T Shirts – A Humble Garment with a Big History
The common T Shirt has grown from its humble origins nearly 200 years ago into the backbone of a multi-billion dollar industry. Not only do T Shirts mean big business, they have also blossomed into both a legitimate art form and a form of unique personal expression. T Shirts can be used to not only promote brands, bands and more besides but can be used as a blank canvas on which individuals can advertise their own personal quirks, opinions and ideologies.
The modern T Shirt was birthed in essence in the U.S in the19th century with the slip-on button-less garments a progression from similarly designed undergarments, which began life as convenient overalls for labourers working in warm weather. By the turn of the century the proliferation of the T shirt (so named for the shape of it’s outline) was cemented thanks to it’s popularity amongst farm hands and miners. They were obviously popular with the working classes in general due to their comfort and cheap materials.
By the late 1920′s the T Shirt had been established as a fashionable alternative to more conventional clothing and throughout the 20th century this popularity gained momentum thanks to mainstream film and television where teen ‘idols’ such as Marlon Brando made the garment seem more fashionable by association. As the decades wore on the T Shirt started to be used in more incendiary ways with a perfect example being Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara whose image became as much a fashion in itself as what it represented. From the 1960′s onwards T Shirts started to gain even more public consciousness with ‘classic’ designs such as the Rolling Stones ‘tongue’, the image of Mickey Mouse and the infamous ‘Frankie Says Relax’ designs as synonymous with their respective eras as any band, politician or television show.
Methods of T Shirt printing are deceptively diverse. Screen printing is the most common, with water-based inks applied to the shirt through a mesh screen. There are two methods of screen printing, namely ‘process printing’ and ‘simulated printing’, which use different base colours. As a rule process printing is generally used on light coloured shirts and simulated printing is used on dark coloured shirts. Other printing methods include embroidery (which is more expensive but generally of a higher quality), laser print and airbrushing. Designs can also be ironed onto T Shirts, though the quality is debatable compared to screen printing and designs often fade in the wash, many black market T Shirt printers will use this method.
In just over 200 years the T Shirt has gone from being a convenient undergarment to the most popular and diverse item of clothing in our wardrobes. The common T Shirt has certainly come a long way it would seem and to be honest, now who could imagine a world without them?