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Keeping Up with Men’s Fashion Apparel

(August 2011) posted on Tue Sep 13, 2011

This article monitors movements in design styles, garment-printing applications, types of wearables, and more.

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By Ed Branigan

With the trend towards vintage in all things in recent years, we need to only to take a look at the graphic elements of some of these T-shirts on sale in the stores today to remind us that it was pretty basic. We’re emulating what came before, specifically with the graphic elements. Most of the vintage T-shirts that I’ve seen combine cracked or distressed images of old logos, beer labels, or slogans with variations on small business names thrown in. One of the ironies of this trend has been that we’ve had to invent new inks to mimic the effects that 20 years of washing has had on the old ones.

Vintage appeal
The original lead-based plastisol gradually cracks over the years. Some of it may peel off little by little. In some cases there’s a residue left behind, a faint image of the original, almost like a soft hand. We’re talking hundreds of washes here. Then the lead was banned, followed by some of the more widely used phthalates. It now looks more and more likely that PVC will go the same way. So now we have to engineer an ink that will crack after curing and leave a little residue behind just like it has been washed 100 times. This type of look is achieved in a variety of ways. Discharge inks or plastisol reducers are used for a soft hand and faded color. There are also inks that will crack after curing, both in plastisol and water-base formulations. A heavier deposit of ink usually is required along with a higher cure temperature and time for the cracking inks to be effective.

The irony doesn’t end with the inks. The fabric of newly made T-shirts doesn’t look old or faded, so they need to be altered to fit the vintage look as well. There are several wash options to achieve a vintage or washed-out effect for garments. Vintage, enzyme, and the well-known stone wash are some methods. In other cases, the collars and cuffs are sanded to fray them for more authenticity.


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