On the Origin of Tees

Today’s daily go-to is a tee, but it took us 100 years to get there. In the spirit of Marty McFly, we take a trip back in time to survey the evolution of men’s style, one decade at a time.


1900–1949 | The Old World | Double-breasted suits, something called a waistcoat, bowlers and newsboy caps, two-tone derbys, and wool—lots and lots of wool, because why not play baseball in a three-piece? Fashion was admittedly sharp, yet painfully homogenous. The 1940s were the last decade in which the suit was the standard, and, unfortunately, the last decade in which full-brimmed hats weren’t reserved for that douche bag from undergrad.


1950s | The Gonzo | The 1950s saw the first badass tee. Kerouac and Bukowski sported roll-sleeved tees as they rode rails cross country, dabbling in Buddhism and making love to girls in Big Sur. Completely informed by his time, The Gonzo rejected convention and wore only what he could carry on his back: Levis, a white tee, busted flannel, and serious boots.


1960s | The Feminist | Flex those pecs, my friend: The Feminist was a man who loved a tight knit. The 1960s redefined men’s fashion: silhouettes became more androgynous, glasses thickened to make a statement, and patterns blazed in bright, Brady Bunch colors.


1970s | The Woody Allen | Polyester and paisley ruled. The man of the decade wore his pants high, his tennis shoes low, and his neuroses on his sleeve. He was always ready to talk pop psych, should he run into Diane Keaton, who would inevitably be more fashionably dressed than he.


1980s | The Yacht Flair | For the 1980s man, every day was an opportunity to look like he was on a boat in Malibu. He popped his polo collar, half zipped his Members Only windbreaker, and rocked high tops. But sadly, no matter what he did, he was never as cool as Tom Selleck’s mustache.


1990s | The Business Hawaiian | When he wasn’t listening to Sugar Ray and hollering at honeys, The Business Hawaiian was wearing cotton blend button-ups dangerously similar to your uncle’s breezy cabana wear. Tuck that baby into carpenter jeans and there’s no way you’d be mistaken for a scrub.


2000s | The Asshole | This was the era of the graphic tee, the day of the Facebook group (RIP “I Wear My Sunglasses Indoors Because the Sun Never Sets on a Badass”), and the—hold up—lemme set my away message. The 2000s were the heyday of embellishment—puka shells, bedazzled button-ups, and heavily stitched denim. The toughest choice The Asshole had to make was whom to root for in the Real World / Road Rules Challenge.


2010s | The Nephew | Finally, comfort is the pinnacle of style. The key to looking fresh begins with the simplicity and versatility—a Rounded Tee wears right under a blazer, denim jacket, or sweatshirt, from the office to the show in LES. Color schemes have calmed down, bordering even on monochrome, to make dressing a no-brainer. Street style is king, especially when you can post that shit so easily.


Legends are all around us. Check out some of our favorites here.


-As told by Emily McCrary


Photos via Ezra Petronio



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