Seems hard to believe something as ubiquitous as the T-shirt was ever . . . new. But that's what it was back in 1913, when the U.S. Navy ordered them for sailors to wear under their uniforms. To celebrate the fashion staple's 100th birthday, we've gathered a quick look at its history and some classic and not-so-classic tees to keep you cool the rest of the summer.
1913: The tee is "born" as official undergarment to be worn under Navy uniforms.
1951: Marlon Brando in "A Streetcar Named Desire" renews interest with his muscle-baring torn crewneck. "Stellaaaaa!"
1960s: Underwear becomes outerwear with iconic styles like the tie-dye and Che Guevara tees (ironically, the pro-Communist fighter for Cuba becomes an icon of capitalist merchandising).
1970s: Tees soar in popularity, and tux, smiley-face and message tees are all the rage--especially the "I Love NY" tourism campaign tee, spawning an "I (Heart)" movement.
1980s: Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas wore T-shirts with blazers in hit TV show "Miami Vice".
1980s: "Miami Vice" offers the tee-with-suit look.
2004: Napoleon Dynamite wore his "Vote for Pedro" tee in the film "Napolean Dynamite".
Rebecca Taylor's current line includes various modern takes on the tee--from abstract prints to all-leather to this one in silk and lace; $265 at Rebecca Taylor, Manhattan, and rebeccataylor.com.
Corporations love the humble tee, if only because somewhere along the line we swallowed the notion that it’s not only fun but cool to be a walking billboard with free advertising emblazoned on our chests--as on this men's Mountain Dew graphic tee; $12 at JCPenney stores and jcpenney.com.
You don't have to be a sports fan to like the sporty look of the classic, two-tone baseball tee, with raglan sleeves; $24.95 at select Gap stores and similar styles at gap.com.
Some wear their hearts on their sleeve-others all over their t-shirts, as in this collage-print tee from Route 66; $10.49 at select Kmart stores and kmart.com.
3.1 Phillip Lim's grunge-inspired line includes this "I Love Nueva York" tee in cotton jersey; $145 at select Saks Fifth Avenue stores and saks.com.
Sheer, sexy and sporty-Splendid's baseball tee in Lurex with shirttail hem, scores in both style and comfort; $75 at Scoop NYC stores and scoopnyc.com.
Some tees can be dressed up or down, like J. McLaughlin's Catalina tee in a garden print, made of the brand's signature Catalina cloth, a nylon/spandex jersey that resists wrinkles (pack it and head to the real Catalina) and drapes just so; $135 at STORE TKTK, Locust Valley; STORE TKTK, Southampton; and jmclaughlin.com.
To celebrate the tee's centennial-and its military origins-CustomInk is hosting monthly t-shirt fundraisers for each branch of the armed forces. July's "Semper Fi" tee honors the Marines; $20 (with profits-at least $10 per shirt-benefiting the Yellow Ribbon Fund, a nonprofit supporting injured veterans and their families) at tshirtbirthday.com.
Colorful caviar beads adorn this burnout tee; $38 at A/X Armani Exchange stores and armaniexchange.com.
Crews, tanks and v-necks sport vintage illustrations of Disney's Mickey Mouse; $12.94 and up in men's, women's and kids sizes at Old Navy stores and oldnavy.com.
Upscale men's knitwear brand Orley has been on the scene just a couple of seasons now but that's long enough to make a statement and get noticed, thanks to their bold color-combos and innovative patterns. Not for every guy-clearly-but fashion-forward types who appreciate a glimpse of unexpected edge will dig items from the spring line-like this silk/cotton Petra tee-inspired by intricate tapestries in the Islamic Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; $395 at Bergdorf Goodman, Carson Street Clothiers and Fivestory, Manhattan; or for info visit orley.us.
Before summer's out, catch a wave, or at least this tee from the new The Tourist by Burkman Bros. collection for guys; $24, at JCPenney stores and jcpenney.com.
This season it's all about the pocket--you'll find them in different colors, ripped off the shirt, or oversized, as in Rag & Bone's basic pocket tee in leather; $325 at select Saks Fifth Avenue stores and saks.com.
Graphic and logo tees for young men from Calvin Klein, Sean John and more; $28 to $34.50 at Macy's stores and macys.com.
The Navy's "light undershirt" of 1913 had sleeves "only long enough to cover the armpit," but you can bag sleeves entirely with this U.S. Youth tee from Second Sunday; $44, look for the line at Mr. Tique, Woodbury; Impulse, Westhampton Beach; or secondsunday.com.