T-Shirts Offer Wash and Wear Appeal

Vintage apparel styles have had an enduring presence over the past few years. Part of their appeal, no doubt, is the comfort of the fabric itself. Beyond selecting the right fiber-blend of fabric, you can choose a garment that has had an enzyme wash. This process uses a cellulose-based solution to create garments that appear to have been aged, much like an old pair of stonewashed or acid-washed jeans. This affects both the look and feel of a garment.

New from American Apparel (asi/35297; circle 104 on Free Info Card), this Power Washed T-shirt (2011) gets its vintage look and soft hand from an enzyme wash that simulates 40 typical laundry cycles.

Alternative Apparel (asi/34850; circle 89 on Free Info Card) performs an enzyme wash on all of its offerings, including the men’s Eco-Jersey crew T-shirt (01973E1).

“Adding an enzyme wash or any sort of fabric wash definitely creates a ‘vintage feel’ because of the way the wash loosens and breaks down the fibers,” says Yvette Corona, spokesperson for American Apparel (asi/35297). She compares the result to a truly vintage shirt, which has been worn and washed many times. American Apparel’s new Power Washed Tee (2011), for example, has an enzyme wash treatment that simulates 40 typical laundry cycles.

Alternative Apparel (asi/34850) uses an enzyme process to make all of its garments. “All of our fabrics go through a wash in either fabric or garment form,” says Michelle Chen, senior product development manager for the supplier. The type of wash and enzymes matter. “We only use naturally occurring enzymes in our wash, which has much less of an environmental impact than harsh chemicals,” she continues.

It’s not just the look but the luxurious soft feel of the fabric that Alternative seeks. “We pay attention to ensure all of our fabrics are as soft as possible,” Chen says. “Our Eco Jersey and Fleece, Cotton Modal, Organic Cotton and Mélange Burnout Jersey are particularly soft. Our fabrics go through a special wash containing enzymes and silicone that break down the fibers to achieve that soft-hand feel.”

So how does a special treatment affect decoration, if at all? “Each fabric does require different treatment in terms of decoration and should be handled on a case-by-case basis depending on content, wash method, etc.” Chen says. “We find that discharging and waterbase inks lead to a better hand for our fabrics.

We’ve also seen some great plastisol work done on our tri-blends that feel amazing when done properly. But discharging for 100% cotton and waterbase for tri-blends are always a great way to let the true fabric shine through a bit more.”

The Soft Sell

Soft tees with a vintage imprint – like the women’s Nano tee (SL04) from Hanes Branded Printwear (asi/59528; circle 98 on Free Info Card) – are great for organizations with a relaxed image. Groups and occasions such as farm-to-table agriculture and restaurants; family reunions; collegiate fan wear and alumni fundraising; Greek life; classic car groups and motorcycle clubs and any casual gathering that’s a bit nostalgic is a possible order. Think of soft tees as a complement to a lifestyle that embraces the past as well as savors the moment.