1970s T Shirt Craze

It was the decade of personalized T-Shirts. When I was 12 my mom took me to a T-Shirt store at the mall to get the iron-on transfer below put on a shirt. I picked it from different pics they had…It was my favorite shirt until it started to peel and the Beatles were no longer visible.

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The origins of the t-shirt date back to the late 19th century, when laborers would cut their jumpsuits in half to keep cool in warmer months during the year. The first manufactured t-shirt was invented between the Mexican-American War in 1898, and 1913 when the U.S. Navy began issuing them as standard undershirts.

In 1950, Marlon Brando wore a white t-shirt as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, only to be followed by James Dean in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause. Thanks to these two gentlemen, the popularity of the t-shirt as a stand-alone shirt became standard.

In the seventies, I remember seeing personalized T-Shirts everywhere. The punk movement popularized it also.  Below are some of the fun ones.

I’m With Stupid, Keep On Trucking, and I’m a Pepper were quite popular…

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Drug T-Shirts were popular…I’ve seen pictures of Keith Moon wearing the Rorer 714 shirt.

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Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

42 thoughts on “1970s T Shirt Craze”

  1. WOW! I totally remember getting shirts like this!! When we would go to Caseville, MI, there was a place that had some pre-made shirts, but you could look up on the wall and pick the iron on that you wanted on your shirt. Each design had a number on it (much like balloons do when you go to a dollar store today) and they’d iron it on your shirt with a huge press. I believe I had the “Grandma and Grandpa went to Caseville and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt” and “Where the hell is Caseville, MI?” shirts! One of the first shirts I remember having (and wearing until it was a rag) said, “Try it, you’ll like it!”

    Thanks for the memories!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad some people remember these…so much fun walking into a store and having a shirt that everyone else didn’t have.


  2. I never realised that the T-shirt didn’t catch on until relatively recently. I’ve almost exclusively worn T shirts my whole life, yet people throughout history have dressed in comparatively more formal attire. When I watch those really old videos of people in the streets and how they dressed and conducted themselves, well I couldn’t help but think we are slouches by comparison. In a sense today we are class-less and I often ponder what it must have been like to go out dressed in suits. Men looked like gentlemen back then and women like ladies. It’s amazing how we dumbing down the dress-code has dumbed down our culture and sophistication. People spoke so respectfully and dressed accordingly. You only have to look at the movies from that era to realise that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Look at older baseball games…in July you would see coats, ties, hats, and dresses everywhere. Sometimes you would see their jacket taken off…that was about as sloppy as they got.

      I agree with you compelely. The sixties and seventies ushered in more casual dress. I’ve wore T-Shirts also my entire life unless we were going somewhere special. Being in IT doesn’t help now either…we are not required to dress even nice…so the casual continues.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We are on the same page. Even if you look at how the sexes dress more alike now. We are turning into a metrosexual society. That is for certain. Men and women are dressing and conducting themselves more the same. There is some truth about this gender fluidity phrase being bandied about in the sense it’s getting harder to tell the sexes apart. That’s some weird sh%t right there! LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “That’s some weird sh%t right there! LOL” My first laugh of the day!

        Yes we are ONE now.

        I have dressed up before at work for a presentation and I’m asked…Do you have a job interview? Are you going to a funeral? To watch exectutives squirm just dress up.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. ‘Do you have a job interview’? Haha. Yes it’s weird how the dress-codes at work have been slackened so much in recent years that people equate formal dress attire with to a non work related event.
        A few weeks ago I got dressed up in slacks, a collared shirt and suede jacket to take a girl out to dinner for her birthday and she got all shitty at me for having dressed up so nicely. Admittedly she always dressed like a dag being the ex punk rocker nihilist she is. Anyway, low and behold she broke up with me a short time after I tried to lavish her and dress handsomely. But I haven’t let that deter me. I’ve made a pledge that I will continue to go out dressed nicely for dinners, movies and what-not. I have to hold up my end of the bargain in this class-less age haha. I almost sound like Basil Fawlty! Haha

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Whenever you can reference Basil Fawlty it’s a win win…and you are doing the right thing lol…don’t let that get you down.

        Isn’t it funny that you would be considered a rebel now for dressing up lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Fawlty Towers may have been one of the best written tv comedy ever…of course, it’s not many of them but they are gold.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Yeah, those were good times! Almost every mall had its own store, all those transfer designs on the wall, just pick the one you want and the color of shirt… wait a few minutes and there you go. Great for about a dozen proud wears before the image either faded away or peeled off through over-washing. I think I had a couple of band ones, some truck ones (seems odd now to think ‘Hey it’d be great to walk around with a picture of a Chevy tractor trailer on my chest’but you had to be there I guess!) perhaps some generic happy face styles and so on. Remember getting your name ironed on the back too? Wow – they had lettering in probably five different fonts to choose from!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The first t-shirt I remember getting at the mall like that- was the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour one that you pictured above. It was at a place called The Old Shirt Shack or something like that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Back then it wasn’t as easy to get Beatles merchandise unless you had a catalog and money.
      I had the only one at my school. We had good taste lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes back then was the dark ages as far as that type of stuff goes. Not as easy available as things are today.. One vacation the family took to the ocean I remember most- we stopped at a huge t-shirt place and I got a John Lennon T-shirt which I wore until it faded away…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I remember I wanted a jacket with the Beatles on it from a catalog… $200 bucks…Mom frowned on that really quick.
        When John was murdered I remember I got one of his shirts…of course they were easier to get then… and like you I wore it til it was a rag.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I remember the circumstance. It had to be a lie but supposedly these jackets were found in Shea Stadium not sold from their tour.
        Yes it was too much and I knew it. I understood even then.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. T-shirts from the t-shirt shop at the mall was what my kids always wore growing up. Even now they are what I would call t-shirt aficianados and often find some pretty amazing/funny/brilliant/out-there ones that they and their group of friends buy for each other on birthdays and holidays. I remember getting in contact with the manager of Chvrches and asking if I could use one of their photos to have put on a t-shirt for my older son. The manager thanked me for asking first and gave permission. My son was slack-jawed happy when he opened that gift. I remember RLCrumb for his posters and t-shirts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lol sounds like he was really happy! Yea now it’s easier to get them…heck you can probably make your own now.
      I just remember when I was a kid everyone started to have personalized shirts and the drug ones…the Rorer 714 one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just started watching a 5-part mini-series (L borrow) called Patrick Melrose from Showtime, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. The first episode he is partaking of every mind-altering substance known to humankind, including quualude. It really had him woozy at the restaurant so he had to go to the bathroom to do some coke to wake up. The first episode was off the hook! That guy is a hell of an actor.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Lol it sounds off the hook! Qualludes were taken by house wives and practically everyone… doctors would hand samples out…
        The show sounds great! I might have to check that out.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh the show is off the hook. E1 is Patrick learning his dad in NYC died so he has to fly there to get the ashes (I think he lives in either UK or France) which triggers all kinds of horrific memories of his relationship with his dad. He keeps taking the drugs to drown out the memories. About the Ludes, did they used to call them black beauties? When my folks got divorced and we moved, life changed, as my mom went off the deep end with partying, etc. Her doctor/pill pusher gave her so many pills, she literally had a drawer of loose pills of every shape and size. Dr. Nutt was the name of the doctor, no sh*t. Truth is always stranger than fiction! I remember all the housewives/grandmothers/aunts/etc. took valium. They seemed to be in every household like the sugar bowl.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Black Beauties I think were speed… Ludes were known as scooby snacks, disco biscuits, gorilla biscuits or 714s… my father had all of those kidney stones and went through everything including divorcing mom… he had a pill bag and a pill book to look them up…

        If something is spelled wrong… I’m on my phone doing this while Jen is sleeping.

        Liked by 1 person

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