Vintage Tees 103: The Brands

October 14, 2008 by Jimmy J 

Other guides:

Vintage T-Shirts 101: eBay Buyer’s Guide.

Vintage T-Shirts 102: Avoid Reproductions.

Vintage T-Shirts 104: Spot a Fake.

Vintage T-Shirts 103

As outlined in our two previous vintage t-shirts guides, the single best way to determine if a shirt is truly vintage is by checking its label. Since  these lines are no longer in production or have updated their branding, inspecting a vintage shirt tag can tell you a lot about an item’s authenticity and the era in which it was produced. You can also factor in a shirt’s blend of fabrics; in terms of vintage brands a 50/50 polyester-cotton blend was far more common in the 1980s than the 100% cotton trend prior and beyond the decade.

Identifying a vintage shirt from the 1970s is quite simple. For the most part, companies that were producing shirts for screen printing hadn’t started branding themselves yet. Many of these labels will appear fairly generic and not have any obvious link to a specific company. A lot of the time the tag will be completely blank or frayed as a result of wear, wash, and age. It wasn’t until the late ‘70s that the big t-shirt players and stronger branding images started to emerge.

1970s vintage t-shirt brands

Many popular brands emerged in this decade. Some focused on producing a variety of colors, while others specialized in making different styles of shirts, including ringers and jerseys. Brands such as Screen Stars, Hanes and Sportswear were some of the most widely manufactured t-shirts. Each of these vintage brands went through different phases of label designs which can easily be linked to a particular period.

Some brands were produced in Pakistan, others began following Champion and manufactured tees for sports-related purposes. Labels such as Logo7, Artex, and Trench made many of the best t-shirts, jerseys and sweatshirts featuring popular athletic names, teams and styles in the 1980s.

vintage 1980s t-shirt brands

While many new big-name players emerged in the ‘90s, just as many faded away. Some companies merged together – for example, Screen Stars became Fruit of the Loom. Music and concert merchandising became even bigger business and had dedicated licensing brands like Brockum, Giant, and Gem. These companies didn’t actually manufacture t-shirts so they had their labels sewn in to other blanks produced by FOTL and Hanes.

1990s vintage t-shirt brands

The Bottom-Line

Remember: just because you don’t see a brand listed here, that doesn’t mean the item in question isn’t vintage. There are just too many companies from these decades to display them all. We have streamlined our guide to present the most commonly occurring brands in their various forms.

  • Check out our BrandPedia for comprehensive brand info.