T-Shirt to T-Rex

A couple of things got me thinking about T-shirts.

First was the advent of summer today. Ever-increasing numbers of tourists will descend on Cape Cod’s beaches, sidewalks and shopping malls decked out in T-shirts that express their social and political beliefs, artistic inclinations or attempts at humor.

Second was the news about “smart” T-shirts – the “T-rex” of T-shirts. These use biometric materials to connect to the Internet and provide information for and about the wearer -- vital signs, number of calories burned, almost anything.

“Dumb” T-shirts have been worn by miners and stevedores since the 19th Century. Then, during the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Navy adopted them as standard issue. But it took a chesty Marlon Brando to popularize them as an outer garment in the 1951 movie, A Streetcar Named Desire.

After Brando, T-shirts were never the same.
After Brando, T-shirts were never the same.

T-shirts are so named because somebody laid one flat one day and thought he or she saw the letter “T”.

I myself have quite a collection dating back to the Seventies, when I was chesty enough to look good in a T-shirt. My oldest – size medium -- is from the 1976 Honolulu Marathon. My newest – size extra-large -- reads, Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel.

This is what makes T-shirts so valued by the masses. T-shirts appeal to our human instincts 

for a creative outlet – homo artifex. If graffiti is considered an art form, T-shirts are more so because they range from copy to graphics, from satire to sleaze.  

T-shirts, of course, say as much about the wearer as they communicate to the audience of passersby whom the wearer is trying to reach.

For example, what can we say about people who wear T-shirts that have images of dead people on them? Shakespeare, Bob Marley and Steve Jobs rank as some of the most popular.

T-shirt design, manufacture and sales comprise an unbelievably huge industry. According to Gannett, the custom T-shirt business is part of the imprinted sportswear industry, which accounts for $30 billion in annual sales in the U.S.

And growing.

IBISWorld, a publisher of business data, says this about sales of online original-design T-shirts: during the decade ending in 2019, this industry segment alone will increase its contribution to the U. S. economy at an average annual rate of 23.5 percent.

There is even an online publication you can read to keep up with goings-on in the industry -- T-Shirt Magazine.

Maybe you should think about getting in on all this.

Last year, the average annual income for a T-shirt designer was $39,000.

Or, if you’re the entrepreneurial type, you can start small by enlisting a website to help you produce your own unique shirt. For instance, http://www.uberprints.com/studio. You can market-test the shirt you’ve made by simply putting it on and going for a walk and noticing the reactions of people who check you out.

And when you’re ready for the big time, you can start your own company. For a measly investment of $34.99 plus $4.99 shipping, you can get your hands on a book that tells you exactly how to do it. It’s titled Launch A Kick-Ass T-Shirt Brand.

In my next blog: “On Time”

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  • Peter Yaremko
    published this page in Blog 2014-10-27 11:31:15 -0400