The great American film legend who created another American icon: the white tee.
Marlon Brando is considered one of the most important figures in American cinema and Time Magazine listed him on their 100 Persons of the Century in 1999 with only two other actors. His impact upon film is immeasurable — renowned director Martin Scorsese comments, “He is the marker. There’s ‘before Brando’ and ‘after Brando.’ His mumbled style of speech and raw, animal magnetism on screen catapulted him to stardom in the 1950s, a decade that gave him 5 Oscar nominations and 3 consecutive wins of the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, The Wild One, Viva Zapata!, Julius Caesar and Sayonara were all filmed in quick succession, easily cementing his stardom. His greatest role however came in 1972 when Francis Ford Coppola asked him to play the patriarch mob boss of The Godfather. He was best friends with Jack Nicholson (the coolest kid in school of the 20th century) and had a hot affair with Marilyn Monroe. He redefined Hollywood bad boy and was responsible for many a director change and budget overage. He broke a paparazzo’s jaw in 1973 and scared the guy so badly that he wore a football helmet the next time he knew he’d see MB. He was even down with the gays long before it was socially acceptable, having said in his 1976 biography The Only Contender, “Homosexuality is so much in fashion it no longer makes news. Like a large number of men, I, too, have had homosexual experiences and I am not ashamed. I have never paid much attention to what people think about me.”
But arguably one of his greatest contributions to American life was the popularization of white t-shirts. His character Stanley Kowalski in 1951’s Streetcar is seen throughout the film in fitted tees — an article of clothing that was at that point in time considered only for wrestlers. Soon the garment began selling as regular wear in department stores and today is basically the uniform of most under 75. In the ’50s though it symbolized rebellion; it was a push away from the more formal wear of the older generation and was considered particularly edgy when combined with denim, the once trademark of ditch diggers. So let’s all say a resounding THANKS to Mr Brando for giving us one of our favorite articles of clothing. And while doing so let’s browse images of what a major hunk he was back in the day (1990s Brando was pushing 300 lbs and balding, but pretend you don’t know that and lust away!)