Tee shirt or T-shirt – Which is Correct?

Most humans alive today have worn a light, short-sleeved shirt with no collar and no buttons. Such garments are nearly ubiquitous in modern life and are now worn while relaxing at home, in the boardrooms of some tech start-ups, and everywhere in between.

Is this popular garment a tee shirt or T-shirt? The difference is irrelevant in spoken English, since they are all pronounced to rhyme with pea dirt. In print, though, the name for this shirt has many spelling variants, and if you work in an advertising department (or are just a careful speller), you will need to know which one is correct.

What is the Difference Between Tee shirt and T-shirt?

In this post, I will compare T-shirt vs. tee shirt. I will outline the correct spelling with several example sentences, so you can see it in context.

Plus, I will show you a helpful memory tool that you can use as a reminder of whether T-shirt or tee shirt is a better choice.

When to Use T-shirt

is it t-shirt or tee shirtHow to spell T-shirt. T-shirt is a noun. A T-shirt is a thin, short-sleeved shirt with no collar and no buttons. It may or may not have a pocket. If it has buttons partially down the front, it is a Henley. If it has partial buttons and a collar, it is called a polo. With none of these things, however, it is just a T-shirt. T-shirts are so named because with they are shaped like the letter T.

One could argue that all shirts that have sleeves somewhat resemble the letter T, but only the T-shirt is named after this letter of the alphabet.

T-shirts are popular casual attire all over the world.

Here are some example sentences,

  • Kenley wears a simple T-shirt and jeans almost everywhere she goes.
  • I have no more clean T-shirts, so I have to do laundry tomorrow.
  • David Ortiz stood outside the Red Sox’ clubhouse before Friday night’s game wearing a pair of red, white and blue shorts adorned with stars and stripes and a T-shirt depicting the Citgo sign outside Fenway Park with the word “Strong” written underneath. –The New York Times

When to Use Tee Shirt

how do you spell t-shirtTee shirt is a spelling variant of T-shirt. These garments have been around since roughly the beginning of the 20th century, and the name for them has been spelled, hyphenated, and capitalized many different ways since then. They have been called T-shirts, t-shirts, T shirts, tee-shirts, and tee shirts.

Only T-shirt, with a hyphen and a capitalized letter T, sees regular use. All of the other versions appear only rarely, as shown in the chart below, which graphs tee shirt vs. T-shirt and other variations.

tee shirts or t-shirts

It should be noted that this data set omits print sources other than books: catalogs, advertisements, signage, and web-based storefronts, where these other forms might be more likely to occur. Still, the chart above is useful for identifying a long-term usage trend that overwhelmingly favors T-shirt over all other forms of this word.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Even though there are many forms of this word, T-shirt, with a capital T and a hyphen, is the predominant form. You should use it in most circumstances.

Since the shirt itself resembles a capital T, remembering that T-shirt is the correct form should be a simple task.

Summary

Is it tee shirt or T-shirt? Tee shirt and T-shirt are variants of a noun that refers to a light short-sleeved shirt that was invented sometime around 1900.

  • T-shirt is the overwhelmingly predominant version.
  • Tee shirt rarely appears in print. Avoid it in your writing.
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