If you’ve ever been to a beach boardwalk, you’ve probably seen about a million sweatshirts with the same logo printed on them.

But how old exactly is the screen printing process?

It dates back farther than you’d think, and it is evidence of the ever-improving artistic cycle.

If you want to learn how your favorite screen printed shirts came into existence, check out our detailed history below!

The Origins of Screen Printing

Screen printing really has its roots in China, during the era of the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). It originally was done by using brushes to push the ink through stencils onto pulled silk. It was often done to make specialized masks, and the human hair that glued the pieces of the mask together allowed for perfect ink passage.

It wasn’t long before other Asian countries, like Japan, started adopting the practice. The success that Japanese textiles had at World Fairs inspired European craftsmen to try out the process.

Screen printing made its way to France in the 1600’s. It was in France that they began stretching the silk over a frame to keep the fabric taut and in place. It started being introduced and used more in Europe in the 1700’s.

Modern Screen Printed Shirts History

The first modern takes on screen printing began around 1850 at the wake of the textile printing industry. In 1907, Samuel Simon was using stencils to draw designs onto bolting cloth stretched on frames and then using brushes to create the printing process through the mesh.

In 1920 Albert Kosloff gave a screen printing presentation in Berlin. He used essentially the same method as Samuel Simon, except he used a squeegee to transfer the ink rather than brushes. Soon after he moved to the United States to become one of the first individuals to popularize the process in the U.S.A.

Screen printing began taking off commercially in the United States in the 1910’s, as a way of printing advertisements and signs.

In the 1960s, the civil rights movement prompted the process to move to clothing. Shirts provided the perfect canvas for people who wanted to share a message and convey their feelings through fashion. It was also adopted by contemporary artists, such as Andy Warhol. His portraits of Marilyn Monroe are just one example among many.

The 1970s and 1980s gave rise to caps and shirts plastered with brand names and characters from popular television shows.

Screen printing continued to improve in the 1990s and up until the present day, and it shows through the fashion trends. Now you can find just about any word or design on screen printed shirts. Not to mention, it’s easy to custom order your own from countless companies.

An Ever-Improving Method

Screen printing has been around for centuries, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon. With the ability to transfer virtually any design you can think of onto screen printed shirts, it’s easy to see why it has blown up in the past 100 years.

For more information on screen printing and custom t-shirts, check out the rest of our blog or contact us to get a quote for your next order!