The history of the singlet is also the history of underwear. When exactly men - but also women - started to wear underwear is uncertain. But most certainly underwear / -shirts for him and her are from the early modern period. In the Middle Ages the "Undershirt" was the lower half of the shirt. What comes close to our term today was the "shirt". The word "undershirt" had another meaning at that time: It was also used to describe a confidant, a bosom friend - but rather derogatory in the meaning.
The shirt was worn under a garb by all men and women, rich or poor. The "undershirt" had nothing to do with the modern one we know today. Until the French Revolution, it was a long linen shirt used as a nightgown. The cut was the same for both sexes; for the ladies a little plunge around the neckline, and the men’s nightgown already showed a collar approach.
It wasn’t up until the twentieth century that the undershirt was developed to look like we know it today - most notably the T-shirt, which was originally an undershirt for men. One of the pioneers of todays undershirt was “Schiesser“. At the end of the 1890s, the company developed a so-called knotting jersey. The process was patented by “Schiesser“; in 1900, it was awarded at the World's Fair in Paris. Then in the 50’s followed by fine rib or double rib underwear.
related story: The man’s singlet - pros and cons of wearing it!
THE COLOR WHITE - IDEAL FOR BENEATH
White has always been THE color for the singlet. Until the 19th century white linen was used almost exclusively for underwear. The fabric was relatively cheap and also easy to wash. Cotton became generally affordable in the early 19th century.
The color white, however, was chosen for practical reasons: In order to get the underwear clean, the washerwomen used chemical agents such as chlorine liquor and often had to heavily rub to completely remove stains. A dyed fabric would not have withstood these treatments.
The preference for white when it comes to underwear exists up to this day. Which is why, until the last century (underwear) laundry shops were also called “white goods shops“.
INVISIBLE AND DELICATE IS WHAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE
Today, the good old piece of laundry is no longer called undershirt, but bodywear or underwear. In fashion journals and TV spots, the undershirt covers a well-trained male body with muscular upper arms and tanned skin. It exudes a touch of eroticism - the functionality of the garment seems to have disappeared. The undershirt should not emphasize an Adonis-like body but above all serve the man. Anyone who decides to wear an undershirt under the shirt, especially wants one thing: not to be reminded of it.
AN UNDERSHIRT SHOULD SERVE THE MAN
The undershirt of today must therefore adapt to the needs of the man: tight fit, pleasant material against perspiration like super-combed long-staple cotton or the luxury fiber micromodal and visually invisible, even with the shirt collar open. After all, the man wears the undershirt directly on his skin, all day long. High-quality undershirts meet exactly these needs. So the best compliment you can give to a singlet is to forget that you're wearing it.