100 years of T-shirts: Fashion icon celebrates centennial


by CBS News


Posted on July 31, 2013 at 11:17 AM

WASHINGTON -- At CustomInk's headquarters just outside Washington D.C., T-shirts are serious business. The company has been cranking out shirts, sweats and hats for 14 years.

This summer, they're celebrating the 100th anniversary of their number-one seller: The T-shirt.

The U.S. was first introduced to T-shirts by the Navy 100 years ago. In its 1913 uniform regulations, the Navy wrote the "light undershirt shall be of the lightest-weight cotton consistent with durability . . . it shall have sleeves only long enough to cover the armpit."

The first reference to the T-shirt first appeared in the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 1920. They sold for 24 cents in the 1938 Sears catalog.

But it was in the 1951 film "A Streetcar Named Desire" when Marlon Brando turned the traditional undershirt into a fashion phenomenon.

Four years later, James Dean followed suit in "Rebel Without a Cause."

But, over the years, that plain white tee evolved into a whole lot more.

"Clearly the T-shirt has cultural impact, which you don't say about many other items of clothing," said Billboard editor Joe Levy. "It's not just an item of clothing. It can be a billboard, it can be a meme. It can be a novelty item. It's a lot of different things in one."

CustomInk has put together its 100 most iconic T-shirts of all time, including super heroes, cult heroes, and New York state's venerable marketing campaign, "I ♥ NY."

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