The White T-Shirt
The first widely retailed T-shirt was made in 1938, for men, and sold for 24 cents. Last spring Jil Sander made, for women, a white tee selling for 1000 times that much. If that seems stupid, well, some people choose to believe anything. We call them fashion people. And that’s why we love them, or are them, because somebody has to sustain the idea of magic. Often, you find it in the most common things. Like white tees.
Me, I don’t believe that white t-shirts have to be expensive any more than I believe in premium denim or new leather jackets—not at all. What makes the white t-shirt all aspirational and magicky isn’t the material: cotton is cotton is more or less cotton. It’s the simplicity of it, the self-ease it takes to wear a thing so plainly revealing. A white t-shirt is perfectly contra the statement piece. It tells nothing, shows lots. Invented as military undergarment, the man’s white T broke into the open when a brutal, bestial Marlon Brando wore it to play Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. When James Dean picked it up, the deal was done: the plain white t-shirt was henceforth associated with men who had no business wearing something so simple, so innocent, or so clean.
Of course, the t-shirt did not stay clean. In one of my favourite photos of Patti Smith, in the 70s, she’s wearing a tattered man’s tee barefoot in her kitchen. She looks like filthy dreamy hot morning sex. On a confident body, the most basic of garments becomes something base. If Patti doesn’t do it for you, maybe that picture of Ryan Gosling in a mud-and-rain-streaked t-shirt will? I thought so, yeah. Blank cotton gets stained by everything bad you do, by coffee and wine and dirt and… adventure. A white t-shirt is ready for it all. Begs for it, practically.
If for men now white t-shirts are just this of course thing to have, for fashionable women they still feel a little rebellious. You might laugh, but I kinda love Kristen Stewart for wearing white tees on the red carpet, all like, fuck the fashion police. I love this one picture of Beyonce running errands in hers. I love Kate Moss in hers, too. Listen, I value effort more than almost anything else, believe me,but sometimes I want to throw up from trying, from trying things on, from trying this and that and every other “new” trend/colour/silhouette on the page. That’s when I’m glad I adopted an old white Jockey tee from my old white boyfriend. It reminds me, more than anything else, that sometimes good things are also easy. Not effortless, because nothing stylish is effortless, but simple. – Sarah Nicole Prickett is a writer living in New York. @snpsnpsnp | snprickett.com
With Sarah Marantz, Jessica Huras, Colin Cregg, Kevin Yateman, Danielle Forest, Brent Goldsmith, Adam Levett, Sarah Kosloff, Eduardo Mella, Serge Kushner, Nicola Waugh, Josh Reichmann, Tobin Reid, Andrew Wilson, Christopher Levett, Cam Findley, Jason Yantha, James Arnott, Rui Amarl, Zain Meghji, Tanya Speckley, Jake, and Katrina Schrimshaw.
Photographer: Adam Levett. Editorial Director: Christopher Sherman. Hair & Make-Up: Eduardo Mella. Videographer: Christopher Levett. Photographer’s Assistant: Brent Goldsmith
Adam Levett is a photographer living in Toronto. @adamlevettphoto | adamlevett.com