expressive messages
10 World record
12 See also
US Merchant Marine sailor in 1944
T-shirt evolved from undergarments used in the 19th century.
First, the one-piece union suit underwear was cut into separate top
and bottom garments, with the top long enough to tuck under the
waistband of the bottoms. With and without buttons, they were adopted
by miners and stevedores during the late 19th century as a convenient
covering for hot environments.
As slip-on garments without buttons, the earliest
T-shirt dates back
to sometime between the 1898
Spanish–American War and 1913, when the
U.S. Navy began issuing them as undergarments. 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.
They 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 those reasons it
became the shirt of choice for young boys. Boys' shirts were made in
various colors and patterns. The word
T-shirt became part of American
English by the 1920s, and appeared in the Merriam-Webster
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. Following World War II, it was worn by Navy
men as undergarments and slowly became common to see veterans wearing
their uniform trousers with their T-shirts as casual clothing. 
The shirts became even more popular in the 1950s after Marlon Brando
wore one in A Streetcar Named Desire, finally achieving status as
fashionable, stand-alone, outerwear garments. Often boys wore them
while doing chores and playing outside, eventually opening up the idea
of wearing them as general-purpose casual clothing.
Printed T-shirts were in limited use by 1942 when an Air Corps Gunnery
T-shirt appeared on the cover of Life magazine. In the 1960s,
printed T-shirts gained popularity for self-expression as well for
advertisements, protests, and souvenirs.
Current versions are available in many different designs and fabrics,
and styles include crew-neck and V-neck shirts. T-shirts are among the
most worn garments of clothing used today. T-shirts are especially
popular with branding for companies or merchandise, as they are
inexpensive to make and purchase.
T-shirts with bold slogans were popular in the UK in the 1980s.
T-shirts were originally worn as undershirts, but are now worn
frequently as the only piece of clothing on the top half of the body,
other than possibly a brassiere or, rarely, a waistcoat (vest).
T-shirts have also become a medium for self-expression and
advertising, with any imaginable combination of words, art and
photographs on display.
T-shirt typically extends to the waist. Variants of the T-shirt,
such as the V-neck, have been developed.
Hip hop fashion
Hip hop fashion calls for
tall-T shirts which may extend down to the knees. A similar item is
T-shirt dress or T-dress, a dress-length
T-shirt that can be worn
without pants. Long T-shirts are also sometimes worn by women as
nightgowns. A 1990s trend in women's clothing involved tight-fitting
T-shirt or crop tops short enough to reveal the midriff.
Another less popular trend is wearing a short-sleeved
T-shirt of a
contrasting color over a long-sleeved T-shirt, which is known as
layering. T-shirts that are tight to the body are called fitted,
tailored or baby doll T-shirts.
The rise of online shopping in the early to mid-2000s caused a
proliferation of new
T-shirt ideas and trends. While several
brick-and-mortar chains included these items in their inventories,
many of these shirts were pioneered by online start-ups. Innovations
included the flip-up T-shirt, which the wearer can lift and stretch
over their head to display an interior print, and all-over print
With the rise of social media and video sharing sites also came
numerous tutorials on DIY
T-shirt projects. These videos typically
provided instructions on how to modify an old shirt into a new, more
Comic book creator
Valerie D'Orazio wearing a decorated Catwoman
T-shirt in 2008
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 licensee for Walt Disney
characters in 1976 including
Mickey Mouse and Davy Crockett. Later,
other companies expanded into the
T-shirt printing business, including
Sherry Manufacturing Company, also based in Miami. Sherry, was founded
in 1948 by its owner and founder Quentin H. Sandler as a screen
Souvenir Scarf's to the souvenir resort market. Shortly,
the company evolved into one of the largest screen printed resort and
licensed apparel companies in the United States. The company now
(2108) runs automatic Screen Print presses and produces up to 10,000
to 20,000 T Shirts each day. The CEO Scott Coltune is the 3rd
Generation of the family business. The company was named Sherry Mfg.
after Quentin's first Daughter Sherry Sandler.
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 printed large and in color on T-shirts featuring images of Cesar
Chavez, political cartoons, and other cultural icons in an article in
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times magazine in late 1969 (ironically, the clothing
company quickly cancelled the experimental line, fearing there would
not be a market). In the late 1960s, Richard Ellman, Robert Tree, Bill
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 the 1960s were
T-shirts bearing the face of
Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
Today, many notable and memorable T-shirts produced in the 1970s have
become ensconced in pop culture. Examples include the bright yellow
happy face T-shirts,
The Rolling Stones
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
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.
In 1959, the invention of plastisol provided an ink more durable and
stretchable than water-based ink, allowing much more variety in
T-shirt designs. Very few companies continue to use water-based inks
on their shirts. The majority of companies that create shirts prefer
plastisol due to the ability to print on varying colors without the
need for color adjustment at the art level.
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
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
An example of a tie-dyed T-shirt
Tie dye originated in India, Japan, Jamaica, and Africa as early as
the sixth century. Some forms of tie dye are
Bandhani (the oldest
known technique) used in Indian cultures, and
Shibori primarily used
in Japanese cultures. It was not until the 1960s that tie dye was
introduced to America during the hippie movement, a time when the
Vietnam War was being heavily protested.
Heat transfer vinyl
Another form of
T-shirt decoration is heat transfer vinyls. These
allow people to make short runs of printed shirts using plotter cut
vinyl that they can then heat press onto the garment. They are made in
a multitude of colors, patterns, and styles.
Also as home crafting kits are now available, social media has allowed
the creation of bespoke designs including phrases and images.
Before the hippie movement
Rit Dye was known as a hobby for older
women. Other methods of decorating shirts include using paints,
markers, fabric transfer crayons, dyes, spray paint, and many more.
Some techniques that can be used include sponging, stenciling,
daubing, stamping, screen printing, bleaching, and many more. As
technology advances, it offers more experimentations and possibilities
for designers and artists to seek for innovative techniques with their
T-shirts. Rumplo, a site cofounded by Sahadeva Hammari, a startup
t-shirt site that used to designed and carried over 13,000 T-shirts.
Their designs used multiple futuristic techniques, such as
glow-in-the-dark inks, heat-sensitive fabrics, foil printing to
all-over printing. Designers like Robert Geller, a German-born
American fashion designer, came out a secondary collection, Seconds
featuring oversized graphic t-shirts made from supersoft jersey.
Alexander Wang, on the other hand, came out with variations of
t-shirts from oversized scoop necks, tanks to striped, slouchy rayon
jerseys. Artist like Terence Koh, took a different approach, with
t-shirts featuring an upside down portrait with a real bullet hole
hand finished by him for the Soho store Opening Ceremony.
Dye-sublimation printing is a direct-to-garment digital printing
technology using full color artwork to transfer images to polyester
and polymer-coated substrate based T-shirts.
commonly referred to as all-over printing) came into widespread use in
the 21st century, enabling some designs previously impossible.
Printing with unlimited colors using large
CMYK printers with special
paper and ink is possible, unlike screen printing which requires
screens for each color of the design. All-over print T-shirts have
solved the problem with color fading and the vibrancy is higher than
most standard printing methods, but requires synthetic fabrics for the
ink to take hold. The key feature of dye-sublimated clothing is that
the design is not printed on top of the garment, but permanently dyed
into the threads of the shirt, ensuring that it will never fade.
Dye-sublimation is economically viable for small-quantity printing;
the unit cost is similar for short or long production runs. Screen
printing has higher setup costs, requiring large numbers to be
produced to be cost-effective, and the unit cost is higher.[citation
Solid ink is changed into a gas without passing through a liquid phase
(sublimation), using heat and pressure. The design is first produced
in a computer image file format such as jpg, gif, png, or any other.
It is printed on a purpose-made computer printer (as of 2016[update]
most commonly Epson or Ricoh brands) using large heat presses to
vaporize the ink directly into the fabric. By mid-2012 this method had
become widely used for T-shirts.
T-shirt with the description: I'm not a tomboy — I'm
just better than you.
Since the 1980s, T-shirts have flourished as a form of personal
Screen printed T-shirts have been a standard form of
marketing for major American consumer products, such as
Mickey Mouse, since the 1970s. It has also been commonly used to
commemorate an event, or to make a political or personal statement.
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
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 quotations
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. Examples of T-
Shirt stores and designers known
for using offensive and shocking messages include T-
Shirt Hell and
Apollo Braun. 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 the popularity
of T-shirts 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 the T-shirts that they are wearing.
Artists like Bill Beckley, Glen Baldridge and
Peter Klashorst use
T-shirts in their work. Models such as
Victoria Beckham and Gisele
Bundchen wore T-shirts through the 2000s. Paris
Fashion Week 2014
featured a grunge style T-shirt. Contemporary
like Balmain and Street People Atelier produce new styles of T-shirts.
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.
A crew-neck T-shirt.
A modern-day woman wearing a brown t-shirt.
Kit (association football)
Animal print T-shirt
^ "Crew neck". Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
^ "Sweaters Go Bulky". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 25 August 1957.
p. 2. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
^ Kirby, Michael B. (Spring 2008). "90th IDPG History of the T-shirt
During WW2". 90th Infantry Division Preservation Group. Retrieved 2
^ a b "History of the T-shirt". Tee Fetch.
^ a b c Harris, Alice. The White T. HarperCollins, 1996.
Marlon Brando to Kendall Jenner, 27 of the Best Classic White
T-Shirts Ever". Vogue. Retrieved 2017-05-23.
^ "A Streetcar Named Desire – AMC filmsite". Filmsite.org.
1947-12-03. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
^ a b
Sally Larsen with Neeli Cherkovski, Japlish, Pomegranate Art
Books, San Francisco, 1993, ISBN 1-56640-454-1
^ Cumming, Valerie; C. W. Cunnington & P. E. Cunnington (2010).
The Dictionary of
Fashion History. Berg Publishers. p. 211.
^ "31 T-
Shirt DIYs That Are Perfect For Summer". Buzzfeed.com.
Retrieved 1 July 2016.
T-shirt ART, Monster Corporation catalog #3, Mill Valley
^ The Most Famous Statement T-shirts by SoJones Asmara, September 10,
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones Tongue Logo.png
^ Steve Rhodes. "
CMYK Printing". ImpressionzPrinting.com.
CMYK is a
widely used technique to replicate full-color images on light colored
backgrounds. The full-color process originated to accurately reproduce
artwork on white paper.
^ Huston, Lance. "Subject: Re: chino ink??". ScreenPrinters.Net.
Archived from the original on 23 September 2013. Retrieved 13 January
2018. Chino is a special Rutland INK BASE mixing system.… While on
the surface it looks similar to a reduced base, it does have a unique
print quality to it that offers a waterbase feel, without the hassles
of waterbase inks.
^ a b "Peace, Love and Tie-Dye". Iml.jou.ufl.edu. Retrieved 31 October
^ Taylor, Carol. The Great T-
Shirt Book!: Make Your Own Spectacular,
One-of-a-kind Designs. New York: Sterling Pub., 1992. Print.
Shirt by Darwin". NYMag.com. Retrieved 2017-05-23.
^ "Bullet Hole Tees: Terence Koh's Capsule T-
Shirt Collection for
Opening Ceremony". TrendHunter.com. Retrieved 2017-05-23.
^ "About Us and FAQs (read dis) – Shirtwascash". Shirtwascash.
^ Pieri, Kerry (2013-10-03). "Street style: Paris fashion week 2014".
Archived from the original on 2014-05-30. Retrieved 2018-03-13.
^ "Most T-shirts worn at once". Guinness World Records. Retrieved
Look up t-shirt in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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