How Graphic Tees Were Born

Graphic tees are comfortable and highly versatile, and are considered a staple in many people’s closets. Throw them over some jeans or dress them up with a few accessories, graphic tees are a trend that’s here to stay. Vintage graphic tees have even made a comeback in style! With so many graphic tees in your closet, have you ever wondered how this unassuming piece of clothing started making its way into our hearts?

Military Use

The first t-shirt saw its start in the United States military sometime during the Spanish World War. Soon after, the US Navy incorporated white cotton t-shirts into their uniforms as undershirts. Sailors and marines would remove their outer jackets while they were working on deck or when they were posted to tropical climates because they did not want to dirty their outer uniform jackets. The t-shirt's popularity soon spread as a work shirt and was used by farmers and other laborers during the Great Depression.

Hollywood and the Rise of the T-Shirt

After World War II, soldiers would wear their issued t-shirts when they returned home. However, the t-shirt was still considered a type of undergarment and was not widely accepted as a form of outerwear. Everything changed when a film adaptation of Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire was released in 1951.

In the film, Marlon Brando portrayed Stanley, a rugged handsome bullish working-class man donning a simple white t-shirt. Four years later, James Dean also popularized the t-shirt when he wore it while starring in the film Rebel Without A Cause. With Dean and Brando being the most prominent Hollywood actors of that time, the humble t-shirt was shot to the height of popularity and people started seeing it as a fashionable piece of clothing that could be worn on its own.

Counter-Cultural Popularity

It was during the 1960s that screen printing became popular. The sixties were also the height of counterculture with the hippie movement advocating for love and peace. This was when people realized that printed t-shirts were a great avenue for displaying alternative ideas and ideologies. You could identify with a group through your style of dress as well as the slogans printed on your clothes. The graphic tee soon became statement pieces of fashion, allowing for individuals to recognize each other as allies and bringing them together as a group.

The Rise of Band T-Shirts and the Material Age

Musicians and bands soon realized they could capitalize on graphic tees as a form of revenue. They began printing their band logos on tees, and made them into their official band merchandise so their fans could buy them. Today, some of these graphic tees are so iconic that you can name the band even though you’ve never listened to their music.

Soon, business brands started to realize the potential of advertising with graphic tees and corporations also began printing their logos on t-shirts and marketing them to consumers. This practice has been continued to this day. As technology continues to evolve and improve with time, printing graphic tees has become so much easier than before. Whether you want to don a casual top for heading out or for lounging around at home, you can always count on the graphic tee.