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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

T-Shirts: 100 Years of Awesomeness!


2013 is the 100th Year Anniversary of the T-Shirt. 

An article in explains, "In 1913, the T-shirt as we know it first appeared as standard-issue gear within the U.S. Navy. Since then, the iconic garment has become an essential part of the American wardrobe and identity."

And become a part of our national identity it has. The t-shirt, like a billboard you wear, can be an advertisement for what you think. In an age where everywhere we go, there is an ad telling us what to believe about this or that, the t-shirt is a way of expressing our personal view. It allows a way of communicating without opening your mouth. A t-shirt can make people see you as funny, and approachable or, it can communicate, "stay the hell away from me". The majority of us own all kinds of t-shirts, and truthfully, most of the time, we just want to be comfortable and look cool, like the above pictured John Lennon.

The Power of a T-Shirt Design

In this history of t-shirts, some designs have reached an iconic status. They can be like universal symbols of an ideology, or relate a common experience. These t-shirts have the power to bring people together. Check out this tribute to the t-shirt in Parade Magazine's, "Top 10 Most Iconic Designs".

What is most interesting is that because of it's comfort, low cost to manufacture, and ability to be printed on, the t-shirt, regardless of what image or saying is actually on it, is itself an icon. This is because we are a generation that put off the stuffiness of suits, vests, and petticoats, and accepted the idea that a simple garment is good enough. At one time, there were truly rich clothes and poor clothes. Today, this is not altogether gone, but the t-shirt is a type of equalizer. Rock stars, jocks, boaters, moms, bums, businessmen, babies and people from almost every other category of society wear t-shirts. It is the American uniform.

                             "The t-shirt is a type of equalizer... it is the American uniform."

 Everybody's Doing it

With such wide acceptance, people have tried a myriad of ways to personalize their shirts. From tie-dye, to that puffy paint stuff, to markers, to cutting holes; folks made t-shirts their own. But it was never quite the same as that printed image you bought at the concert, or the mall. The digital age is now revolutionizing the way people individualize their clothes.

Through the process of digital Direct-to-Garment printing, people are now making their own mark on the world. And it looks like we prefer it this way. According to a survey conducted by CustomInk, found in the same article mentioned earlier, "76 percent of Americans report they would have a stronger emotional connection with a shirt that they or someone they knew custom-designed, versus a shirt that was mass-produced." While there will always be a place for those mass produced shirts, this generation is transitioning into custom everything: custom song lists, custom cell phones, custom rims, custom paint jobs, custom TV, custom walls (social media), custom YouTube channels, and on and on. As the Byrds famously quoted from the book of Ecclesiastes "To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season." With 100 years of t-shirt awesomeness, it now continues with the season of digital Direct-to-Garment freedom. Those who have used it, love it. But for those who just won't try it, I leave you with the famous words of Marty McFly in "Back to the Future", "I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet..........but your kids are gonna love it."


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