The History Of T-Shirts And Their Importance (Still) To The American Economy (And A Little Trivia)

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And You Thought T-Shirts Were Not An Important Part Of American History

Nine-one percent of Americans claim they own a “favorite T-Shirt”.

That, of course is no big deal…I have a favorite pair of socks, shoes, even salad fork.

But there’s more to the T-Shirt than meets the eye. There’s important history and economics.

The first promotional tshirt for a movie was printed in 1939. That movie was “The Wizard Of

Oz”. Like the movie, the tee did quite well. We make our own version of a Wizard Of Oz tee, I imagine a bit different than that first image, which shows a cartoon of the gang walking down the yellow brick road and Toto is lifting a hind leg. The caption reads, “How the yellow brick road got it’s name.” But I digress.

T-Shirts account for important American economics. Cotton is still a huge industry in this country, particularly in the southern states. It takes six miles of yarn to make one T-shirt. An acre of cotton is enough to produce 1200 tees.

Ever wonder if the T-Shirt business is a viable one? How about this for a statistic? About two billion tees are sold annually worldwide.

The Salvation Army takes in millions of T-shirt donations annually which later auctioned off by the pound to third world countries.

If one likes T-shirt history, the Smithsonian showcases the oldest printed tee on record which simply states, “Dew-It With Dewey”. Dew what I wonder? Hmm.

In the 1950 play “A Streetcar Named Desire” Brando’s T-shirt and jeans were tailored to be form fitting to fully showcase his physique.

However, the word T-shirt did not been become an official word until the 1920’s when it was included in Webster’s Dictionary.

In 1977 more than 8 million dollars worth of Farrah Fawcett T-Shirts were sold when she appeared on Charlie’s Angels.

And speaking of sexy Tees, ever wonder what prompted the “wet T-shirt contest?” It started after Jacqueline Bisset’s appearance in the film “The Deep” in which she is swimming underwater, then surfacing, wearing a white T-Shirt and topless bikini.

The most popular form of designer tees today are silk-screened. But digital reproductions are becoming very popular and blend into the fabric and, to me, have more of a “real” look than a decal ironed-on look, but of course, it is a matter of taste. I decided to manufacture both, as different folks like different looks.

Americans love our tee shirts. A survey done several years ago show that more than 62% of the U.S (all ages) own at least 10 tees and 18-24 demographic group owned over 10 T-shirts and 19% owned over 30 tees. So it doesn’t appear they are going out of style anytime soon.


write by Casey Ewing

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