Friday, February 13, 2009

By Jove: A T-Shirt

By James Gilbert Pynn

Peek into anyones chest of drawers and lo and behold you will find: a T-shirt. And usually more than one. Theyre unstoppable and totally comfortable. Do you think by totally comfortable I mean totally or absolutely? Its a semantic game, to be sure, but as a purveyor of all things comfortable, I like to use all-encompassing and ridiculous words. By way of disclosure, I should say, right off the bat: I am an avid T-shirt collector and, on occasion, I do wear them.

As one who dabbles in both histrionics and history, and specifically with regards to the latter, Id like to dabble with the history of the mighty, mighty T-shirt. Brace yourself. Originally, this symbol of masculine prowess and the prompter of countless gun show shtick, was an Englishmans best line of defense in the war against that most improper of human functions: sweating. Yes, the T-shirt started as a pit stop. Now, mind you were talking about sometime in the 1880s. Very Victorian, no? But of course they didnt call it a T-shirt, opting for the terribly proper: under-vest. Egad.

So the story goes, that during WW2, the English introduced the under-vest to their American counter-parts and our brave boys brought their under-vests home. I think this is questionable as I can wear Ive seen old movies with Clark Gable in a muscle T, washing his face or something. Anyone? Well, so the story goes the English gave us the T-shirt and we adopted the military designation for the shirt, which was training shirt. Get it? Training shirt became t-shirt. Sounds kind of flimsy.

Our GIs brought the Ts home and wore them without the fuss and bother of a button down or coat. Living on the edge, eh? Remember, were talking about the age of Brylcreem here. So, of course, what does every ad man dream of? Millions of miniature, walking billboards waiting to be emblazoned with a slogan. In fact, in the 48 election, both the Republicans and Democrats printed T-shirts with such winning slogans as "Dew it for Dewey and "I Like Ike." I do like Ike.

Behold: the birth of graphic Tees! Plain white T-shirts? Why? Slap something on it: pictures, slogans, cartoon characters, hand-written passages from Thus Spoke Zarathustra. O man, take care! What does the deep midnight declare? I was asleep" Anyone? Anyone? Anyway, follow the next fad to the T of your dreams. What do I care? - 16651

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