The Evolution of the T-Shirt

18 Aug


Writing about Fall Fashion in a recent issue of New York Magazine, Hugo Lindgren has a great piece about the evolution of everyone’s favourite fashion accessory: the humble T-Shirt.

In Paleolithic times, the T-shirt was a humble tool, worn beneath a shirt, to absorb perspiration. But ever since James Dean started wearing one without anything on top, it morphed into a form of personal advertising, a movable billboard. Even Dean’s plain white shirt conveyed a powerful message, which was, You can’t tell me who to be, a declaration that has never gone out of style.

 The greatest breakthrough of the last decade was when American Apparel, under the direction of its free-loving founder Dov Charney, turned the fit of a T-shirt into a message. Never mind the graphics or slogans. The message was you—your body thrust out there into the world, shrink-wrapped in every conceivable color. American Apparel remains powerful and ubiquitous in the T-shirt world, but the trends have gotten subtler and more introverted. In the same way that various art movements become hermetic and end up addressing the nature of art itself, today’s cutting-edge T-shirt is all about the T-shirt. Comfort…is the golden principle, but it gets way more complicated than that. Because comfort isn’t simply a matter of how a shirt feels; it is also a matter of how you feel about the shirt. And designers are constantly trying to figure out how to game that relationship with science and technology. Just as denim designers have been doing for years, T-shirt makers are introducing artful imperfections in an effort to turn a commodity into something personal and familiar.

Read the full article here.


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