20th Nov 2022

​What does the ‘T’ in T Shirt stand for?

T Shirt? tee shirt? - but what does the ‘T’ stand for in T Shirt?

As a simple garment of clothing covering the upper body and upper arms, the t shirt has been around in some form for many centuries. They started to gain in popularity towards the end of the 19th century when it is said workers in the US would cut their one piece full body undergarment union suits in half to help with hot summers.

It wasn’t until 1913 that it started to become ubiquitous when the U.S. Navy issued it as an undergarment for serving sailors. These shirts were collarless with a circular neck opening and very short sleeves - shorter than standard t shirts today.

T is the Shape

The most widely held explanation for the name is that the ‘T‘ in T Shirt simply refers to the basic shape of the garment - a simple vertical body with horizontal arms which resembles a capital letter T. Most dictionaries say that the t shirt is so called because of its T shape.

The term “T shirt” didn’t make it into a dictionary until 1920 after appearing in This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Or, T stands for Training?

A second possible - but not widely quoted - explanation is that this was issued to sailors as a training shirt and it is conceivable that the ‘T’ in T Shirt stands for Training.

Does T shirt have a capital T?

Yes. There are a bunch of ways to write T Shirt, but the T should usually be capitalised to resemble the shape of the shirt.