Two Men and their Method

The T-shirt today is ubiquitous, but without the energy of James Dean and Marlon Brando, its fate may have been very different.

The T-shirt is the ultimate wardrobe essential: understated, effortless and truly timeless. But its popularity can be traced to the force of two men, James Dean and Marlon Brando, and an acting technique they call method acting. 
 
“They developed a new style that’s so pervasive it’s still the blueprint for understated elegance seven decades later.”

Method Acting 

James Dean and Marlon Brando left an indelible mark on the craft of acting. They pioneered method acting, a new technique which drew from their own lives, blurring the lines between them and their characters and firing movies like Rebel Without a Cause and A Streetcar Named Desire with a force never before seen.  

“At the time, the T-shirt… was underwear. However, on the chests of Brando and Dean… it came to represent everything they did.”

But Dean and Brando’s legacies were not only confined to their craft. They forged a new era of ‘cool’ and their indifferent rebelliousness continues to define the word today. They began it and lived it. Tousled hair and cigarettes, simmering good looks and the lines that grab us and hold us generations removed.


But perhaps the most important of all of these was their fashion. They developed a new style that’s so pervasive it’s still the blueprint for understated elegance seven decades later. Much of this was thanks to one piece: the T-shirt.
 

The T-shirt 


At the time, the T-shirt was a popular undergarment, widely worn but never on its own. It was underwear. However, on the chests of Brando and Dean, it became a sensation. Simple, humble, close to the skin, it came to represent everything they did. What other piece of clothing could so effectively voice what they were saying? A shirt would be too stiff, a suit too formal, a roll neck too intellectual...Besides they’d all been done before.

The T-shirt was new, subversive, modern and masculine, while its simplicity allowed the untrammelled projection of their characters. It was perfect.

It’s hard to know if method acting or the T-shirt would have become as widespread as they are today without Brando and Dean. Maybe another actor would have made method acting popular and maybe the T-shirt would have come to represent something else.


Who knows. But Brando and Dean made it theirs and 70 years later we’re still grateful.