I am a T-Shirt. You can say that the tale of my beginnings is as long as my arm. Perhaps you think that this is pretty short but in fact it is quite a long one, like my arm was once and is now sometimes. It is a pity that Charles Darwin was not around when I began life in this world or he would’ve been tremendously engrossed in my evolution.
I began life as a unassuming piece of clothe, buried under a layer and sometimes layers of clothing that a man wore. I spent my life out of sight, drenched in his sweat, either due to his toils or due to the weather or just because of a little metabolic oddity that he had. Sometimes some primeval fear made him sweat.
I was not known as a T-Shirt then, but as only a piece of undergarment. The idea of underwear did not in reality takeoff till the early 20th. century when P.H. Hanes, the brother of John Wesley Hanes, started the P.H. Hanes Knitting Company, in 1901; and began the production of masculine underwear. It was the U.S. Navy that actually accelerated my development when, during the Second World War, it issued my forerunner, a dress with a round neck and short sleeves having an appearance of a “T” (hence the T-Shirt).
Although I was still thought of as an undergarment, the news bulletins from the European war theatre showed me being dressed in the open by the European soldiers, to beat the heat and sultry Men’s Desgin City Under Big Tree Short Sleeve T-Shirt European atmosphere. But, as it happens all the time, Hollywood walked in to make me more accepted as an apparel on my own rights. I, a T-Shirt, became to be taken note of and fashionable by the 50s when I was seen on the big screen, worn by Marlon Brando in the movie “A Streetcar Named Desire” followed by James Dean in the film “Rebel Without a Cause”. The more I appeared on the silver screen the more my reputation grew as a T-Shirt. I became a national phenomenon.
From then on my growth was unparalleled. Everybody was wearing me. I was considered cool – literally and symbolically. My past even had political overtones and the Smithsonian Institute proudly possesses one of the earliest printed T-Shirt on record, stamped with the slogan “Dew-IT with Dewey” on it and used in the 1948 Presidential campaign of New York’s Governor Thomas E. Dewey.
Throughout my history as a T-Shirt, I have been used for endorsing various causes. At first I carried just messages. Political messages. The Vietnam War saw me carrying protests.
The invention of Plastisol (1950), a more stretchable and resilient ink made me a more flexible medium of almost any sort of written or graphical statement. Jokes, gags, graphics, you name it and all of them have materialized on me, a simple T-Shirt. As printing technology developed I became even more graphical. Mass production methods just edged me on the more.
Now I have marched into cyberspace and you can have me personalized with almost anything you wish. There is a adage that every dress says something a propos the wearer, but none speak as much as I, a T-Shirt, does. I, a T-Shirt, am a great product.