Tale Of The Tee: Shaping Trends And Conversations

The making of a style staple

In the previous instalment, we shared the beginnings of the t-shirt. It has become a staple in most everyone’s wardrobes now, but when did its popularity in culture and everyday fashion rise? Here’s a recap.

In the '60s and '70s

In the 1960s, anything and everything psychedelic were in — and that included t-shirts, of course. Tie-dyed shirts were all the rage those days, especially because it was the time plastisol was invented. Plastisol was a then-new type of fabric ink that was made durable to withstand washing.

The rise of slogan tees also came in the ‘60s. With an indelible ink to play with, people found it the perfect way to air (and wear) their messages. The first slogan t-shirts, bearing images of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, were said to have been sold at the Mr. Freedom shop in London in the ‘60s.

The popularity of the t-shirt did not wane even a decade later. In the ‘70s, t-shirts became somewhat a political tool, with Vivienne Westwood and her partner Malcolm McLaren releasing t-shirts with controversial prints like an inverted crucifix with the word “Destroy” under it.

Say it with a tee

While it has already been popular for decades, the t-shirt skyrocketed to fame in the ‘80s. Designer Katharine Hamnett wore a t-shirt with a message indicating her opposition to the basing of U.S. Pershing missiles in the U.K. when she met with U.K.’s then prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Aside from the rise of slogan tees, the ‘80s also introduced the wrinkle-free version of the then only-cotton t-shirt. A mix of polyester and cotton was used to create t-shirts that were just as comfortable but did not look unkempt easily.

Shaping trends

T-shirts were also style staples in the ‘90s. Various ways of styling it became trends. There was a time when long-sleeved shirts over graphic tees were all the youngins were sporting a la Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain. T-shirts were also acceptable to wear under suits at the time. But perhaps the most bizarre yet iconic t-shirt trend at the time was the Hypercolor tees. They were made of temperature-sensitive fabric that causes the shirt’s colour to change depending on the temperature.

These days, the t-shirt remains a style staple from dressing down or even adding a personal touch to an otherwise glamorous outfit. Getting your hands on a shirt has been easier than ever as well with the rise of e-commerce. So it’s safe to say that t-shirts will never lose their coolness — literally and figuratively.

(Cover photo from: societyofsnobs)

Rewind to where it all began here.