The Iconic T-Shirt is 100

Gildan 5000Did you know that the iconic T-shirt turned 100 years old last year, in 2013? Despite its age it has barely changed a stitch and, better, it is still perfect just the way it is. Today, as it was 100 years ago. In the 100 years it has been around we have taken it for granted, without realizing that this simple piece of clothing has taken on a cultural significance of gigantic proportions.

According to a survey conducted by a custom T-shirt company, nearly 87% of Americans (and, I guess, globally this would be true) who wear T-shirts have at least one they refuse to throw away for sentimental reasons. Clinical psychologist and author of the highly successful book You Are What You Wear, Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, has a lot to say about the simple T-shirt. According to her, “The T-shirt speaks to us on many levels. It’s utilitarian, it’s affordable, it’s customizable, it’s not gender specific, it’s not season specific, it’s not even functionally specific.” It is this simplicity and affordability that made it grow from being work clothing into the wider world.

The first T-shirt was launched in 1913 when the US Navy issued crew-neck T-shirts to all its personnel to be worn under the uniforms, thus giving birth to an American, later global, icon.  From the rebel icon, James Dean to Beatles John Lennon and all the other music legends who followed him, they wore the T-shirt to make it into a fashion statement. The legendary movie, A Streetcar Named Desire, transformed the T-shirt from being an undergarment to an outerwear.

The early 1940s saw the T-shirt being customized. From having the first custom logo put on it in 1942, Presidential candidate, Thomas Dewey, put to use the white T-shirt by printing his message on a large number of them. This began the trend towards customization. A majority of the people in the aforementioned survey said that they would have a greater emotional connection with someone who had a custom designed T-shirt than one with a mass-produced shirt.

Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, Image courtesy Wikipedia

Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, Image courtesy Wikipedia

This again, Dr. Baumgartner says is not surprising. According to her customized apparel is a way of expressing ourselves in a world where so much is mass produced. A custom T-shirt for your group, team or business is a clear identifier. Much like the tribal costumes or coat-of-arms, custom T-shirts give people a sense of belonging. If the invention of plastisol inks and screen printing technology gave a big boost to the customization of T-shirts, Woodstock made the T-shirt the voice of one’s individuality.

From a branding perspective for small and medium businesses, customizing a good looking polo or golf shirt with your company’s brand is a huge conversation starter. (also read Put Your Brand on Your Clothing) I can personally vouch for this fact. When you go to the same Tim Horton’s around the same time every day for your daily fix of coffee, you tend to meet pretty much the same set of people in the line-ups. Over a period of time you get familiar and a custom logo’d shirt like the one I wear everyday has star-ed quite a few conversations that, over a period of time, will yield good business results for us.

In fact, you can customize a wide range of formal and semi-formal apparel that can add panache to your entire team. Having a custom logo’d apparel not only bonds your team together and gives them a sense of pride, it promotes your brand very effectively. A customized apparel has a far lower cost per impression that mass media and goes a long way in getting your brand noticed. So, while you celebrate the fact that the ubiquitous T-shirt has completed a grand 100 years, take stock and see what customization can do to promote your business, brand or personality.

Not to put too fine a point on this. We, at our store, can customize any apparel you want. From our state-of-the-art digital garment printers to our embroidery machines and heat transfer skills we have many ways of decorating your apparel. With in-house expertise we can turn around pretty quickly, produce a quality job at an effective price for you. If you need any help on this feel free to call us on 905-282-0208 or just click here.

(Acknowledgement: I wish to acknowledge Forbes.com and CustomInk.com for the inspiration to write this topic thanks to the data presented in these two sites)

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