it might at first seem like a foolish question, but there's always a reason for every design detail in menswear; and it's one that a friend of mine asked recently. as soon as he asked, and as soon as i realised that i didn't know, i just had to find out the answer.
i wear a t shirt nearly every single day. whether it's a base layer thermal in the winter or a vintage print tee in the summer, an active fit top for working out in or a classic white tee worn with that perfectly faded pair of jeans. the t shirt is an absolute staple in my wardrobe; and i think that is probably also true for a large number of people in the world!
this, however, was not always the case. if we look back even just 60 years ago, t shirts weren't the everyday basic that they are today. the t shirt derived from early underwear. firstly, the union suit, which was patented in 1868 in new york, and was essentially an all in one body worn under clothing. this was incredibly impractical and was soon split into two more easily removable pieces. as mass manufacturing became increasingly popular, the undershirt became further simplified and the crew neck long sleeve t shirt was born.
during the 1920's and 30's the t shirt was still very much an undergarment not to be seen in public. but these rules began to relax within the military when servicemen working under intensely hot conditions would strip down to expose their t shirts. by the end of world war two it was increasingly accepted as a form of outerwear, even if still considered by many as overtly sexual.
this takes us to the 1950's and 1960's where the rise in people wearing t shirts was matched with a decline in popularity of the waistcoat as everyday apparel. this is what led to the addition of a chest pocket on the t shirt as a replacement for that found on a waistcoat. it provided the wearer with a convenient place to store cigarettes, pens and other small items.
looking in my wardrobe, i only actually own one single pocket tee. maybe that's because it's something that you would find more commonly in a man's closet? think about the practicalities of a breast pocket on a women's chest! or maybe it's just because they're not as popular these days? whatever the reason, it's nice to know why the hell it's there.
all images via pinterest