How did the T-shirt become an essential feature in our wardrobes, as necessary as a pair of jeans? The most classic version, a white cotton jersey crewneck that became standard military issue in World War II, is descended from undergarments worn by Navy men in the 1910s. Chanel famously adapted jersey, a fabric traditionally used for underwear, into fashionable womenswear in the twenties, but it would be decades before this hidden staple came out from under, and gradually morphed from a masculine to a unisex garment.
Once an item bought in bulk from Hanes or Fruit of the Loom, over time, the classic white tee moved past its humble origins. It became a fast fashion staple in the nineties, and continues to receive designer treatment from the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, who in 1991 layered Chanel’s signature tweed cardigan jackets over white tees, and Kanye West, whose Hip Hop T-shirt for A.P.C. was a sell-out hit.
And that’s precisely the measure of its success: The basic tee, after all, is the simplest, easiest piece of clothing imaginable—its blank-page quality functions like a screen on which we project our current cultural preoccupations. A T-shirt can denote working-class status (if, for example, you’re the Boss); symbolize rebellion (James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause), athleticism (just ask any sports figure from dancers to boxers and everyone in between); accentuate sexiness (that cling!). And it’s the most versatile piece imaginable too—the T-shirt can be worn anywhere, from the backwaters of New Orleans (Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire) to the red carpet.
No wonder, then, that along with jeans, the classic white tee remains a key element of the quintessential casual-cool uniform: Its very plainness, after all, leaves room for self-invention, the root of the American dream. Here, some of the best iterations of that reverie, as worn by Marlon Brando, Madonna, Kendall Jenner, and more.
The post From Marlon Brando to Kendall Jenner, 27 of the Best Classic White T-Shirts Ever appeared first on Vogue.