The t-shirt evolved from 19th-century underwear. Light, well fitted and easily washed, it became popular as a bottom layer of clothing for workers and those in the armed forces, and made its first written appearance in 1920, in F Scott Fitzgerald’s debut novel, This Side of Paradise. The first printed t-shirt ever worn publicly is believed to be an Air Corps Gunnery School t-shirt, which appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1942. While in 1938, an American marketing campaign argued that “you don’t need to be a soldier to have your own personal t-shirt”, the style really took off thanks to film appearances on Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and James Dean in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause. They’ve been worn by everyone, from heartthrobs to more normal types since.
Turn to page 80 of the March issue for more on the T-shirt and how much it says about who we are, what we believe and where we belong.