Click to create your own cool t-shirt designs!

American soldiers started noticing that their allies and foes from across the pond weren’t sweating like them because of their light cotton undershirts. The wool uniforms of the Americans quickly lost favor and by the time the second World War rolled around, t-shirts were standard issue underwear. Soon after WWII, people started wearing t-shirts by itself. This was seen as taboo at first but soon, popular (and attractive) actors were wearing t-shirts without shirts on top and, of course, it was deemed culturally more acceptable. In the 60’s and 70’s, young people and members of the counter-culture movement (rock n’ roll) started tie-dying t-shirts, ironing designs and creating variants like muscle shirts and v-necks. Since then, the growth of the popularity of t-shirts – with the different designs, unique and cliched – has been astronomical. Hundreds of stores and websites like Threadless and even ones that let you design your own have popped up.

Image of a shirt with abs on it

I thought about putting a picture of t-shirt with a custom design but I couldn’t find a picture so I took a picture of my body instead. I hope that’s okay!

The proliferation of t-shirts could be attributed to the obvious factor of visibility. I think the rise of the t-shirt is, like the excerpt from Susan Blackmore’s book says, due to the imitation. Also, like in the reading, people imitate what they see, people wearing a cool or, at the very least, unique t-shirt, and decide to make a shirt but with their own twist. The behavioral component of copying and wearing a shirt – by either buying, selling or producing – has evolved the t-shirt from a simple undershirt that’s buried underneath a shirt to the form of upper-body clothing that is worn the most and appeals to almost all demographic. In that growth, the very fabric (har har)of what is a “t-shirt” has so vastly changed with the different variants previously mentioned and the thousands of novel designs.

The number of people who openly wear t-shirts were few but it spread far outside the niche it started in. Aside from the comfort of wearing a light cotton shirt, I think that the inherent blank slate that a t-shirt provides is appealing to a vast audience because of the opportunity to sort of instill themselves on their shirt. For most people, their clothes sends a message to other people – a form of semiotics, signs being transmitted to a person – and t-shirts provides millions more possibilities. T-shirts become a sort of extension of one’s self; it becomes a sort of tool for self-expression and individuality. It may seem counter-intuitive to some to buy a shirt that’s mass-produced in China because it’s cool and unique but that’s the beauty of it – you’re free to do it if that’s how you wish to express yourself.

I think t-shirts is one of the defining aspects of clothing because of its ubiquity, but almost every article of clothing can be viewed as a meme, especially with specific styles that are attributed to a certain demographic like plaid – hipsters and lumberjacks. Suits have also seen an increase, I’m sure Barney Stinson has lent a small part to that movement, in pop culture and in everyday life.

The readings we’ve done in class have both been somewhat vague to what exactly their views on the meme theory are. Is it something that controls us and humans are merely it’s host but then that would lend to them a sort of sentient-ness? Or is it something else because they’re sort of hesitant to outright say the previous sentence? A fault that can be leveled at meme theory is that memetics is regarded as reductionist and lacking. I agree that it seems that way because ideas, and everything associated with it, are such nuanced that anything but precise metric seems inadequate. Though that criticism seems nit-picky and neigh-saying for no real merit. The study of human communication is such an abstract concept that there’s no real way to ever measure such things with anything more than abstract, reductive ideas that only attempt to place meaning on the world.

Ideas are amazingly interesting, I mean, I think it drives each and everyday of our lives, and I mean far beyond the scope of the bubble of academia we live in. Humans in general grapple with past, present and future ideas each and everyday. Entire systems that keep our societies functioning like the idea of “money,” “friends” and “law & order” are, when taken enough steps back, are all merely abstracts in our collective minds that we’ve forcibly manifested in the real world. These aren’t concepts that come from nature. I love the fact that ideas are these “things” that can spread, grow, regress, evolve and die. I believe that our consciousness as humans are merely sets of ideas that we view the world through. These ideas constantly change as we absorb from other people, forget old ideas and create new ones.

Gosh, that went way longer than I expected.

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