A Brief History of the T-Shirt

The t-shirt has come a long way since its creation in the late 19th century. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the shirt started to become popular. Now the most widely used form of clothing across the globe, t-shirts are worn by men, women and children of all ages and walks of life. In this article, we’ll examine how this simple garment became so famous and evolved into so many different styles and designs over time.

Ancient Egypt

Historians believe that one of first garments to evolve into a more modern form was a loincloth worn by Ancient Egyptian men as early as 5000 BC. While robes were common for women during that time, men often wore short, one-size covers that were held together by ties at their waist. Historians believe that these loincloths were fashioned out of animal skins and used to protect their modesty while they worked in fields or engaged in manual labor. Like today’s shirts, however, most people simply removed them when they weren’t working. It wasn’t until 2200 BC that Egyptians began using woven cloths similar to what we wear today. Women started wearing tunics with long sleeves and both genders started wearing clothing with longer hemlines in addition to dressier caps made from animal skins and plant fibers. The ancient Egyptians are also believed to have invented underwear around 1800BC based on paintings on tomb walls showing individuals dressed in undershirts—but it wouldn’t be until after World War I (1920s) when knitwear began replacing undershirts constructed from cotton fabrics like voile due to material shortages caused by conflict.

16th Century Europe t shirt

In 1504, King Henry VII was presented with a shirt made in Macclesfield, England. It had been tailored out of fine woven cotton and featured a collar and cuffs. This early precursor to our modern day t shirt was an exclusively royal garment; it wasn’t until after 1650 that they became more widely available thanks to Samuel Slater, an entrepreneur born in Derbyshire England.

Early 20th Century

The company that would become known as Fruit of the Loom originally sold shirts, but soon shifted its focus to undershirts. In 1910, founder brothers Gus and Eli Sheller bought out a competitor called Rieger and Company, which had been selling underpants since 1881. The Shellers set up shop in Augusta, Georgia, where they began manufacturing their own brand of men’s underwear. They called it T-shirts. That same year, another garment made from cotton appeared on the market: Levi Strauss & Co. introduced Levi’s blue jeans.

The Modern T-Shirt

The first true modern t-shirt was created in 1921. It was made out of a thick cotton, and came in black or white (in either case, it would soon be covered with dirt and grime). The collarless shirt also included two breast pockets. Although they were not very popular until much later, they have become an icon since then. In 1925, screenwriter John Lee Mahin designed a new type of short sleeved undershirt that he called a tank top. Some believe that his design influenced future t-shirts; however, there is little evidence to support that claim.

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