A Historical Highlight Of The Graphic Tee

A Historical Highlight Of The Graphic Tee

It’s no secret that the ordinary graphic t-shirt has become a staple item in streetwear fashion. And since their rise to fame in the 1950s, graphic tees are worn by different people from all walks of life regardless of age, gender, culture, and social status.

So to celebrate the contribution of this simple yet stylish apparel to the world, we are going to give a historical highlight of the graphic tee in today’s article.

The Very First Printed T-Shirt

During the old days, the t-shirt is considered more as an undergarment. So there was no need for printing interesting graphics since it was usually worn underneath the accepted casual and street clothing of that time.

But not long after, graphic tees had made its way to mainstream media when they were featured in the classic film “The Wizard Of Oz”. In the movie, workers who are fixing up the scarecrow were all wearing bright green t-shirts with the word “OZ” printed in white.

Eventually, companies have recognized the marketing potential of these apparels and began printing graphics on t-shirts in different designs.

Military Connection

Another variation of the graphic tee was issued to the military during World War II. The graphics on their garments were not printed for the sake of fashion but more on function since it included their branch names as well as the name of the training programs they belong into. And after the war, veterans continued wearing their graphic tees, which then paved the way for the trend of using it as a fashion statement and a sex symbol.

Marlon Brando’s Influence

Then in the 1950s, Marlon Brando popularized the wearing of t-shirts in 1 of his movies. And about the same time, the ink called Plastisol was also invented which then allowed people to print graphics on t-shirts by means of screen printing. And soon after, tees with Disney characters came out. They were manufactured by Tropix Togs.

Graphic Liberalism

Pac Man Shirt

Then in the 60s and 70s, the graphic designs in t-shirts were already representing different forms of culture and movement from politics, sex, drugs, and music (since music saw an emergence in the mainstream culture during these times).

Printing As A Way Of Promoting Brands

Following the success of graphic tees from famous music bands, famous brands like Adidas, Nike, CK (Calvin Klein), and Guess grabbed the opportunity to print their logos as a way of promoting their brand. And though the trend fell out of style at some point, it still managed to make a comeback eventually.


After making a comeback, the graphic tee that is mostly worn today is usually mass-produced. However, top fashion designers have been making recent efforts to print more catchy and stylish designs to encourage individuality and bring out the unique fashion sense of the wearer.

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