A Military Icon Turns 100

tshirt550

In 1913, the US Navy issued its first pullover, buttonless undershirts with elastic collars to sailors and the American t-shirt was born. There’s some dispute about the reason. There’s the popular story that they were inspired by European soldiers who had cotton undergarments to keep themselves cool under their wool uniforms but our colleagues at Military Times uncovered a story that claims that the Navy issued t-shirts to cover chest hair that was poking out of sailors’ V-neck uniforms.

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Of course, students of Army history will point out that the t-shirt as a popular outer garment can be traced to troops stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. Although the Army’s quarter-sleeve shirts were issued as undershirts, command eventually allowed soldiers to wear them minus the uniform shirts in the heat and humidity. Troops came home, started wearing them when they cut the lawn and worked on their cars in the driveway and eventually someone decided to start decorating them with slogans and logos.

Coast Guard

T-shirt printing company CustomInk has launched a tribute site called T-Shirt Birthday. They’re currently offering a custom Coast Guard t-shirt as a fundraiser for the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which supports recovering veterans and their families at Walter Reed Medical Center. If you missed out on previous designs for the Navy, Air Force, Army and Marines, all five designs will be available again starting in September.

12 Comments

  1. Ernest Payne says:

    Fascinating. More “offbeat” history please.

  2. moondawg says:

    God Bless the forward thinkers of the USN

  3. ??? says:

    Seriously who cares…

    • Bob says:

      Its nice to read something new instead of all the other hype.

    • Steve says:

      Who cares??? those of us who still believe in proper Hygiene, and comfort.….What a sour apple comment.….“who cares”.….….….….….….….…..

  4. Wraith says:

    In the 90s Gen McPeak changed the Air Force t-shirts for the Blue Uniform to those ridiculous v-neck t-shirts because his wife thought a mans chest hair should show.

    • AFRet05 says:

      I remember those days. We used to joke about waiting for the instructions if the chest hair should be blocked or tapered.

    • Steve says:

      An Air Force’s General’s wife changed that to a V neck T-shirt long before 1990. She didn’t like it showing across an open collar, so she had her husband edict a change to the V neck.….and it went over like a lead balloon!!!! Thanks goodness this was reversed by smarter heads. It has been a sad day when we, as service members have to contend with the likes of some General’s wife and her antics about uniform apparel.… Unfortunately we have those blood sucker women still about giving their husband s orders for the Enlisted men

    • unknown says:

      What BS !! how much $$$ wasted because the wife had a whim or fetish not because of safety concerns, uniformity, or even it was deemed by the JCS, but because of a wife with a fetish !

  5. artymgysgt says:

    Pretty cool if the Navy came up with the tee shirt, I still don’t get the blue cammies that they still wear.

  6. kid makeup says:

    interesting