Vintage T-Shirts.

Vintage T-Shirts, a collection of more than 500 authentic tees from the '70s and '80s, is a book by Lisa Kidner and Sam Knee. This book documents the history of the ubiquitous T-shirt through the history of rock-and-roll and pop culture.

From the book:

The roots: The T-shirt began life as a functional item of underwear designed not to be seen. In the early days it would have been considered offensive to reveal the shirt.

WW1: The origins of the T-shirt stem from Europe. During WW1, American soldiers were sweating in their woolen uniforms while their European counterparts were less restricted in their lightweight cotton undershirts.

WW2: The cotton T-shirt was standard issue as an undergarment in the US armed forces. WW2 also provided another preview of the T-shirt as soldiers crudely customized their vest-style tees to identify their station and using any materials they could find - often handmade, cut-out stencils and vehicle spray paint.

1940s and 1950s: American colleges started printing their names and logos on tees: in the early days, normally using flock iron-on fonts. These were sold in the college stores on campus for students to wear with American pride. Later versions fo these Americna university tees, such as Yale and Harvard, became a part of the early 1960s English mod look alongside other US Ivy League-style preppy garments.

The trend for small US businesses, such as garages, diners and electrical stores, to print their own logo or products on shirts for customers became common in the 1950s. They advertised brand loyalty in this way long before the major big league companies caught on. By th emid-1960s these 'walking billboard' advertising tees were big business.

Marlon Brando and James Dean shocked Americans by wearing their underwear on the big screen in The Wild One and Rebel Without a Cause. This marked the T-shirt's long-awaited progression from underwear to outerwear, infusing the style with a fashionable sex appeal at the same time. The rebel association was the catalyst for the style becoming a desirable item of clothing with the youth of the day and coincided with the birth of rock and roll.

1960s: The popularity of the printed rock-and-roll band shirt exploded in the 1970s, but the roots lie firmly in the 1960s. Although mid 1960s invasion-style groups dipped their toes in the T-shirt market, it was West Coast gig promoters, such as Bill Graham pushing local acts like the Grateful Dead, who first realized this emerging potential to sell T-shirts as well as gig tickets at venues.

1970s: The first wave of Sex Pistols and Clash fans, particularly those outside central London, had to take it upon themselves to create their own customized Kings Road-esque creations. These do-it-yourself T-shirts were crudely vandalized and defaced using marker pens, tape, pins and zips.

Who knew T-shirts had such a history, anyway?

Links: Vintage T-Shirts at HarperCollins | Kidner and Knee Interview with the Guardian

Book courtesy of Harper Collins - Thanks Felicia! Please contact us if you want your book reviewed in Neatorama.


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