What is a t-shirt

The T-shirt - the history and meaning of a piece of clothing

Everyone loves them and everyone has several of them in their closet - t-shirts! Hardly any other item of clothing is so versatile, so uncomplicated, so inexpensive and so much an object of desire as the T-shirt. T-shirts bring casualness and style into everyday life. In business they stand for dynamism and modernity, in clubs for the desire to dance, the refusal to submit to fashionable laws and are a commitment to youth culture. The classic t-shirt wearer is just as rare as the typical t-shirt wearer. Parents put their babies in tiny shirts with funny prints. Children wear t-shirts all their school life. Youngsters show in their T-shirts that they don't even think about running around as boring as the stuffy adults. But more and more young parents, their mid-forties and seniors are proving that they look good in T-shirts, are active and just want to take a more relaxed approach to life.

About sport, fun and style

When is the perfect time for a t-shirt? The answer is: always! T-shirts are great for playing sports. From jogging to Zumba to strength training, close-fitting T-shirts made of elastic fibers are ideal for a wide range of sports. But the boundaries between sportswear and casual wear are blurring more and more. It has long been no problem to go to the bar, to the club and even to the theater in a T-shirt and sneakers. Sportswear has become an integral part of most people's everyday clothing. The T-shirt can also be stylishly styled. If you want and have the necessary change, you can buy designer shirts worth several thousand euros. Young girls in particular, on the other hand, rely on extremely cheap T-shirts, which they buy in the shops of the trendy textile giants at bargain prices and discard after a season. With a little skill and some pretty accessories, the T-shirt can be enchanted into a stylish piece of clothing with which a lady can easily survive in the office.

People in T-shirts are everywhere today. The T-shirt concept, which promises every fashion lover to look good for little money and with little effort, is too convincing. It wasn't long ago that T-shirts were considered improper and that men and women only wore them as underwear.

Many roads lead to the T-shirt - the history and origin of your favorite piece of clothing

There are numerous theories about the origin of the T-shirt. Some of them seem daring even to fashion experts and historians. Others sound plausible, but cannot be adequately proven. What is clear is that the history of the T-shirt goes back a long way.

From ancient Egypt to modern times

When is a t-shirt a t-shirt? In order to find out in which age the history of the T-shirt begins, it is imperative to answer this question. It can be assigned to the outer clothing, has half an arm and a V or round neckline. Most of today's t-shirts are made of pure cotton. In addition, materials such as silk, viscose and exotic items such as leather or even latex also have their place. Lore from ancient civilizations suggests that more than 2000 years ago people wore clothes that were somewhat similar to today's T-shirts. Researchers found papyrus drawings and paintings on pyramids, which suggest that the history of the T-shirt goes back to the time of the Egyptians. It was a long way from the colorful camisoles of slaves and pharaohs to the everyday clothing of modern people. For many centuries the T-shirt disappeared under the outerwear of farmers, princes and clergy.

Sailors, tea and military

Women have always known that sailors look outrageously good. Even if seafaring has lost its romance, sailors in snow-white suits and with their pretty hats are a real feast for the eyes. Seafarers play a not insignificant role in the history of the T-shirt. At the end of the 19th century, English sailors wore white woolen undershirts under their blouses. To cover up tattoos and excessive body hair, the Royal Navy insisted on putting short sleeves on shirts. But the woolen underwear remained unpopular with the sailors: They itched terribly and those who dared to fight sweat tremendously. So it came about that after the First World War the woolen undershirts had to give way to models made of light cotton. In the military, too, soldiers were happy about the abolition of wool undershirts in favor of lighter cotton shirts.

With the development of the knitting machine in the years 1860-64, the English inventor William Cotton created the conditions for the inexpensive mass production of cotton shirts. Circular knitting machines first enabled the automatic production of stockings and then the production of seamless shirts. The new underwear soon completely replaced the one-pieces that men and women had to wear for centuries.

The cotton undershirt was elevated to a T-shirt (tea shirt) for a special reason: According to various accounts, the servants of the English nobility were allowed to wear sleeveless shirts. These should prevent the constant tea stains on butlers' shirts. Whether these anecdotes are true or not - the tea shirt is still occasionally used in English today.

Long live the sport!

The beginning of the 20th century was not only shaped by the tragedies of the First World War and the economic crises. With the advent of modernity, people enjoyed numerous employee rights. The paid vacation was a novelty. For the first time, workers had such a thing as free time that they could use for travel, recreation, and sports. The T-shirt began its triumphant advance as sportswear in rowing. American teams were the first to label their shirts with the numbers and names of their stars. At the latest when Coco Chanel implemented jerseys made of light jersey fabrics in her collection, the T-shirt became a fashion item.

Chewing gum and freedom - how the Second World War brought the T-shirt to its final breakthrough

The T-shirt had its final breakthrough in World War II. American soldiers brought not only nylon stockings and chewing gum to Europe, but freedom and t-shirts too! US soldiers showed what the white cotton shirt is good for: They used it as an undershirt, a white flag and a towel. It took up little luggage space and looked pretty good on tanned men's bodies. Soon, not only in the USA, all men wanted such a piece of clothing.

Anyone who thinks that the mass distribution of the T-shirt has made the item of clothing suitable for the streets is mistaken. Marlon Brando and James Dean, the great movie stars of the 1950s, made the white T-shirt, jeans and leather jackets symbols of an inappropriate, rebellious youth culture. It was not until the seventies, when the adult world had long since surrendered to the youth, that the T-shirt became suitable for the school yard and for everyday use.

From undershirt to universal garment

A T-shirt as a provocation?

A T-shirt rarely causes a stir these days. It is considered a completely normal item of clothing that women and men style with different successes to create fashionable outfits. In the 21st century it is difficult to imagine that the T-shirt was once considered a real provocation.

Is that supposed to be underwear?

Even as underwear, the T-shirt never had it easy. For centuries people wore one-piece camisoles that didn't look really nice and were certainly not hygienic. With the T-shirt as an undershirt, it became compulsory to change and wash clothes regularly. No wonder that these T-shirts initially met with little approval: They meant a lot of work. Today, half-sleeved undershirts are the most normal thing in the world. Men wear them every day under their business shirt. And women also insist on wearing a half-sleeved undershirt, at least on cooler days. The one-piece fashion of yore can only be recognized by bodies that look very attractive on women. Apart from a brief revival in the nineties, men's bodies, on the other hand, have almost disappeared from the public scene.

With flair and function

Soldiers and sailors probably didn't resist when the decision-makers in the armies decided to make the T-shirt part of the standard clothing. The relief to get rid of the itchy, hot wool shirts was too great. The seafarers certainly felt the admiring looks of their female fans, who certainly paid no more attention to the marvelous ships when the navy arrived in port.

The T-shirt became popular as part of military clothing, but was soon able to completely break away from the army image. Today people think of sport rather than war when they see someone in a fashionable t-shirt.

Pop culture: Show me your t-shirt and I'll tell you who you are

The T-shirt plays a central role in pop culture. Thanks to its characteristic T-shape with the relatively short sleeves and a lot of fabric in the middle of the body, it offers a huge projection surface: There are T-shirts with band logos, slogans, political messages and embroidery. There are torn T-shirts, crop tops and transparent models. In short: the T-shirt offers a large area for self-expression. Young people and everyone else who has something to say love t-shirts!

Rebels and rebellion

Marlon Brando and James Dean managed to bring the world to a boil. With languid looks and torso full of muscles, the wild boys succeeded not only in enrapturing the world of women, but also in horror of the establishment. Two guys running along with rude behavior should suddenly have to say what's in? The likeness of James Dean is still a popular T-shirt design today. The hero of yore is symbolic of rebellion and youth culture. He and his famous film colleague Brando have revolutionized the zeitgeist and fashion. For members of the most diverse youth cultures, from mods to punks to rappers, T-shirts are one of the typical outfits of the scene.

Do not hide)!

After the color and the meaning of the T-shirts changed a lot over the decades, the characteristic shape of the garment remained rather the same. In the 1980s, loose t-shirts suddenly became popular. American hip-hop stars wore t-shirts that literally drowned their bulky bodies. But also in the European pop movement the t-shirt got bigger and longer. It went perfectly with the skinny leggings that were in fashion at the time. Most of all, however, teenagers liked the wide shirts. If you didn't want to come to terms with the changes in your body as you grow up and with the rules and norms of the adult world, you could sit in a corner next to the roller skating rink, pull your T-shirt down to your feet and your tender soul in the huge amount of material easy to hide. With the girlie shirts of the nineties, the game of hide-and-seek was over again: under the skin-tight, tailored T-shirts, bosoms and small rolls stand out relentlessly. But the muscles and tattoos of men also come into their own thanks to the tight shirts.

Political messages

It is not always possible to walk around with a flag in hand. If you want to make a political statement, it is best to place it clearly visible on your T-shirt and trumpet on this way out into the world what he or she has to say. Nuclear power opponents, animal rights activists and even supporters of the established parties take advantage of the low price, the large area and the rebellious image of the T-shirt.

Whoever belongs to us wears our t-shirt

In times of streaming services and music / video exchanges, bands hardly make any money from selling sound carriers. In addition to concert tickets, merchandising items such as band shirts have become an important source of income. In addition to all economic considerations, T-shirts with the band logo and artist photos are important for the fans' feeling of togetherness. The band shirt opens the doors of the hip clubs and serves as an entry ticket to a whole world of youth culture!

For creatives and do-gooders - DIY shirts

Creatives and do-gooders also like to lend a hand themselves to create the perfect T-shirt. A classic among the embellishment techniques is batik. For several years now, creative people have been using sewing machines to dress up their children's favorite shirts with scraps of fabric and colorful ribbons. Individually designed T-shirts, such as those offered by PrintPlanet.de, are also enjoying increasing popularity.

So far and no further - the t-shirt zone

Who would have ever thought that a T-shirt zone should be discussed in the HR departments of banks, police and ministries? With the body cult of the new millennium, strength training and body hair removal, the megatrend of tattoos emerged. Almost half of all people under the age of forty are already tattooed today. But bosses and customers are usually not exactly inclined to have large tattoos. That is why the t-shirt zone was created. Tattoos and piercings that are within the confines of an ordinary t-shirt are considered private.

What's next?

How it goes with the T-shirt is open. It is clear that the T-shirt has long been considered a socially accepted all-rounder and seems suitable for every occasion. Perhaps fair trade shirts that fair-paid workers sew under decent conditions will continue to gain in importance. The t-shirt may remain a fashion hit that designers reinvent every season. However, there can be no doubt that the t-shirt will remain up-to-date in any form or combination!

© Bombaert Patrick - Fotolia.com
© Daniel BOITEAU - Fotolia.com
© Eugenio Marongiu - Fotolia.com
© Halfpoint - Fotolia.com
© Kurhan - Fotolia.com
© Michael Flippo - Fotolia.com
© muro - Fotolia.com
© swisshippo - Fotolia.com
© Viorel Sima - Fotolia.com