Developed during the Song Dynasty in ancient China back in 960-1279 AD, a form of stenciling that later became known as screen printing, is where the history of printing onto fabric begins, and gradually, as the technique developed even further, more countries began to adopt this form of printing onto fabrics.
When screen printing was introduced to Europe, the British textile industry was busyindustrializing the entire industry, and it was inevitable that with this, would come a screen-printing revolution.
In the UK, as the industrial revolution continued, it came up with a union suit garment to be worn underneath clothing, and while it began as a one-piece suit, over time, it was separated into a top half that could be tucked in to the bottom half. Throughout the 1800’s, many miners were known to have worn the top half of the union suit when working in hot environments.
In the US, this particular garment was being issued to sailors and grew in popularity once the Spanish-American War had ended. Crew necked and with short sleeves, these undershirts made of white cotton were designed to be worn under a uniform, and soon, Naval work parties in the tropics took to taking off their uniform jackets due to the intense heat, and wore only their undershirt. Not only did this keep them cooler, but it protected their uniforms from sweat and grime.
Then, other workers in different industries began to wear them, and it came to be the commonly worn work shirt by many men during the Great Depression.
At about the same time that the t-shirt was being commonly worn in both the UK and US, screen printing methods were being improved, and it wasn’t long before printing and t-shirts came together in a harmonious union. A number of companies in Miami in the 1950’s, began decorating t-shirts with resort names and characters, and as time and techniques progressed, major brands began using t-shirts to advertise their products, logos and slogans on, from Coca Cola and Disney, right up to smaller brands that hadn’t yet achieved fame.
Fast forward to the early 2000’s, and t-shirts with funny or political printed statements on them became highly sought after, and many pop stars and celebrities wore them.
Nowadays, t-shirts with captions or images on them are just as popular as they were twenty years ago, and businesses still use them to promote their brands and messages, and individuals still buy them to express themselves or show an affiliation with a cause or product.
The printed t-shirt is unlikely ever to go out of fashion, and with so many opportunities for advertising, sharing ideas and making statements, t-shirt printing remains an affordable way of getting a message to the masses.
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