More than 100 years after its emergence as a humble item of underclothing, the t-shirt is getting its own fashion retrospective at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, England. Tshirt history it seems, is rich, layered and very much alive after a century of evolution and concomitant refinement of the world’s favorite garment. Not only is the t-shirt the world’s favorite garment, but t-shirt history also teaches that it is the world’s most democratic item of clothing in that, it can and is, worn by almost everyone, from every sector of society. Democratic t-shirts may be, but they have also attracted the interest and efforts of the icons of fashion design, as well as powerful social voices alike. From legendary British designers Vivian Westwood through Katharine Hamnett’s powerful protest tees of the 1980s, the t-shirt has done its duty as billboard, advertising platform, and fashion statement and the T-shirt: Cult— Culture—Subversion exhibition aims to pay tribute to this incredible printed, patterned and textured tshirt history. We have an extensively detailed four part introductory history of the t-shirt in our resources section for anyone interested in how the t-shirt came to be the most popular item of clothing on earth.

The popularity of the t-shirt is unrivaled by any other item of clothing in our closets mostly because of its massive utility appeal, dead-on minimalist practicality and constant fashion-ability. T-shirts never go out of style and can be worn almost anywhere these days. Although its appeal for social protest and political platforms remains one of the most significant aspects of its appeal, the tshirt is something the proletariat and the most distinguished fashion labels share, as evidenced by Dior’s recent riff off Nigerian feminist and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful eponymous publication and TED talk, and the ever effervescent girl power zeitgeist of our time. This new exhibition promises a detailed retrospective of this much-loved and much-flaunted garment spanning the last century of t-shirt design and manufacture. From its earliest incarnations through its military use, those giddy teenage years as it returned home from the war, followed by a strong heritage as the most democratic item of protest clothing around, the t-shirt is unquestionably the world’s favorite garment and the go-to solution for almost everyone from every walk of life or social station.

Spectra History of T-Shirts: The Fifties
Spectra History of T-Shirts: The Fifties

SpectraUSA’s own collection sports several items which draw their roots directly from the rich design history of the American t-shirt. The 2001 Roughneck is not only a tough contender in this category but also the kind of t-shirt which grandad would have been proud to pull over his head before shipping out. With open-end yarn spinning and rich, textured feel, this built-tough design classic has become legendary in the California actions ports community. Not to be outdone are the clean, modernist lines of SpectraUSA’s 2100 Retro ring-spun t-shirt which has been meticulously designed along classic tshirt design lines and updated through the use of modern tailoring and manufacturing techniques to ensure that it is simply the best fitting t-shirt around.

T-shirt: Cult—Culture—Subversion” is currently on exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum from February 9 through May 6 2018 at the museum’s venue in London. Get there however you can but be sure to get there as it promises to be quite a show.