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History of the Graphic T-Shirt

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

T-shirts have been around for more than a century. From being a simple undergarment, or underwear, to becoming a bold fashion statement, t-shirts have come a long way.

We might thank the US Military for their invention. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, soldiers cut their one-piece flannel garment in half to stay cooler. By 1913, now being made from a lighter weight cotton, the t-shirt became standard issue in the US Navy’s uniform. Men wore them in hot, tropical climates or boiling hot engine rooms as their outer work shirts.

It wasn’t until 1950 that Marlon Brando famously wore a plain white t-shirt in A Streetcar Named Desire, only to be followed by James Dean in 1955's Rebel Without a Cause that the popularity of the t-shirt as a stand-alone, outerwear garment gained acceptance and popularity in the general public.

Created as perhaps the first ever slogan t-shirt, Thomas E. Dewey, a 1948 Republican presidential candidate, handed out printed t-shirts with his campaign slogan, “Dew it with Dewey.” OMG...! As printing on fabric became more popular, it was in the 1970’s that t-shirts became the powerful messaging platform that we know them as today. With the rising popularity of rock band logos and protests like the Vietnam War, people everywhere wore bold statements that got people talking.

From that point on, T-shirts became more than just a piece of clothing. From bold eye-catching graphics to subtle minimalist designs, t-shirts are now used to express personal style and/or make a statement. Whether it's about politics, social issues, or something else entirely, t-shirts are an easy way to show your support for causes that matter or simply share some sarcastic humor! With the right design and message, you can make sure that your voice is heard loud and clear.

Do you have a message you’re ready see on a t-shirt? Let us know! We’d love to help you express yourself without saying a word! Let's talk on Facebook, Instagram or send an email from our website!

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