Who invented the t-shirt?

The Evolution of the T-Shirt: From Undergarment to Fashion Staple

The humble T-shirt, a ubiquitous garment in modern wardrobes, has a history that stretches back centuries. Originally conceived as an undergarment, the T-shirt has evolved into a versatile piece of clothing that serves not only functional but also cultural and fashion purposes. While pinpointing a single inventor of the T-shirt is difficult due to its gradual evolution, its journey through history is fascinating and worth exploring.

Early Origins

The roots of the T-shirt can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where similar garments were worn as undergarments. However, the modern iteration of the T-shirt emerged in the early 20th century. In 1904, the Cooper Underwear Company introduced a new lightweight, buttonless undershirt for bachelors, which resembled the T-shape we recognize today. This innovation marked the beginning of the T-shirt’s transition from undergarment to everyday wear.

Military Utility

The T-shirt gained widespread recognition during World War I when it was issued to U.S. Navy sailors as part of their standard uniform. Its short-sleeved design provided comfort in warm climates, and its ease of cleaning made it practical for military use. By World War II, the T-shirt had become standard issue for all branches of the U.S. military, further solidifying its place in popular culture.

Cultural Icon

Post-war, the T-shirt underwent a transformation from practical military attire to a symbol of youthful rebellion and individual expression. In the 1950s, actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean popularized the T-shirt as outerwear, giving it a rebellious, anti-establishment connotation. This association only grew stronger in the 1960s and 1970s as the T-shirt became a canvas for political slogans, band logos, and artistic prints, reflecting the social movements of the time.

Fashion Staple

By the late 20th century, the T-shirt had firmly established itself as a fashion staple. Designers began experimenting with fabrics, cuts, and prints, elevating the T-shirt from its humble origins to high fashion runways. From luxury brands to fast-fashion retailers, everyone embraced the versatility and accessibility of the T-shirt, making it a wardrobe essential for people of all ages and backgrounds.


In conclusion, while the exact inventor of the T-shirt remains elusive, its journey from undergarment to cultural icon is a testament to its enduring popularity and adaptability. What began as a simple piece of clothing for military use has evolved into a symbol of self-expression, fashion, and cultural identity. Today, the T-shirt continues to evolve, reflecting the ever-changing tastes and values of society. Whether worn as a statement piece or a casual staple, the T-shirt remains an enduring symbol of comfort, style, and individuality.