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T-Shirt Printing As Fine Art and Protest Medium

April 24, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 169

The printed t-shirts you wear with pride has come a long way from being a simple undergarment worn by soldiers on the battlefields of the two World Wars. Today, you will find this piece of clothing reflecting the sparkle of flashes on a Paris catwalk and drenched by a water cannon on some street protest somewhere.

Tested in war, immortalized by heroes

Ancestors of the t-shirt are in almost every culture. The clothing we know today, though, is believed to be a direct descendant of the undershirt worn by soldiers from as far back as the First World War. According to one story, American soldiers adopted the t-shirt from the lightweight cotton undershirts of their European counterparts. By World War II, the t-shirt was the standard issue upper undergarment for soldiers of the United States.

After the Second World War, veterans began to appear in public wearing only their t-shirts as an upper garment. It was only in the 1950s, though, when the t-shirt jumped to the public's consciousness after icons like Marlon Brando, John Wayne, and James Dean began wearing this in public. Dean's sudden death cemented the t-shirt's image as cultural icon as much as it did the actor himself, especially since he wore a t-shirt prominently in Rebel Without a Cause.

Symbol and canvass

The t-shirt rose to cultural prominence in the peak of 1960s counterculture. With the adoption of screenprinting, it now became possible for printed t-shirts with a specific design to be made in large quantities. T-shirt printing became a rewarding business as musicians and athletes jumped into the bandwagon with custom printed t-shirts.

The invention of more methods of decorating t-shirts in succeeding decades solidified its role as a medium of self-expression, especially in the 1980s. Digital design and printing in the late 1990s and the early 21st century gave people more ways to use the t-shirt as a canvass for ideas and images. Several artists like Bill Beckley and Peter Klashorst use the garment as a medium for their own brand of artistry.

Corporations also saw the potential of the t-shirt, this time as an excellent medium for advertising campaigns. Although there were instances of the t-shirt as marketing tool during earlier decades, it was only in the 1990s that corporations started putting their logos and campaign slogans on t-shirts. T-shirts became an economical way to get more money out of fans and loyal customers.

Political movements and non-governmental organizations also used printed t-shirts for their own campaigns. Putting one's slogan on printed t-shirts has the same effect as a raised placard, except that it threatens people less and becomes a fashion statement. One of the best examples is the Che Guevara shirts.

Today printed t-shirts are standard attire anywhere in the globe, from the corporate boardrooms of New York to an unmarked beach in Thailand. No matter how it is worn, you can never go wrong with t-shirts.

Kieran Flynn wants to go into t-shirt printing after buying printed t-shirts.

Source: EzineArticles
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