How The Simple T-Shirt Became Iconic - STPL

How The Simple T-Shirt Became Iconic

For every life-changing thing in the world, there’s an equally important origin story behind it. Don’t believe us? Just think of Spiderman. Peter Parker was an average dude until that spider came along to change his life (and comic book canon) forever. T-shirts might not have such an illustrious history behind them, but even Marlon Brando knows that a good one will change your life. After all, it’s the most popular kind of shirt in the world for a reason - everyone looks fresh in them, they go with just about everything, and they’re comfortable as hell. 

But the classic tee is a relatively new addition to our wardrobes. So, what was the proverbial spider-in-the-lab moment for our favourite garment? When someone clever decided to cut their “union suit” in half. 

The origin story

The precursor to the humble t-shirt was basically a full-body cotton suit that served as underwear. Eventually, after that cheeky someone cut theirs in half to turn it into a shirt, it caught on as an underlayer, started to be produced on a larger scale, and became a core part of men’s uniforms.

F. Scott Fitzgerald sealed the deal when he published This Side of Paradise - complete with pop culture’s first ever mention of the t-shirt. That’s when people really started to crack on with it. Like James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen.

Add a dash of rebellion

When people saw James, Marlon, and Steve looking pretty damn exceptional wearing those crisp white tees, they became a signal of rebellion against, well, everything. Think about how iconic that image of James Dean wearing his t-shirt is. In one movie, that notorious rebel without a cause single-handedly turned the underlayer into an everyday staple. Ol’ Jimmy really did us a solid. 

Who knew that the simple tee could become such a resounding symbol of rebellion against the norm? They might not have known it at the time, but those silver screen bad-asses signaled to a whole generation (and then some) that settling for normal, conformity, and playing by the rules just wasn’t good enough anymore. Which is exactly our kind of thinking too. 

Now our favourite piece of clothing stands for so much more. Every t-shirt, depending on its source, is a perspective on how you want your world to be. STPL is taking a page out of Dean’s book and rebelling against all the negative shit that typically comes with the clothing industry. Like the environmental toll that regular cotton can have on the environment. The unfair labour practices that it usually takes to make a shirt. Mass consumerism and fast fashion. We’ll take a hard pass to all of the above, thanks. 

A modern classic

It’s been something like eight decades since the tee first made its rebellious debut and ascended to cult status. In that time, this new classic has crossed social classes, cultures, styles, genders, and identities. What a long way from its simple beginnings as a utilitarian underlayer. We’re not even biased when we say that it’s impossible to imagine our wardrobes without a few super soft tees in classic colours that work with everything. Well, maybe we’re a little biased… but your significant other agrees with us too.

As James Dean showed us, the humble tee can be anything you want it to be - it all depends on how you want to make yours exceptional.

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