History of the T-Shirt

marlonbrando_historyofteesWe at UberPrints acknowledge that custom t-shirts haven’t always been as popular as they are now. In fact, t-shirts were once only used for outdoor activities and collecting dirt. But, as we all know, shirts have come a long way since then, and now they’re some of the coolest, most beloved shirts around. But, that one (or more) beloved t-shirt you still wear every day wouldn’t have even been a cool thing to begin with had it not been for a few progressive events in, fairly recent, history. The history of t-shirts is pretty interesting so we’re here to let you know exactly what makes that t-shirt of yours so special.


Back in the early 1900s, it all started with thick union suits, hot weather, and uncomfort. (A weird start for the comfiness we associate with t-shirts today!) The chunky union suits were cut in half to accommodate the rough conditions. But t-shirts, cleverly named after their shape, arrived designed with a lighter fabric for working in hotter conditions. Workers adopted t-shirts as their uniforms, and the navy followed suit, wearing them as undergarments with their uniforms.


Where do custom t-shirts come in? In 1939 the Wizard of Oz released a limited edition promo tee worn by Oz workers in the movie and hype began for custom t-shirts. In 1942, Tropix Tags followed this trend by releasing a Mickey Mouse shirt. Let more insanity ensue.


But everything truly changed with cool kid Marlon Brando. In the 1951 movie Streetcar Named Desire, Brando wore a plain white tee as a stylish accessory to his equally stylish teenage rebellion. Undershirts no more, t-shirts were the epitome of rebellion and everybody wanted to be Marlon Brando.


Following this, youth rock culture began to emerge and the popularity of printed rock tees and ringer tees arrived in tow. Political protest shirts, Grateful Dead shirts, and the classic yellow happy face were some of the earlier custom tees. Milton Glaser started the “I Love NY” shirts that are still sold on street-side stands for tourists to buy.


Thank you, Marlon Brando. Thank you, Wizard of Oz. Thank you, rock music.


I guess you could say that we at UberPrints are pretty fond of t-shirts. We can only hope that you are too. Haven’t printed one in a while? Well, let’s start this journey together.


Image © 1951, Streetcar Named Desire

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