Everything You Need to Know About Vintage T-Shirts, According to Experts



Photo: Gear Patrol

We break down what you need to know, how much you should spend and whether you should really know the band on the front or not.

The best T-shirt for the job isn’t a mint one, fresh out of the plastic wrap — it’s vintage.

Tees that’ve already lived a life or two are just more comfortable.

Plus, they have more character.

You should invest in tees no one else (or at least a rare few) can own.

Here’s why.

What to Know

Holes and Stains

If you’re daring enough, some vintage tees will come with a few air vents (read: holes) or visible stains.

Though, obviously, this isn’t for everyone.

But, since designers constantly look to vintage garments for inspiration, it’s no surprise that there are brand-new hole-ridden tees you can buy for the same price as a rare vintage band tee.


Most vintage T-shirts, at least the valuable ones, are single-stiched.

Single-stitch T-shirts feature one visible line of stitching on the front side and two underneath, creating what sewers call a lockstitch.

This stitch is more durable, albeit harder to do—hence why companies phased it out in the mid-90s.


Depending on how the graphic was printed, vintage graphic tees can patina in different ways that collectors find desirable.

Many graphics can crack over time, adding another textural element to the T-shirt along with the cultural significance (or personal significance) to said graphic.


Fabric (and Thinness)

If you found a 60/40 tee, meaning one that’s made from a mix of mostly cotton and partly polyester, it’s probably a little sheer by now.

That’s bound to happen, and this means the shirt’s a little delicate.

As for all-natural shirts, gradually the cotton fibers of a T-shirt will relax and break down with wear and washing.

Repeat friction against the skin and in the wash slowly degrades the fibers until they break and become soft.

Vintage vs. New

That’s why your oldest T-shirt is probably your most comfortable and it’s the reason brands try to sell you a tee with a ‘lived-in’ or ‘broken-in’ or ‘vintage’ feel.

They do this by putting their tees through the wash with chemicals and pumice stones (not great for the earth) to break down those fibers and make them softer.

“A good vintage tee is preferably very soft and worn in but with the seams intact.”
—Club Vintage founder Anna Gray

“A good vintage tee is preferably very soft and worn in but with the seams intact,” Club Vintage founder Anna Gray says.

Because these well-loved tees have been put through the wringer, they’re also often thinner.

Sometimes even paper thin.

Some might not consider that a good thing, but it’s … [ keep reading on Gear Patrol ]


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