Why T-Shirt Is Called T-Shirt

Why T-Shirt Is Called T-Shirt Fun Fact

Have you ever wondered Why t-shirt is called t-shirt? How did the t-shirt become an iconic staple in American fashion and culture? Originally designed as a bra, the t-shirt has morphed into the industry’s most popular – and most powerful – item.

Let’s learn the history of t-shirts and answer the question of why t-shirt is called t-shirt through this reading.

What’s T-Shirt?

A T-shirt (also spelled tee shirt), or tee, is a style of fabric shirt named after the T shape of its body and sleeves. Traditionally, it has short sleeves and a round neckline, known as a crew neck, which lacks a collar. T-shirts are generally made of a stretchy, light, and inexpensive fabric and are easy to clean. The T-shirt evolved from undergarments used in the 19th century and, in the mid-20th century, transitioned from undergarment to general-use casual clothing.

They are typically made of cotton textile in a stockinette or jersey knit, which has a distinctively pliable texture compared to shirts made of woven cloth. Some modern versions have a body made from a continuously knitted tube, produced on a circular knitting machine, 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.

What's T-Shirt
What’s T-Shirt? Why T-Shirt Is Called T-Shirt?

The Origin Of The T-Shirt

The T-shirt as we know it today is an apparel staple. The simple garment is so deeply ingrained in world culture that it’s easy to forget that, relatively speaking, the t-shirt itself is quite young.

The origins of the t-shirt date back to the late 19th century, when laborers would cut their jumpsuits in half to keep cool in warmer months of the year.

The first manufactured t-shirt was invented between the Spanish-American War in 1898, and 1913 when the U.S. Navy began issuing them as standard undershirts.

Even then, it took until 1920 for the actual term “t-shirt” to be inducted into the English dictionary, thanks to F. Scott Fitzgerald being the first person to publish the word in his novel This Side of Paradise.

“So early in September Amory,” writes Fitzgerald, “provided with ‘six suits summer underwear, six suits winter underwear, one sweater or T-shirt, one jersey, one overcoat, winter, etc,’ set out for New England, the land of schools.”

The Origin Of The T-Shirt
Why T-Shirt Is Called T-Shirt? The Origin Of The T-Shirt

Why T-Shirt Is Called T-Shirt

The truth is that the t-shirt has been around a long time, and no one knows its exact origins.

The following are two popular theories.

One idea is this: Men working on the docks at Annapolis, Maryland, in the late 1600s unloaded a great deal of tea.

The simple shirts they wore became known as “tea shirts,” later shorted simply to “T-shirts.”

The second theory comes from across the pond, in the Royal Navy.

Navy men wearing the equivalent of tank tops offended the British Royal Family who insisted they cover their arms enough to hide their armpits.

The shirts looked like “T’s” in comparison to the old tanks and so were dubbed “T shirts.”

Why T-Shirt Is Called T-Shirt
Why T-Shirt Is Called T-Shirt

What’s The Difference Between A Shirt And A T-shirt?

A T-shirt can be called a shirt. A shirt cannot be called a t-shirt (tee).

A shirt is a tailored garment. It usually has a collar, buttons down the front, sleeves with cuffs that buttons. They are a little stiff but attractive and worn for business and pleasure.

A tee is very comfortable. They are soft and made of cotton, bamboo, polyester. They have a hole for your head to go through. They have short sleeves or long sleeves. Women’s tee are tailored to allow proper bustline fit and curves.

One fun thing is tees that are used to advertise, businesses, music, causes and just about anything. The classic tee is the white shirt sleeve tee worn with blue jeans. This is an iconic American outfit.

Graphic T-shirts And The Birth Of T-shirt Printers

By the time the 1950s rolled around, a number of companies in Miami, Florida began experimenting with garment decoration, but the field was still far from what would later turn into a multi-billion dollar industry of t-shirt printing.

Thomas E. Dewey, a Republican presidential candidate, created what was perhaps the first ever slogan t-shirt with his “Do it with Dewey” campaign, but outside of that, there were not many instances of embellished t-shirts.

Later in the 1950s though, one of the aforementioned printing companies, known then by the name Tropix Togs, held the original license to print Walt Disney characters. Around this time people began to realize the profit that was to be made in graphic t-shirts, and in the 1960s, innovations to the print field, including the birth of screen printing, would help turn the t-shirt industry into what it is today.

Graphic T-shirts And The Birth Of T-shirt Printers
Why T-Shirt Is Called T-Shirt? Graphic T-shirts And The Birth Of T-shirt Printers

“The Medium For The Message”

Though graphic t-shirts and t-shirt printing began in the 1950s and 1960s, it wasn’t until the ’70s that t-shirts became the powerful messaging platform that we know them as today. For this, we can thank the punk movement.

Rising popularity in rock band logos, along with protests of the Vietnam War, really helped solidify the t-shirt as a messaging platform. It was “about shocking and outraging people and challenging the status quo,” says Nothdruft.

The New York Times perhaps said it best, when the rise of the graphic t-shirt lead them to name it “the medium for the message.”

Nothdruft, in his description of the exhibit, calls the t-shirt a “blank canvas … [that] associates you with a specific cultural movement or tribe.”

Certainly, the t-shirt’s fluid nature plays a part in its wide appeal. A blank canvas, a t-shirt can be seen as high fashion or casual wear, disruptive or unassuming, all depending on how you wear it.

T-shirts proved to be a preferred medium for sharing messages ranging from rebellious to playful and everything in between. We’re sure you love your t-shirts too. Annabel Rosendahl hopes that, through this reading, you will better understand the history of why t-shirt is called t-shirt. Additionally, we print super soft custom t-shirts that people love to wear and talk about, and we want to help you spread your message around the world.


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