This morning, as I scrabbled to get ready for work, I opened my cupboard and found a clean T-shirt to wear.
I slipped it on without thinking and then went about my day.
I mean, it’s just such a part of daily life that I was on autopilot.
T-shirts. Everyone wears them, right?
But, actually, as it turns out…wearing T-shirts is a fairly new thing, by historical standards, something that only really became popular after the 1950s.
You have the US Navy and the actor Marlon Brando to thank for their popularity.
T-shirts started out their lives as simple, crude undergarments – usually worn by farmers or general laborers underneath their work shirts.
If you believe in reincarnation, here’s hoping that you don’t come back as a 1800s farm worker’s T-shirt…living out your days with only a sweaty armpit for company.
But they didn’t get their big break until 1913 when the US Navy issued them (as undergarments) – simple white crew necks. By the 1920s the word T-shirt gradually slipped into the dictionary.
They were hidden away. Never displayed. Worn under shirts or jumpers. Locked away like the child of an overprotective parent – barely seeing the light of day.
Then in 1951 the T-shirt finally gained recognition for being a standalone fashionable item. Thanks to Marlon Brando, one of the coolest guys of the era.
He wore it in the classic ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ and the youngsters who idolised him at the time rushed out to buy and wear them.
A great example of just how much film inspires culture.
The swinging sixties rolled round and more and more people began to wear printed T-shirts – often putting their own slogans on them to protest and make statements.
Not much has changed since the sixties, has it?
So there you go – there’s a story behind the humble t-shirt. That piece of fabric that we usually put on without thinking.
And, as a storyteller, it’s worth remembering that everything – even the simplest things – have a story behind them and it’s up to you to flesh them out.
For example, if I were in the fashion industry and I wanted to sell T-shirts, I’d find a creative way to sell them and their story.
‘DID YOU KNOW THAT MARLON BRANDO MADE THE T-SHIRT FAMOUS?’ I guarantee that people would be interested, particularly as most of us now only remember Brando as the old guy in ‘The Godfather’.
So, whether you’re selling something or just writing about something, have a look at the story behind it – does it have a good enough story to sell itself?
Most things do. Just look at the telescope, for example…