Materials and techniques of the T-Shirt

There is nothing more American, nothing more comfortable that throwing on a pair of denim and a t-shirt.  I love T-shirts, whether it’s trading them, buying them at yard sales or wearing them.  The older, the thinner, the more worn the better.  It takes years and years of wearing and washing to develop the perfect T-shirt, one that hangs just below the belt like, is loose without being bagging and feels so thin that if you were to rub it between your fingers surely it would disintegrate.

This is not an easy process.  It takes decades to achieve this feat; many of my prized T-shirts are ones I obtained as an adolescent.  Over-sized behemoths that now fit just right.


New York Magazine investigates the materials and techniques T-shirt makers are using to create the same effect most people work decades to obtain.

How does a new T-shirt feel instantly familiar? The patina of age is a good start. It not only softens shirts and makes them comfortable, it lends them the aura of uniqueness. This has been well understood for a long time — the sophisticated mainstream giant J.Crew has for years offered all kinds of stone-washing, garment-dying, faux-fading techniques. But designers keep coming up with ever more advanced ways to simulate the aging process and make it more nuanced, more authentic-looking. One newly popular material is called “slub knit,” a fabric made from threads that are not uniform. Held up to the light, the material looks clotted—denser chunks here, lighter chunks there, sort of like that old gym shirt of yours from college. A cooler name for the same general idea, introduced to me by a salesman at the men’s store Odin on Lafayette Street as we examined a Rag & Bone T-shirt, is “fire knit.” This style, funnily enough, is inspired by the irregular yarn that was produced before technology made smooth yarn the norm.

And it goes on and on.  It’s a great read if you love T-shirts, which I obviously do.  The one pictured above?  That would be one created by New York fashion company called Loden Dager; it’s possibly the best T-shirt money can buy and you’ll need money to buy it.  It retails for the low price of $125.  And yet, those who own one say it’s worth the money.

“I can’t defend it, except to say that at least you’re not paying for a label or logo-infested status symbol. This shirt is made expressly to please the person wearing it, and nobody else. Its value is not projected outward to the world. It’s directed inward. And that ideal, it turns out, is what defines the men’s fashion–T-shirt movement these days,” says Hugo Lindgren, author of the piece.

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