The now iconic white t-shirt was born in 1913 when the U.S. Navy issued crewnecks for soldiers to wear under their uniforms. In the 100 years since, this simple article of clothing has taken on a cultural significance so innate we tend to take it for granted.
But try to imagine James Dean rocking a button down under his leather jacket, John Lennon never donning his classic New York City T or Napoleon Dynamite urging classmates to “Vote For Pedro” with nothing but a poster. You probably can’t.
According to a survey conducted by online t-shirt design company CustomInk, 87% of Americans who wear t-shirts have at least one they refuse to throw away for sentimental reasons. Psychologist Jennifer Baumgarter, author of You Are What You Wear, worked with CustomInk to analyze this statistic as a part of the company’s birthday celebration for the t-shirt. She explains, “The t-shirt speaks to us on so 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. We can wear it with a ball gown or you can wear it throwing baseballs.”