A Soft, Stretchy Centennial: The T-Shirt Turns 100

Southern California's go-to top marks a major milestone.

By Alysia Gray Painter
|  Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013  |  Updated 1:03 PM PDT
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
A Soft, Stretchy Centennial: The T-Shirt Turns 100

Shutterstock

The t-shirt marks its 100th in 2013. Perhaps you have one or two or ten you can don to celebrate the occasion?

advertisement

What would Southern California style be without the t-shirt?

It's hard to picture. There've probably been a million or two t-shirts sold bearing palm trees, a sun, or the beach, and hundreds and hundreds of kiosks and shops from Hollywood Boulevard to Venice Beach to Dodger Stadium depend upon a certain short-sleeved, comfy-wear icon.

The tee fits the casual image we have of ourselves, and the fact that it is a great match for our balmy, not-too-hot-and-not-too-cold clime makes it the Goldilocks of everyday clothing. A happy medium indeed.

Thus the idea that it is only celebrating its centennial in 2013 is a bit of shocker. Of course, we know this is probably true; look at any photo prior to 1913 and you're bound to see people strutting about early LA and our beach boardwalks in full-on formal wear. (Seriously, they must have been roasting in the summer.)

The Navy introduced t-shirts for sailors a hundred years ago -- yep, they were undershirts at one time -- though it was still a few decades before Marlon Brando began to rock that underwear as outerwear (while yelling, with emotion, "Stella!") Other comfort-seeking counterculturists soon followed, and by the 1970s -- and even '60s -- stretchy short sleeves and smiley-faced tee fronts were the emerging norm.

Los Angeles has always been at the forefront of the underwear-as-outerwear movement. A number of bespoke and vintage tee specialty shops were born in Southern California -- hello Sunday Print Co. and Junk Food Clothing Co. -- assuring our place in the lofty annals of short-sleeved-top-ery.

So the question is this: Can you spend a day out in our city, at Santa Monica Pier and a game or two and at Universal CityWalk, and not come across a t-shirt or two or fifty or a thousand?

Case rested. LA is a tee capital, period. Happy centennial, dear t-shirt.

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: iPhone/iPad App | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Instagram | RSS | Text Alerts | Email Alerts

Get the latest headlines sent to your inbox!
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Leave Comments
What's New
Running Dry
Coverage of the California drought. Read more
Follow Us
Sign up to receive news and updates that matter to you.
Send Us Your Story Tips
Check Out