T-Shirts, Types and Terms

James Dean in Warner Bros Film ‘Rebel Without a Cause’

The worldwide trend for t-shirts was popularised in the 1950’s by the movies. Tough guy images created for James Dean and Marlon Brando made a white t-shirt under a black leather jacket a standard look for young men at that time. During the 60s printing techniques advanced and t-shirts took on a commercial aspect. Advertising films, music bands and policticians. Slogan t- shirts were also popular with the protest movement. Since then T-shirts have become a moving poster for whatever cause, brand or idol you want to promote.

When buying t-shirts online most of us know what we want, whether that is a particular print or style. However, when buying vintage t-shirts online it gets complicated! For example, construction, print type and fabric content can all help authenticate a vintage t-shirt. At Repsycho we want to help you find exactly what you want and understand precisely what you are buying, so we endeavour to explain honestly and in straightforward terms each item. Nonetheless some clarification may help- so here goes!

T-Shirt Styles

Crew neck, V-neck, sleeveless, short or long sleeve are fairly obvious- but some are less apparent.

A mounted collar is sewn onto the top of the t-shirt, rather than sewn under the fabric. Often mounted collars hold their shape better than sewn-under ones.

Raglan tee which often has different coloured sleeves to the main body of the shirt but most importantly they have acute angle shoulder seams.

A ringer tee has different coloured collar and cuffs made from a ribbed material. They offer a distinctively vintage look.

T-Shirt Print Types

Screen Print: An ink medium is pressed through a screen and onto the t-shirt. The prep and process is fairly laborious therefore many vintage screen printed t-shirts feature only one or two colours.

All-Over Print, Megaprint: Screen print that covers the whole shirt, front, and back. A megaprint typically means every inch of the t-shirt is printed on, including the collar and arms.

Heat Transfer Print/ Iron-on: A chosen print pressed on a blank t-shirt using a heat press. The prints don’t always stand the test of time, often fading or peeling.

Mullet: A t-shirt is one that features a small print on the front, typically over the left breast, and a large print on the rear aka a “back-hit.” They were named this as an homage to the mullet hairstyle.

Ink Print: Printed on demand by a machine, one at a time. A white, 100% cotton t-shirt is placed in the machine, and the print is directed by an image you provide.

Sublimation: A modern digital process of printing that first involves printing onto a special sheet of paper, then transferring that image onto another material (usually polyester or a polyester mix). The ink is then heated until it disintegrates into the fabric. Not really relevant in the vintage t-shirt market.

T-Shirt Construction

Circular/ Tubular Knit: Made from fabric knit into a tube shape. As a result, t-shirts made with circular knit fabric lack side seams. Side seams are a fairly recent thing dating from around the millennium.

Single Stitch/ Single Dingle: This refers to the finishing stitch commonly used in the construction of a vintage t-shirt. The finishing on the cuff, hem and shoulder of the t-shirt has a single line of stitching secures the fabric edge.

Double Stitch: This refers to a t-shirt that features more modern double-stitching, two lines of stitching on the cuff, hem and shoulder. This became the norm in the early 1990s.


Deadstock Vintage: Used to describe tees that became excess stock or were unsold. Often in excellent condition. However, sometimes storage conditions and being left unwashed can adversely affect their condition. Also, sometimes there is a reason they were unsold- damage or mis-sizing, check carefully.

Distressed/ Trashed: Describes the condition of heavily worn t-shirts. Usually tees in this condition are riddled with holes, seam separations, stains, and a faded print.

Paper-Thin: This usually describes a vintage 50/50 t-shirt that has been so heavily washed and worn that the cotton has diminished.

Bacon Neckline: When the neck of a t-shirt starts losing its form and becomes loose and stretched.

Pilling: Tiny bunches/balls of fabric begin to appear on a t-shirt- very common with blended tees but not too much of an issue.

Fabric Terms

100% Cotton: The entire shirt is made of cotton, sometimes preshrunk.

50/50: A t-shirt that is made of 50% cotton and 50% polyester.

Tri-Blend: Often refers to t-shirts made from cotton,

polyester, and rayon fabric. These t-shirts are durable and soft.

Rayon-Blend: Is a fabric that has rayon blended with cotton, also gives the t-shirt a softer feel.

Heathered: When different coloured fibres are combined to produce a speckled, subtle colour. Commonly used in tri-blend fabrics.