Graphic T-Shirts With Sayings: A History

Over the last century, many fashion trends have come and gone. Each new decade brings with new fashions and what was popular in the previous decade, is no longer popular. However, while some trends are gone before they really get started, there are some fashion trends that never seem to go out of style. The 70’s had bellbottoms, the 90’s had denim everything, and the 00’s had platform shoes and super short skirts. All of these trends went away along with the decade itself. One trend that remains popular with the ebb and flow of time is the t-shirt and, in the last fifty years, graphic t-shirts also called graphic tees. These are the t-shirts that have pictures and/or writing on them. The shirts that have funny quotes or band logos or movie promotions. The ones that show the world some of your favorite things and reveal a bit of your personality. But where exactly did this trend start? Who started using t-shirts to promote business, books, movies, songs, characters, and everything else imaginable? This is the type of information that will be explored here; where did the t-shirt come from, when did they start having words and pictures printed on them, and much more.

The United States Navy is to thank for bringing the garment that we know today as the t-shirt to the US. Sometime between 1898 and 1913 during the first World War. The soldiers were sweltering in their wool uniforms until they took notice of the cotton shirts the European soldiers wore under their uniforms. Thus the t-shirt was born. At this point, all soldiers were promptly issued cotton undershirts to always be worn under their uniforms. From here on, the armed forces not only continued to issue these undershirts but also began issuing similar shirts with the branch’s logo to be worn when off duty. T-shirts in general, as well as graphic t-shirts, ¬†would not become popular outside of the armed forces for several decades.

The first on-screen, cinematic appearance of a graphic t-shirt happened in the 1939 release The Wizard of Oz. The scene happens after the heroine Dorothy and her companions reach Oz and are being cleaned up in preparation of meeting the great wizard. The t-shirts were worn by the munchkins who helped the hero get ready. There would not be another important on-screen moment for t-shirts until the release of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951. The teenagers of that era were so enthralled by Marlon Brando’s character and the tight, form-fitting t-shirt that he wore, the t-shirt industry rose to previously unheard of heights. Later that same year, a company by the name of Tropix Togs bought the exclusive rights from Walt Disney to print the character of Mickey Mouse on t-shirts.

After the popularity of the Mickey Mouse shirts, there was not much of note in the world of graphic tees until the late 60’s, early 70’s. At this point, the incredibly popular band The Beatles, started promoting themselves and the new records and songs with t-shirts printed with them, or their new album cover on them. Soon, other bands started to follow suit and promotional t-shirts became more and more popular. When the new millennium came around the popular band tees became vintage and collectible to the new generation. This once again renewed interest in graphic tees and companies began finding ways to make brand new t-shirts look like the vintage ones. During this time is also when it started to become popular to put quotes and popular sayings on the shirts instead of just logos and pictures. This trend has been popular ever since. Now, you can find these types of shirts for every possible occasion. Every fandom has related t-shirts, every band. There are sarcastic sayings, political sayings, cute ones, funny ones, even terrible ones.

Almost every store that carries clothing has at least some t-shirts and the majority of them will inevitably be graphic tees. While the average chain stores and similar business carry plenty of t-shirts, you will also find t-shirts sold at high-end stores and boutiques from high-end designers. This means that, regardless of your budget, you will be able to find some amazing tees to suit your likes and your personality. This is a very good thing for those with limited store availability as well. Some of the most common stores that you will find t-shirts at include Walmart, Target, and Kohls. This, of course, doesn’t include all of the high-end boutiques and designers. Another popular place to purchase graphic tees, especially vintage ones is thrift stores and any other resale shops.

With the advancements in technology, it is becoming increasingly popular for people to either make their own printed t-shirts or start a business making printed t-shirts. There are special printers that you can purchase that allow you to make special prints that can then be applied to a t-shirt. The most common method of application is heat. When done at home, most people employ the use of an iron, but there are actual presses that can be purchased for those who plan on going into business. These machines have to be purchased from specialty businesses, but if you plan on starting a t-shirt printing business, it is an expense that you will have to have. It will take some time and practice before you will be proficient at the art. It is important to remember that if you are going to be making t-shirts with pictures on them, you will need to be very careful about copyrighted materials. If you plan on using logos, you will need to obtain permission from the copyright owner before you can legally use it and sell a t-shirt printed with the logo. If you do not get permission, you stand to get in a great deal of trouble.

This has been a brief history of graphic tees, where they started, what made them popular, and where to get them. T-shirts have a surprisingly long and detailed history and this history will continue to grow so long as t-shirts remain popular. If you want to learn more about graphic t-shirts or are looking for a great place to buy t-shirts with sayings on them, look no farther than Om and Ah. They have an amazing selection of shirts with sayings.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top