Marlon Brando and James Dean made t-shirts famous as actual shirts in the 1950s, worn simply with jeans and a bomber jacket. So, hip. So, cool.
But before t-shirt trends were even a thing, t-shirts were worn solely as undershirts, manufactured by the U.S. Navy starting in 1913.
They were “invented” somewhere between that and the Mexican-American war in 1898 when workers cut their standard jumpsuits in half to get a breeze going in there during hot summer months.
The term “T-shirt” was coined in the 1920s by author F. Scott Fitzgerald of Great Gatsby fame in his novel This Side of Paradise, referring to it as an undergarment.
In 1950 Brando wore a tee in Streetcar Named Desire. In 1955, Dean donned one in Rebel Without A Cause. And the basic tee became synonymous with rebelliousness.
Also in the 50s, printed words and images appeared on t-shirts. They became the fashion billboard for messaging, like the “Do it with Dewey” campaign for presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey.
Today, t-shirts are all about messages, design, and fashion. Plus, the basic white tee is in and always will be. Keep reading to find out what else is trending in t-shirts in 2019.
Florals are trending on all fronts in 2019. Floral dresses, slides, sneakers, handbags, scarfs, and everything in between can be seen on the streets and runways in 2019. Men’s button-downs and tees don bright blooms as well.
And we’re seeing them on t-shirts, too. Big bright flowers. Stacked prints with pastels. All sorts of flowers.
We also love the sketched or hand-drawn flowers on t-shirts giving them a down-home quirky vibe. Good stuff, because t-shirts are meant to be fun.
The Pocket Sketch
Sketched-on, drawn-on, printed on, woven on, these are designs that look like a pocket on your t-shirt. This is another quirky look.
What do you mean pocket, you ask? You know that simple, single pocket over your heart? That one. Or think pocket that you’d put a pocket protector in with your ruler and calculator. C’mon, nerds, own it! It’s fun!
Old School Groovy Lettering
Time to strut down the street in your platforms, bell bottoms, and retro-lettered t-shirt circa the late 1960s and 1970s. Just kidding. Well, you can. Or you can just throw on a pair of sneaks, jeans, and a groovy lettered old school t-shirt.
Think bright funkadelic colors for your letters, like bright orange. And think disco, peace, love, and understanding for your words.
Old School Americana
The vintage-look t-shirts seem to never go out of style. You can go with that classic white tee or something else with a bit of nostalgia. We love anything old school here, be it band tees, sports tees, or anything collegiate, armed forces, or mascot.
Far Out and Whimsical Drawings With Feathers
Feathers are another fashion feature trending big in 2019. And they’ve made their way onto t-shirts, often in the form of illustrated Native American designs with spirit animals.
Off the Beaten Alignment Path
Designs that feature off-centered text or an off-centered image are trending. Go for text only down one side with the words stacked top to bottom. Or pair the lettering with an image overlapped and off to the opposite side.
Keep colors basic here, like grey, blue, or black with white text and simple line-drawn illustrated image.
Repetition Repetition Repetition
This look is about the repetition of words or phrases stacked top to bottom. People want to make a statement this year and their t-shirt is a good place.
As with most text designs, the impact is most powerful with a dark solid tee and white, simple lettering.
Think ’70s Andy Warhol layering look. Imagine a black or red square with a flower layered on top with the leaves and stem layered over that, perhaps offset to overlap the edge of the square.
Colors That Pop
We’re talking about bright colors and neon. Both are trending hard from head to toe in fashion, including clothes and accessories.
Use colors that pop for lettering and in design. Or go with a bright t-shirt fabric and a simple solid for design.
Think tangerine orange, hot pink, and turquoise to start.
Take anything popular and draw it by hand. Hand-drawn flowers for one, as mentioned, are quite in right now. But also, you can take that drawing your kid or you made in 2nd grade or kindergarten even and scan it and have it put on a t-shirt.
Embrace your inner child. Or embrace those weird doodles you make at work. Hand-drawn self-portraits are also fun.
C’mon, how can that not be a cool tee? It’s a conversation starter for sure.
Use bright colors for the illustration on white or a light blue or green. Get your work out there. Do you. Do it on your shirt.
Got a cool art project? Turn it into a tee. Make a collage in art school? Put it onto a tee.
These look great on basic white. Pair with a pair of black jeans or solid slacks and you’re set looking like an architectural genius.
T-Shirt Trends for You
Now that you know the t-shirt trends of 2019, you’re ready to grab some of your favorites. Did any jump out at you? We hope so because they’re all quite fun and fresh.
While you’re looking at trending tees, start thinking about what to wear them with, besides blue jeans, of course. Like maybe you want to think about that classic James Dean bomber. It recently went up for auction with an asking bid of around a half a million.