The T-shirt has always been a staple of the fashion industry – serving nearly every purpose from high fashion to utilitarian clothing. T-shirts are present in uniforms, in every country of the world, and even in the pages of magazines like Vogue. Tall tees are a relatively new innovation in the t-shirt world, but they have a long historical lineage that they draw upon. Tall T-Shirts are basically longer t-shirts, affording wearers with additional flexibility and freedom while maintaining a very unique appearance and lending themselves well to layering.
The First T-Shirt
Even though it might seem like t-shirts have been around forever, they were actually invented in the 19th century as a direct result of increased global cotton production. The invention of mechanized cotton separation reduced the price of cotton exports around the world, so t-shirts became a cheap alternative to fancier undergarments. T-shirts were originally made by cutting the one-piece “union suit” undergarments into two pieces – and they caught on mostly among industrial workers that spent all their time in the hot environments of boiler rooms and mines.
The popularity of the t-shirt took off in the late 1800s during the Spanish American war, when the United States issued white cotton t-shirts (almost identical to the white crew-necked shirts that are popular today) to sailors and stevedores that worked in the tropical heat of Central America. This allowed people to soil only their undershirts rather than their whole uniforms, and t-shirts eventually became popular when returning soldiers introduced them to young boys and to workers in agriculture during the Great Depression – a cheap alternative to the fashionable clothing of the day.
The Evolution of T-Shirt Style
T-shirts were originally just undergarments, but they rapidly evolved into statements of style with the addition of colors and graphics. Evidence of the first printed t-shirts is actually apparent in the old Wizard of Oz movies, and many people in the early 1900s wore t-shirts that were printed with the names of clothing stores or the names of various membership organizations.
The first t-shirt variant that became popular as a fashion design of its own was the “ringer” t-shirt, a type of shirt that had differently colored fabric on the seams of the neck and arms. Tie-dye t-shirts and screen-printed t-shirts also became popular in the 1960s, and t-shirts became a uniquely Western way of expressing one’s own identity. Since t-shirts have always been so cheap, they have been associated with various “underground” movements, and with bands, protests, and youth organizations.
The Tall Tee
The Tall t-shirt came about as a direct evolution of the hip-hop movement. Hip-hop singers, and the fashion companies that supplied them, popularized the wearing of increasingly large t-shirts – usually in conjunction with pants that were worn below the hips and a variety of other accessories. The tall t-shirt is a t-shirt that is specifically designed to achieve this layered “casual” look without being baggy and large in the chest/shoulders. The tall tee is longer than a regular tee, so it is perfect to wear over sweatshirts and thicker clothing as an additional layer.
After the hip-hop movement adopted the tall tee, it became popular in a variety of other niches that have historically looked to the hip-hop movements for fashion inspiration. For example, snowboarders on slopes all around the world are wearing tall tees, and many basketball fans adopted the tall tee because of its similarity to basketball jerseys without the high price.