IdentiTee: A History of T-shirt Printing

Person Doing Shirt PrintingFashion tends to reflect the complexity and fragmentation of humans. While clothing can be an instrument of strengthening social or gender norms, it can also be a symbol of rebellion. Over the years, trends have rapidly evolved. The popularity of T-shirts, for instance, has a part of its early origins in the collective outcry of a once marginalized people: the African-American sector of society used these easy-to-wear garments as avenues to share their experiences and to seed social and political messages.

T-shirts are modest, cost-efficient, and easy to reproduce, and the plain design and workable fabric make them ideal for printing and everyday use.

Identity Politics and Cultural Complexity

From the 30’s to the latter part of the 40’s, shirt printing became a popular trend among African-American communities. Before that, shirt printing was primarily used to identify with an organization or for commercial gains. Following technical advancements in the 1950’s and 60’s, including the use of spray paint, plastic inks, and colored designs, people saw more possibilities for tees.

Over time, simple logos evolved into contextualized messages that appealed to like-minded individuals (that is to say, people who believed in the same cause or could relate to the concept of the tee design). Faces of icons and celebrities and famous slogans also appeared on shirts in the 60’s, and these wearable message boards eventually became a popular tool to show support for various issues.

Emerging Trends in Shirt Printing

As society grew more complex and involved with social causes, shirt printing became a timeless trend, transcending race, age, class, and gender. Consequently, to meet growing demands, individuals and businesses saw the potential for utilizing technological advances to up production.

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Today, the process of shirt printing is highly sophisticated. Tee Vision Printing, a Philadelphia business selling customized t-shirts online, lets people choose from a range of t-shirt styles and materials to customize shirts on the company’s website. Ordering in bulk is now much easier, and DIY kits allow people try their hand at tee printing at home.

Personalized shirt printing may now be rather commonplace; but, like bolder fashion trends, it has an interesting history, too. From run-of-the-mill to rebel gear, to fashion staple, the tee has truly become a favorite garment for people of all walks of life.