History Of The T-Shirt: Origin And Invention

History Of The T-Shirt: Origin And Invention

T-shirts are the canvas for self-expression. Whether the t-shirt features your favourite quote or band photo, they convey more than we realise. From graphic tees to plain classics, we all don one. But have you ever wondered when was the first T shirt made, about its origin, and the term "T-shirt/ Tshirt itself? 

It began with union suits, sliced in half, and underwent changes to become what we wear today. In this journey, we'll uncover the fascinating history of T shirts, tracing their evolution from simple undergarments to iconic statements of style and personality. 

Join us as we explore the roots of the T-shirts and their role in our lives.


A] Origin Of T shirt

For the history of the T-shirt, we should look back at ancient times when men and women wore a t-shirt-like garment called a Tunic. Tunics were loose-fitting sleeveless garments that covered the upper body and reached the knees or ankles. Tunics were traditionally worn by ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. 

Fast forward to the 19th century, chemiloons emerged as a combination of women’s drawers and chemise. This underwear was further developed to suit men and called a union or combined suit. Its design was like a onesie. With the top and bottom joined, full-length and buttons from the neck to the waist. According to a piece in the catalogue of Sears-Roebuck in 1902, these undergarments had fleece on the inside. So, union suits were ideal for winter. Although lighter cotton variants were used for summers, it was mandatory to wear a shirt over it. Frustrated with the heat, workers split the union suit into two. Separating the top and tucking it into the bottom to suit the harsh weather. This led to the formation of t-shaped undershirts, or what we know today as long johns.

Gradually, in 1904, Different types of t-shirts for men were sold as Bachelor’s undershirts by Cooper Underwear Company. 


B] How Did The T-shirt Get Its Name?

Undershirts were introduced in the US Navy as standard underwear for sailors in 1913. Undershirts were made to be worn under sailor jackets but sailors working in the engine room wore only undershirts while working in harsh conditions.

When the Second World War began, the military issued t-shirts as a part of the uniforms. T-shirts were perfect for military conditions due to their lightweight and easy-to-wash nature. So the soldiers started using them apart from the uniform. Even after the end of the Second World War, soldiers continued to wear them as casual outer garments. This popularised them further among the civilians.

Post the first world war the word T-shirt first appeared in print.  In the novel ‘This Side Of Paradise’ written by F. Scott Fitzgerald an American writer, the word T-shirt was used for an item packed by the character. It was due to the T-shaped form of the t-shirt. But it was still an undershirt.


C] When Did T Shirts Became Popular?

T-shirts have always been the go-to item for sports as they are lightweight and easy to move in. In 1932, football players wore them first at the University of South California. Which popularised T-shirts among the students.

The mid-twenties gave t-shirts the rebellion tag. The veterans made it a common occurrence to wear t-shirts tucked into military trousers. Yet, it was unusual for everyone to wear it as an outer garment. That was until Marlon Brando emerged in the ‘50s with his role in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. His looks in the film, mostly a t-shirt tucked in trousers, became iconic. Soon after, James Dean popped up on the screen with a t-shirt in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’, which, after Marlon Brando, followed to be the symbol of rebellion. As T-shirts weren’t recognised as an outer garment.

After t-shirts were popularised by Brando and Dean, tie-dyed t-shirts rose during the counterculture, hippie movement. Tie-dyed t-shirts were once a symbol of self-expression and values like freedom, peace and love. As music represented the same values, tie-dyed t-shirts were worn at music festivals as a form of expression. If you’re going to a music festival now, you can easily Buy Men's T-shirts Online in India and embrace the spirit of self-expression.


D] Rise Of Graphic Tees 

If you ever wondered about a casual advertising plan, then think about a brand logo on a plain white shirt. The more people you see wearing it, the more you’re curious about the brand so you try it out. That’s the magic of designs. With the rise in screen printing, making graphic tees was easy. Plain white t-shirts became a canvas to get across messages. It was louder than speaking because it was visual so it stuck. Various bands like The Rolling Stones, sold graphic tees at stadiums. Even now, merch sold by artists include graphic tees. Some actors still wear vintage graphic t-shirts as a part of their style. That’s How vintage graphic t-shirt became a status symbol.  


E] T-Shirts In Politics 

If you open an Instagram hashtag to some political protest, you will come across people wearing t-shirts with slogans and hashtags printed on them. Thousands of people carried flags and boards with ‘Black Lives Matter’ printed on them during the resurgence of the movement three years back. Other people wore a black T-shirt with the words on them. 

If we extend the use of tees, they have always been a part of protest and activism. If you want to say you’re against something without actually saying it then a plain Black T-shirt will do the job right. If there’s a march for peace, you can pick a white T-shirt. Or if you’re a feminist activist you can wear a purple t-shirt with some quote on it. Colours tell a lot about you.


F] Evolution To What T-Shirts Are Now

The origin of T-shirt goes back to Tunics. A simple chemiloon made to replace the corsets women wore underneath the gowns formed the t-shirts we wear now. The significant change from union suits to undershirts, and now t-shirts is quite striking. Moreover, they aren’t just plain round necks anymore. You can get a White Polo T-shirt, a Raglan sleeve T-shirt, and even a simple tee suited to your taste and occasion. The technological revolution has made it easy to customise T-shirts according to our tastes. The customisation of t-shirts has been advantageous to music bands. Famous bands sometimes contribute to fundraisers with the help of such merch.

If we focus more on its casual use then everyone wears t-shirts in day-to-day life. Be it a plain white tee, or a graphic tee. Black t-shirts are rocking everyone’s wardrobe as we can pair them with anything. The best part about t-shirts is they aren’t gender or age-specific. Men and women can wear them alike. And no one ever cringed at a little girl wearing a t-shirt of her favourite Barbie movie. Hence, you can always rely on a T-shirt when you find nothing better in your closet. 



A graphic tee, or a plain white t-shirt, both express something in their own way. Even if it’s some old t-shirt from supporting your favourite football team. It says something. It can range from advertising to politics and everything in between. What we consider as a normal clothing item, has evolved to fit into our wardrobes easily. Be it a form of self-expression or not, no one will ever really stop wearing t-shirts. Unless it’s some kind of t-shirt apocalypse, which is seemingly unlikely to happen. The T-shirts have existed too long and are too comfortable to give up. So if you’re looking to shop for some casual clothes for men, visit the store and get a comfy t-shirt.

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