The T shirt in men is such a common and ingrained sight in our society that its hard to imagine a time when it didn’t exist. Moreover, its fundamental basic design makes us wonder if something like vintage t shirts for men even exists.
Well, T shirts are actually very recent pieces of clothing. Just 100 years ago they played no role in fashion, and when they started to become mainstream, the designs and fabrics evolved really quickly giving birth to endless styles in a short period.
We now take you through the journey the T shirt took during the last decades. Some amazing designs are presented, hoping you let some of them into your wardrobe.
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The original purpose of T shirts
Believe it or not, t shirts were introduced at the start of the XX century, and they were originally underwear! The classic all-white t shirt was common among low-income single men who required extra protection from the environment (the lack of buttons meant no money or wife for sewing was needed).
Transitioning away from underwear began when sportsmen and sailors started to use them for exercise and other physical activities.
Thanks to this, a masculine aura surrounded the T shirt and the image of the well-built handsome sailor became attractive to women. This shows us the positive impact that even the simplest T shirt can have on our image, given of course, we take care of ourselves. This trend continued into World War II when T shirts were mass-produced for soldiers.
By this time the standard plain-white T shirt continued to be the only one available. The T shirt revolution started during the next years.
First years into mainstream fashion
During the 1950s, T shirts made their way into mainstream fashion thanks to movies like Rebel Without a Cause (1955), where it was pictured as a “bad boy” apparel. The design was meant to adjust tight (not much though) as to portray a muscular physique.
T shirts also started to come in popular colours in combination with some contrast colour in areas such as the neckband. Chest pockets were added too, however, no complex designs were yet manufactured.
Leather jackets and denim jeans go well with this type of shirts.
When the 1960s came, T shirts started to reach other social groups. This was thanks to technological developments that allowed for printing messages, as well as inexpensive and easy to make designs.
When written messages were to be transmitted some of the popular topics printed were song lyrics, philosophical reflexions, or a political statement.
On the other hand, when non-verbal messages were to be transmitted, brand logos, exotic images, and designs like the “tie dye” T shirts popularized. Also, by this time girls started to wear T-shirts too.
During the 60s T shirt fashion in men distanced itself from the bad boys 50s look; they could be worn a little more loose and a wide range of colours were accepted. The shape remained almost the same.
Taking over society
By the time the 70s came T shirts were both unisex and mainstream. Political messages on them were a common sight, also humour and more graphic design started to trend. The very popular “I’m with a stupid” T shirt and other similar were trending during this time. Band names and logos continued to be popular.
Technology also allowed for custom-made T shirts and another very important factor; the true economic potential was being achieved thanks to the mass production of T shirts related to almost any industry.
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The 80s was a continuation of what we saw during the 70s. Together with music, movies and TV shows became a central point for T shirt design. Also, by this point, T shirts were starting to go beyond the casual image; Men were starting to wear suits on top of T shirts as a way to quickly add elegance to a casual outfit.
Sport references were also very important in T shirt design with athletes, logos, and other references in them.
People also cut T shirts in different ways to add a fashionable touch. Ripping holes in the back of the shirt, as well as, shoulders and the bottom were common practices among girls. Sleeve ripping was the boys alternative.
Last vintage designs
The last incorporated trend of T shirts we see (in the XXI century everything is so diverse that it is difficult to point a particular trend) came during the 90s.
The end of the XX century saw an increase in children population, and along came large number of cartoons, movies, video games and TV shows.
Also, the adult population could now watch TV shows from their childhood in colour TV, and superheroes and Disney movies were very popular. For these reasons, characters and logos of animated series emerged in the T shirt industry.
Previous trends we saw in past decades, such as the music logos and political messages, remained part of the T shirt industry.
At the same time, although not necessarily related, modeling started to incorporate T shirts with colourful designs and social messages.
T shirts are here to stay
After going through T shirt evolution over the years, and looking at the T shirt market today, one thing is very clear. Demand for T shirts will never cease (or at least it won’t during your lifetime).
T shirts are so mixed with our culture and traditions that they have become a form of expression almost like art or music. We convey messages and ideas from all eras through our T shirts, and as the years pass, thoughts and values from the past can be preserved and reintegrated into our culture through our vintage T shirts.
We hope your quest for vintage T shirts found some answers here, and we will see you next time! Don’t forget to comment your thoughts down below!
Until next time!