Clothing is fascinating in that it is so closely tied to specific periods. Snippets of history easily recognized by what was worn when, how, and by whom. Found clothing dates wars, monarchs, and social caste, disclosing the wearer’s lifestyle, marital status, and geographical location. It is very possible that clothing, even now, tells more about who we are and our looking glass self more than any other solitary adornment.

Some clothing, however fanciful and fashionable, has been forever banished to limited costume trunks and museums. But the humble t-shirt has not fallen out of favor or functionality, instead evolving into something greater than intended simple underware.
The first t-shirts were cropped versions of the union suit, an undergarment used to keep the wearer warm, a base layer unlike modern versions by Under Armor or Smartwool that offer cool weather comfort yet beg to be seen. This close cousin of the t-shirt featured buttons in the front and first surfaced during the Spanish-American War. It was designed to be worn underneath uniforms.
About 1905, the U.S. Navy officially employed the utilitarian "under shirt" for sailors to strip down to in humid regions. The under shirt could be dirtied and easily laundered unlike fussy uniforms. The item increased in popularity with military and civilians alike. Fifteen years later, the term "t-shirt" was first penned in 1920 by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his novel, This Side Of Paradise.
The simple white t-shirt reached iconic status when Marlon Brando wore one so perfectly in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). Women swooned and men fortunately took the hint. Come to think of it…my husband was filling one out quite nicely when I met him at a BBQ in Virginia back in 1999.
Plain t-shirts continue to be worn by our military and are still popular requests by our young ones overseas during deployments. They remain a cheap, easy-care uniform staple that can be replaced frequently and somewhat painlessly as opposed to expensive boots worn by our ground troops that only last an average of eight weeks in the rocky terrain of say, Iraq.
My husband collected (hoarded) nearly sixty t-shirts during his eleven years in the Army. Like other donned articles of antiquity, his stockpile is a glimpse at the season of his service. These t-shirts (mostly black) are printed memories. They catalog his time and travels from West Point to Korea and commemorate notable events like the annual Sandhurst competition. His "&%$& Saddam" t-shirt (in Arabic, of course) is from the Gulf War era as are some "Beat Navy" t-shirts. The fact that Army hasn’t beaten Navy in ten plus years makes those particular t-shirts a subject of great duress…and considering Navy’s current roster and coach, Army/Navy game day this year will again be less fun than a dozen in-grown nose hairs.
The fact that we already have too many t-shirts is irrelevant. We will surely add more to our cotton closet calendar. They are fun to sleep, eat, and play in, so the husband and I both have t-shirts on our Christmas wish lists. Here are some suggestions for Santa:
A t-shirt for when I’m grouchy:
One for laundry day:
And if he makes Santa’s good list:
T-shirts make great gifts. Those above can be found on and Ranger Up.
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