The t-shirt is probably the most common garment anyone can think of. Its versatility has even led to it being enshrined as a basic clothing choice that leaves little room for error.
Before this was the case, the t-shirt was actually part of a union suit, which was essentially male undergarments in 1868. At the time, which was the Victorian era, the union suit was originally marketed to women who wanted to achieve the hourglass figure that was popular then. Over time, they were also advertised to men as bodysuits that could only ever be considered as undergarments.
It wasn’t allowed to peek out of one’s collar back in the day, as it was illegal in some places in 1890 to have them exposed in public. Eventually, those that began making these also experimented with other fabrics like cotton and wool, which they fused together to make it more stretchy that people could pull it over their head “without ruining the collar.”
|Black T-Shirt / Photo by: kantver via 123RF|
This also had the dual purpose of being incredibly helpful and useful for working single men.
Today I Found Out, a website with a goal to raise the bar by bringing highly researched content, revealed that with the t-shirt’s utter lack of buttons, they also managed to appeal to men who were unmarried and had no skills in sewing buttons in their shirt, which, at the time, was a task relegated to women.
The material of these union suits was not very adequate for the weather, though, and soon people, most especially laborers, cut them in half, leaving the iconic top half and continuing to go about their workday.
By the time, the 1900s rolled around, it also made it to the uniform regulations of the United States Navy when they advised that the cotton undershirt be “worn underneath the rest of the sailor’s uniform.” Preferably, if not white, the regulations also advised them to wear an undershirt “of identical pattern.”
|Button sewing / Photo by: Ilka Erika Szasz-Fabian via 123RF|