The Classic White Tee

The plainest and simplest of clothing, a t-shirt is a blank canvas upon which you can paint whatever image of yourself you wish. It’s unpretentious, unassuming and underrated. To celebrate this Peregrine favourite, we turn to four of our favourite style icons who wore the crew neck better than anyone.

Ever wondered how the t-shirt first came about? The t-shirt evolved from undergarments used in the 19th century by cutting one-piece underwear into separate top and bottom garments.  Later on it was coined the name “t-shirt” due to the shape.  The beginning of the t-shirt can really be credited to the U.S. Navy.  The U.S. Navy issued crew-necked, short-sleeved, white cotton undershirts around 1913.  Much like the aviator sunglasses and the leather bomber jacket, it wasn’t long before legions of young men were adopting the style as a symbol of strength, masculinity and just the right amount of rebellion.

It was Marlon Brando who really took the t-shirt from workwear of the military to the mainstream market when he appeared in his white crew neck in A Streetcar Named Desire 1951, prompting t-shirt sales to hit a total of $180 million in the U.S that year. How to wear one like Brando? Make sure your sleeves are slightly too short and your trouser waist is just high enough – cigarettes and six-pack optional.
We couldn’t write a blog about the classic white tee without mentioning James Dean now, could we?! The undisputed face of teenage rebellion. Dean wore his with Levi’s 501 denim, featuring a straight leg cut and a high rise, as well as tough leather boots with minimal detailing.
The classic King of Cool, Steve McQueen, donned it both on and off our screens. Never has someone made a white t-shirt, black jeans and desert boots look so effortlessly smooth as McQueen. Steve’s dressing could be described as a no-nonsense style that is easy to replicate but hard to master. A combination of rugged, well-worn pieces, superb fit and an attitude you can’t buy were the key ingredients to his secret recipe.
Hemsworth manages to prove that no matter the era, you can’t go wrong with a white tee and dark jeans for that classic American workwear vibe. The t-shirt has definitely stood the test of time and continues to look effortlessly cool.