The T-shirt originated as a garment of utilitarian purposes, first serving as a piece of men's underwear. Today, it is extremely complex and remains a functional underwear component for men, women, and children and a staple of their sportswear wardrobe. With sales in the billions each year, T-shirts are offered in a variety of price points and fabrics. They also serve as a means of advertisement, through promotion of products, political opinion, or shock value. Images and decorations are applied in a variety of processes including silk screening, heat transfer, embroidery, or textured printing. The T-shirt has progressed from first protecting the body from exterior weight and roughness, such as in body armor, to protecting delicate fabrics from the wearer's body. In the late 1800s, circular-knitting machines allowed for the manufacture of close fitting knitted undergarments.
   By 1901, P.H. Hanes Knitting Company was founded and by 1910, Fruit of the Loom dominated the market. The 1930s saw T-shirts as a staple of the college wardrobe and also saw the use of the logo on the shirt. World War II saw the T-shirt as an integral part of the U.S. soldier's uniform; photos of soldiers in magazines, newspapers, and newsreels familiarized the public with the T-shirt. While returning soldiers, laborers, and athletes broadened the T-shirt's use, it was not until the 1950s that Hollywood made it a fashion statement. Film stars such as Marlon Brando and James Dean eroticized the T-shirt. Teamed with blue jeans and leather motorcycle jackets, the T-shirt spoke to a rebellious attitude against a conservative society. In 1962, Dior showed a T-shirt in his summer collection and other designers created them in silk for eveningwear. The youth of the 1960s tie-dyed T-shirts and they became synonymous with the hippie look. T-Shirts became necessary components of a well-rounded wardrobe and by the 1980s the polo T-shirt by Ralph Lauren and Lacoste were fashion must-haves. Black T-shirts were worn by hip trendsetters and became an identifying statement of designers, specifically Armani and Gaultier. T-shirts have been paired in recent years with a tuxedo or skirt for eveningwear or constructed out of cashmere or silk for office attire. The counterfeit market moved into the twenty-first century using the T-shirt as its backdrop to countless designer names.
   See also Knitwear.

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. .

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