Okay, silly question. But in the interest of making sure you know everything you could ever want to (and more) about t-shirts, allow us to explain. The word “t-shirt” makes reference to the shape that this particular garment makes. You know, the ‘T’ shape. The garment itself is a casual, collarless top, worn by both sexes of all ages the world over. It may the one true thing that binds us all.
Originally worn as undergarments—mostly by men—19th century laborers invented the style by adapting the one-piece union suit, creating separates that were more functional for strenuous work. The US Navy took notice and thought that the shirts would be perfect for fighting the Spanish during the Spanish-American war in 1898 (you remember that from history class, right?). Not long after that, tees became military standard issue. During the Great Depression, t-shirts became popular in civilian culture because they were simple, inexpensive to manufacture, and easy to clean. By the 1950s, the tee was much more than just utilitarian—James Dean famously wore a plain white tee in Rebel Without a Cause, and Marlon Brando rocked the look in A Streetcar Named Desire (“Stellaaaaaa!”). The rest, they say, is history.
Where do we even begin? You’ve got your basics—short sleeve, crewneck, cotton. But beyond that is a wild and wonderful world of fabrics, prints and cuts. Women have an especially varied selection from which to choose. Look beyond plain cotton for linen, lace, jersey, viscose, poly, pima, modal, rayon and slub. Try out different necklines like V-neck, scoop neck, boat neck, draped, and cold-shoulder. Many designer tees feature prints or other embellishment, like ties, buttons, bows, or snaps. And there is a huge variety of silhouettes and lengths, like swingy, clingy, peplum, tunic and cropped.
T-shirts used to be strictly casual. And while you may not wear a printed concert tee to the office, chances are you can find a shirt that fits your style for most occasions. T-shirts are great for athletics and working out, so definitely look for a poly or poly-blend for the gym. Out and about, try a linen blend or fun printed tee with jeans and boots. And it’s always a good idea to have a few long sleeve and a few short sleeve tees on hand for layering throughout the seasons. Jeans and a t-shirt paired with a jacket or sweater is a totally classic look, but don’t be afraid to dress up a tee with a skirt and wedges. Above all, accessorize. The t-shirt is your fashion canvas.