Upon seeing a TikTok by fashion fanatic, jewellery designer Carla Rockmore where she discusses ‘best friends’ in a wardrobe, I haven’t stopped thinking about what makes such a true pair and why certain items work so well together. My interpretation of clothing ‘best friends’ is two or more pieces that suit each other and compliment every body type, skin colour, and gender identity. They are usually timeless and renowned for working well together. For example, a striped shirt and coloured bottoms, a t-shirt and denim jacket, a tracksuit with trainers, plaid and leather or leggings and a cardigan.
The most iconic ‘best friends’ in wardrobe has to be the classic white t-shirt or shirt with jeans. The white t-shirt, white shirt and pair of jeans are all considered classics in the fashion industry, meaning that they are pieces that last season after season because they are a simple, traditional style that is viewed as always fashionable. Classics are arguably the most unchangeable thing in the ever-changing fashion industry. All three of these items match every other fashion item, making them must-haves in wardrobe. Maybe that is why they work so perfectly together.
The white shirt is undoubtedly a piece of clothing that has survived longest through the years without ever going out of style. From its beginnings in antiquity through to the Middle Ages, the white shirt was worn for utilitarian purposes by both men and women, often as an undergarment without a collar or buttons. The buttonhole appeared towards the end of the Middle Ages. During the Renaissance, the European courts began to adorn their white tunics with lace, silks, collars, and puffed sleeves, wearing them on the outside to symbolise their wealth and status. The white shirt became a piece to distinguish the upper class from the lower-working class since they could afford to wear white without staining it through labour. The 19th century was the Golden Age for the garment, undertaking tailoring and becoming completely adaptable to one’s own tastes and circumstance. Although appearing on Marie Antoinette in the 18th century, the 20th century saw a rise in representation of the white shirt on both females and males and it has been increasing in popularity and style ever since.
More than 2 billion a year sold worldwide, the white t-shirt originated in the late 19th century as part of men’s underwear in the US Navy. In 1920 the word t-shirt was inducted into the English Dictionary after F.Scott Fitzgerald was the first to publish the word in his novel ‘This Side of Paradise’. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the item was seen more frequently as an outside garment and the 1950s saw a huge increase in its popularity. This was due to Hollywood stars Marlon Brando (A Streetcar Named Desire) and James Dean (Rebel Without a Cause) donning the t-shirt as a stand-alone outerwear garment, providing its rebel cachet. In the 1970s Elle announced that the t-shirt would become ‘a basic item of clothing that will never go out of fashion because it’s already beyond fashion’ and weren’t they right.
Jeans were invented in 1873 when a customer of Jacob Davis ordered a pair of sturdy trousers that could withstand his work. Davis made the trousers from a denim he had bought from Levi Strauss and made them stronger by adding copper rivets to the places most prone to tears, the pockets and flies. Upon his wish to patent the design, Davis and Strauss became partners and opened a factory. Jeans were working clothes at first since they were made from a durable, long-lasting material. They were designed in a loose fit and in the form of overalls. Men’s jeans featured a zipper down the front while women’s had a zipper on the left. In the 1950s jeans without the bib became a symbol of youth rebellion, following James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, and were banned in schools, theatres and restaurants. But by the 1970s, jeans were acceptable in society again and have been increasingly popular ever since.
Today, each of these items are worn by everyone regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or body type. Each have evolved in their own way through the discovery of different forms of decoration and customisation alongside experimentation of fit and length. In modern society, wearing a white tee or shirt with jeans is considered a ‘blank canvas’ for expression through accessories or statement pieces since they are classic pieces in a classic style that will compliment absolutely everything. Check out our last blog that discusses ways to transform a simple outfit, such as the white top and jeans, for any occasion.