History of the T-shirt

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Early prototypes of the T-shirt emerged as an undergarment during World War I, although accunts of its origin vary -- some sources peg it to the "light undershirts" worn by U.S. Navy sailors starting in 1913; others say they were worn by European soldiers during the hot summers and were the envy of American troops clad in wool uniforms.

Whatever the case, the T-shirt became an official word when it was included in Merriam-Webster's dictionary in the 1920s.

Jockey International Inc. developed what became the modern T-shirt in 1932, at the request of the University of Southern California Trojans football team. Officials were looking for an inexpensive undergarment to absorb sweat and to prevent a player's shoulder pads from causing chafing.

The Smithsonian museum has one of the oldest printed T-shirts on record in its collection: a campaign shirt for New York Gov. Thomas Dewey's 1948 presidential campaign -- "Dew it with Dewey."

The T-shirt became a status symbol by the 1950s when it was worn by such icons as James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause" and Marlon Brando in "A Streetcar Named Desire."

If you've ever wondered how many T-shirts one person can wear at a time, just ask Aaron Waltke, 22, a recent graduate of Indiana University in Bloomington. In December, he broke the Guinness Book of World Records of most T-shirts worn by a man at one time: 160. He bested Matt McAllister, a radio DJ in Santa Barbara, Calif., who in September put on 155 shirts (four hours and more than 100 pounds). You can see Mr. McAllister's challenge on YouTube.com.

And in the latest innovation, T-shirts are now sporting Philips' Lumalive technology. They were on display during last month's Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas. The technology features flexible arrays of colored LEDs that are integrated directly into the cloth. You can see this, too, at YouTube.com.



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