A brief history of the T shirt

Tarkhan dress

Tarkhan dress from the Petrie Museum
of Egyptian Archaeology, London

The oldest T shirt?

T-shirts a simple cosy item of clothing but where did this wardrobe staple first appear? If we hop in our time machines back to roughly 5,000 years ago, this is when the oldest preserved garment - a linen dress - is thought to have originated. If you don't have a time machine just take our word for it, or bang your head on a toilet seat and come up with the flux capacitor.  Archaeologist Flinders Petrie discovered the Tarkhan dress in the tomb of an Egyptian from the First Dynasty, describing the garment as ‘highly sophisticated’ with pleating and a decorative fringe

The ancient T shirt?

Ok but that's not a t shirt and although it looks like one its a dress with the hem missing. What about the t shirt!

We need to leap forward a few hundred years to the time of the great mediterranean powers. The Greeks (12th century BC) and the Romans (till around 500 AD). These were tunic times. Tunics were long garments and would reach as low as the knee. They were also worn by men and woman, unisex clothing!

Marlon brando wearing a t shirt

Marlon Brando wearing a t shirt in
a street car named desire (not one of ours).

The modern T shirt?

By the 19th century this unisex view had changed and the first modern t shirts were designed specifically for men. Because pre the sewing bee men had "No safety pins — no buttons — no needle — no thread". These buttonless shirts were specifically for bachelors.

If we leap forward again to modern times the t shirts once worn as an undergarment became an item of clothing in its own right. T-shirts in the 60's especially in America really took off chiefly due to Hollywood royalty wearing them.

Koalas playing chess vegan t shirt

Koalas playing chess
Sustainable vegan t shirt

By the late 70's cheap manufacture and easy to use screen printing methods really took off. The t shirt became not only an item of fashion but that of protest too,  Like many items of clothing, the t shirt became a quick and easy way for you to show your political views, your favourite band or anything else a large corporation might want you to advertise.

Due to their easy means of manufacture and availability of cheap materials, t shirts are one of the main culprits of fast fashion.  We have written plenty about fast fashion before and what makes our t shirts and all our clothing different.

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