The white cotton Tshirt was first introduced by the American navy army as uniform underwear during the American Spanish war. But in fashion we owe it probably to Tenesse Williams and his character Stanley Kowalsky (aka Marlon Brando in a Streetcar name desire) a former army sergeant in WWII who is vulgar enough to receive guests in his underwear white Tshirt.
Then, just like with denim, the white Tshirt had all the qualities to become a hit later in the 60s: it was functional, cheap, hand washable and its lightweight fabric made it more comfortable in summer. Besides, it looked good.
Of course, the success has to do with tradition as well because it is a natural esthetical sequence of a little bit of white collar, at the front opening of a men`s shirt- the jabot, later the plastron; the white lace collar dress that garnished a gown or white lace trimming which emphasized the blue of a wedding dress.
Blue ciel or light pink flatter us all as it sweetens and refreshes the features, that is why so many men resort to blue or pink suit shirts. You wake up with a pale or hangovered swollen face, well, a bit of blue or light pink at the collar does the trick and saves the day effortlessly.
But there is nothing like white. Reminding us of aristocracy- elegancy and power-. The only inconvenient? T-shirts are made of cotton so you need to be in good shape to wear it as it gives you away. Or you have to go for the more expensive draped deconstructed avantgarde tshirts if you want to cover things. Needless to say good cheap simple Tshirts used to be made at Hennes, remember the thick white quality cotton? Good old times. Well, now when you look at how transparent and thin the H&M basics became we need to be more creative and we seem to be short of good cotton simple Tshirts. So we end up buying them from the lingerie boutiques, children`s or men`s shops.