Why the most important thing on your vintage t-shirt is the stitching
Have you ever seen vintage/second-hand t-shirts listed for sale and wondered why the seller is hyping the fact it is ‘single-stitched’? What even is single stitching?
In the process of launching and managing Circular I’ve come across a plethora of vintage and second-hand t-shirts and here's what I've learnt.
WHAT IS SINGLE STITCHING?
For a t-shirt to be described as ‘single stitch’, it simply means that either the sleeve or body hem (where the t-shirt ‘ends’) has a single line of stitching. If you grab one of your t-shirts and have a look on the outside of one of the hems you’ll probably see either 1x (‘single’) or 2x (‘double’) lines of stitching securing the end fold in place. So if your t-shirt only has 1x line of stitching your t-shirt is ‘single stitched’.
YEAH, BUT WHY DOES IT MATTER IF IT'S SINGLE OR DOUBLE STITCHED?
The significance of the stitching doesn’t really have anything to do with the qualities of the stitching itself. Instead, the stitching is actually an indicator of a range of other attributes of the t-shirt - i.e. if a t-shirt is single stitched, then it’s likely that it will have a host of other qualities that some people may find desirable. Here’s some of what I’ve noticed that usually goes with a single-stitched t-shirt:
Probably the most important and most obvious attribute of a single stitch t-shirt is that it is a good indicator of how old it is. A single-stitched t-shirt is likely to have been made before the year 2000. At this point in time the majority of clothing manufacturing for Western brands switched from a single stitched construction to a double stitched construction (I’m guessing 2x lines of stitching is probably a more secure way to hold the hem). This means a single-stitched t-shirt is likely to be a ‘true’ vintage t-shirt that is at least 20 years old. Sometimes, people just like to know they’re wearing an older t-shirt.
While there are different types of fabric and fabric combos used in vintage t-shirts, in my experience t-shirts made during the 90s are often made with a thicker, heavier, 100% cotton (but t-shirts from the 80s are often made with a thinner 50% cotton, 50% polyester mix). There’s a few reasons why a heavier cotton can be desirable: 1. By simply being thicker it may be more durable and last longer. 2. A 100% cotton fabric is a natural material so it’s probably better for you and it will also decompose (50/50 t-shirts are 50% plastic so they won’t!). 3. I personally think a heavier cotton is just more aesthetically pleasing as well.
Single-stitched t-shirts made during the 90s often had a similar fit which was a boxier cut where the shoulder seam would hang off the shoulder and the body would be wider and roomier. This might be a more aesthetically pleasing fit for you today. However, just like the fabric there’s generally a difference in fit between 90s’ and 80s t-shirts. An 80s single-stitched t-shirt was generally a smaller, more snug fit. This is why if your t-shirt was made in the 80s you probably need to size up at least one or two sizes for it to be comparable to a modern size.
Image 2. Watch out for those 80s fits.
4. LOCATION OF MANUFACTURE
Because single-stitched t-shirts tend to have been made before the year 2000 it can indicate where the t-shirt was actually produced. A large amount of Western brands produced their clothing in the USA and other 1st-world countries up until the mid-to-late 90s. At this point most brands started moving their manufacturing offshore to lower wage countries, so that greater quantities of clothing could be produced at a lower cost.
Relocating to where the labour is cheaper might be great for the brand’s bottom line, but the tragic issue for these workers is that safety standards and working conditions were (and still are) generally poor relative to advanced economies. These are the 'sweatshops' you might have heard of. Personally I’d prefer to wear clothing produced in the USA because it's more likely that the clothing was produced in better conditions for workers (although that's not 100% guaranteed and America still has its issues).
Because single-stitched t-shirts are likely to be older, there is a greater chance that if you rock one of these you'll be wearing something you won't see on anyone you know. There's a couple of reasons for this. First of all, simply because the t-shirt is older it means any duplicates of that t-shirt have probably been discarded, destroyed or lost to the mysteries of time by now. Secondly, I find t-shirts produced through the 80s and 90s tend to feature some dope, unique graphics that’ll be different to anything you see being made today.
And there you have my top 5 reasons the stitching on your t-shirt isn’t as boring as it sounds. I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons a single-stitched t-shirt might appeal. If you've got any comments or thoughts feel free to flick them through to email@example.com, or on IG.
If you're keen to get your hands on some single stitched t-shirts then the Circular website isn’t a bad place to start. Look out for a reference to it in the product title or description, or you might even be able to zoom-in on the image and see the stitching for yourself. If you like to change your wardrobe every few months (maybe get into a different single stitched t-shirt!) then check out our renting option - it could save you some cash and it can be easier on the planet too.