A T-shirt, t-shirt or simply tee is a piece of clothing made of fabric, without buttons and without a collar, that covers the wearer's torso.
It can be made with long or short sleeves, in natural fabrics such as cotton, or in synthetic fibres. There are plain or multi-coloured patterned shirts.
The first examples of t-shirt-like garments did not become widespread until the 18th century, as undergarments, and from the 19th century as workwear, due to their comfort and lack of a collar, a distinctive element of elegance. Nineteenth-century sailors wore a variant very close to the contemporary model, characterised by the typical horizontal stripes.
In the 1940s, the US Armed Forces adopted the crew neck shirt as part of the uniform for their men. The use of the T-shirt then spread widely in Europe during the Second World War.
The popularity of the T-shirt as a garment, outside of underwear or work wear, was consolidated in the 1950s, when American fashion spread around the world through the cinema. Famous actors such as James Dean or Marlon Brando wore the typical short-sleeved white t-shirt over a pair of jeans on the big screen: from that moment on, the t-shirt definitely entered contemporary fashion.
The t-shirt is the short-sleeved, crew-neck T-shirt with a straight cut bust that gives it the classic 'T' shape. The short-sleeved T-shirts worn by young Americans and Europeans in the 1950s and 1960s were strictly white, but by the end of the 1970s, the fashion for wearing coloured T-shirts (e.g. football or American football team uniforms) had already taken off.
It was in the 1980s that the T-shirt established itself as a creative garment and communicative vehicle by means of ornamental friezes and inscriptions: the message conveyed through the T-shirts took on the most diverse forms and meanings, whether ironic (the first smiles appeared on T-shirts), advertising, political or geographical.