The one reason t-shirts exists (and how they got so popular)

Posted by PONSIST Editor on

Chances are that your wardrobe store at least one t-shirt, if not a whole stack.

Everybody loves t-shirts, For good reasons we might add. They keep us warm in winter as undergarment and they make us look fresh in summer. Tees are soft, fashionable and so comfortable to wear. Last, but not least, they're a great way to expres yourself with and they come in every colour one can think of. What’s not to like?

But did you know that we owe our favourite piece of clothing to socks?

Yup, true story! Let’s get you up to speed on your favourite piece of cotton.


Soar feet and Men's underwear

In 1876, Samuel Cooper from S.T. Cooper & Sons started a hosiery business in St. Joseph, Michigan to aid lumberjacks with foot problems due to poor quality socks.

Quite a successful business, and within two years he was producing thousands of pairs of seamless stockings daily. 

With time his sons Charles, Henry and Willis moved the company into an ambitious new direction, Men’s Underwear.

The brothers manufactured a patented union suit which led them to the top of the underwear market. Back in the day, union suits were a white, tight fitting one-piece garment with buttons. Not very fashionable, but keeping yourself warm in them worked like a charm.

An important change was made to the full length union suit when it was changed into a shorter two-piece undergarment, separating what we now know as boxer-briefs and t-shirts. 

In the late 30’s the early version of a modern t-shirt appeared, called a gob shirt. Revolutionary for the time was that it could be worn as undergarment, as well as an outer garment.


Thanks, Mr. Brando!

T-shirts rapidly gained in popularity and when actor Marlon Brando wore the garment in the movie A Street Car Named Desire the public went crazy. The garment became trendy as a fashionable outer garment.

In following decades nothing stopped the popularity of this particular piece of clothing.


Music Marketing

Graphic tees became widely available in the sixties as a way to self-express through art and slogans. However, the oldest known graphic tee was used as early as 1948 for a political campaign.

Thanks to the development of printing techniques customised t-shirts were on the rise since the Seventies. Musicians in particular used printed t-shirts as a powerful tool for sales and branding. Some of the most iconic band t-shirts in the world are sold by Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Nirvana, Run DMC and Guns ’n Roses.


And there you have it

Fast forward to now, t-shirts are trendier and more fashionable than ever. That’s pretty impressive considering the long history you just read.

The classic favourite has moved far away from its original purpose. Lucky for all of us, because it now is a wonderful and flexible tool for self expression. 

All you have to do is decide what you want others to know about you and pick a colour.


Designed by PONSIST

PONSIST Store is a dedicated apparel shop that offers graphic tees and more designed for Healthcare Professionals. 

Share this post