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Archive of Fake VS Real Vintage T-Shirt Tags

Archive of Fake vs Real Vintage T-Shirt Tags


Archive of Fake VS Real Vintage T-Shirt Tags

It wasn’t long ago that you could easily authenticate a vintage tee using just the tag. There was always a chance the counterfeiter had printed on actual vintage blanks, but the majority of brands didn’t have blanks floating around. So when you were examining a t-shirt with a Giant or Wild Oats tag, you almost automatically knew it was legit.

Needless to say, authenticating was far easier in the olden days.

In the mid-2010s, the real trouble began. Convincing versions of the 80s classics like 3D Emblem and Sneakers, started coming out of Thailand and they were attached to blank t-shirts that were accurately sized and constructed. They even had tri-blend versions (though I doubt the material was actually tri-blend as that tag advertised, counterfeiters aren’t known for their honesty.)  But by that time, the market for 80s t-shirts was starting to fade in favor of the 90s, so those fakes didn’t penetrate the market as much as some of us expected, because the counterfeiters quickly realized the real money was in the 1990s.

Fast forward to the 2020s, an era where there are several convincing versions of Giant Tee Jays tags, each new version a little better than the last. And it’s one of the reasons we preach leaning more on a print analysis, rather than the tag when authenticating a vintage t-shirt.

So here’s a comprehensive guide that will be continuously updated as new fakes are identified. If you’ve spotted one in the wild, please get in touch with us.

We’re comparing the real tags versus the fakes because some of these tags are done well enough to fool an old head. It’s not until they are put beside each other that their inaccuracies are highlighted.

Most of these images of fake tags came from various IG accounts, so be careful out there, Instagram is the Wild West when it comes to bootlegs.

Most of the genuine tags came from the Defunkd tag archive, use it, there are instructions here. It was created well before convincing fake tags became a thing.

tag search

Tags Indexed (Alphabetical, Click to Jump)

3D EmblemAlstyleAnvil NicaraguaBackstage PassBay ClubBrockum GroupBrockum Worldwide – Fantasy – FOTL – GEMGiant by Tee JaysGildan (3)Hanes UltraweightHanes Heavyweight DoubleLiquid Blue – Metallica – Resurreccion – Screen Stars by FOTL – Spring Ford – TULTEX – Wild OatsWinterland

Fake Giant by Tee Jays T-Shirt Tags

Fake Giant By Tee Jays T-Shirt Tags

The first version clearly didn’t use enough of a thread count, giving the entire Giant logo a speckled effect. It’s also far too thick.

The second version was an improvement, slightly less speckled, and slightly thinner.

Version three is the best yet, the thread count on the logo is higher but the letters are still too thick. The red detail under the logo is too close to the “ant”.

The type font under Tee Jays is also not sized perfectly.

In another disastrous result, all the fonts are way too skinny. Plus it says “SY” instead of “BY.” Ooooops.

fake giant sy tee jays tag

You’ll see by comparing them to the real deal.

Authentic Vintage Giant by Tee Jays T-Shirt Tag

Authentic Vintage Giant by Tee Jays T-Shirt Tags

Notably, in the real tags, there is still a slight speckled effect, along the top and bottom of the Giant letters but especially within the “Tee Jays” font.

Interestingly, there are different lengths of legit giant tags if you compare the above.

The real tags above were sourced using the Defunkd vintage tag database where you can see a full gallery of legit Giant tags and just about every tag imaginable. Remember, our tag archive existed before fake tags became convincing, and it was populated by sellers who were vetted for honesty.

BTW, there are authentic tags where the giant logo is thick, but it’s generally the Giant by Tultex version. It’s almost as though they combined two versions of real tags to make the forgery.

aiuthentic vintage giant by tultex tag

Fake Hanes Ultraweight T-Shirt Tag

fake hanes ultraweight t-shirt tag

This one is really convincing. And part of the reason for that is that legit Hanes tags from this era and bar design, have a TON of inconsistencies.  So make sure when authenticating these Hanes tags with bars on them, that you compare them against a number of legit tags.

The biggest red flag on this one is H, how tall it is. You’ll see this when you compare it with the one below.

Authentic Vintage Hanes Ultraweight T-Shirt Tags

Authentic Vintage Hanes Ultraweight T-Shirt Tags italics

To my earlier point, check out this other legit Hanes Ultraweight and how it differs from the above. The logo isn’t slanted, the spacing is far different. In this era, Hanes clearly didn’t have a brand book or very much consistency with their tags, which complicates the authentication process.

The good news is that the height of their “H” was consistent.

Authentic Vintage Hanes Ultraweight T-Shirt Tags no italics

And here are further examples of how legit Hanes bar tags have a ton of variances that could be mistaken for forgeries when compared to each other.

Authentic Vintage Hanes Blue Bar T-Shirt Tags

1989 Authentic Vintage Hanes Blue Bar T-Shirt Tag

Notice the differences in spacing between the “%” and “c” above and below. The above tag is from 1989 and below 1988.
1988 Authentic Vintage Hanes Blue Bar T-Shirt Tag

Then check out the massive font in the blue bar in this example circa 1984.
1984 Authentic Vintage Hanes Blue Bar T-Shirt Tag

Fake Hanes Heavyweight Double Tag

Fake hanes heavyweight blue bar double tag

This one is pretty good, especially when not compared directly to a real one. The first issue is that the undertag’s information should be fully visible. Both of the tags on the fake one are too short. Fonts and placement are off.

This tag design has been assembled/made in numerous locations: Mexico, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, but Haiti appears to be the only one that has been faked thus far.

Authentic Hanes Heavyweight Double Tag

authentic hanes heavyweight blue bar double tag

Fake Wild Oats T-Shirt Tag

fake wild oats tag

One of the dead giveaways for this tag is the fact that the border above it is hidden under the seam. This means they didn’t get the size of the tag correct. Be careful though, because I’ve also seen legit Wild Oats tags that have the same issue, which was likely a manufacturing error. Another error, “LG” beside XL is a typo. It should be “TG” for “Tres Grande.” Also compare the thickness of the fonts, thickness, and spacing. Take a look at the spacing between XL and LG.

Authentic Vintage Wild Oats T-Shirt Tag

Authentic Wild Oats T-Shirt Tag

There are several versions of Wild Oats tags, take a look at our historical tag guide as well as our archive of them.

Fake Brockum World Wide T-Shirt Tag

Fake Brockum World Wide T-Shirt Tag

Not hard to spot the differences here. The Brockum font looks stretched, it’s too tall.

It looks like “WORLD WIDE” with a space rather than “WORLDWIDE.”

The font below the bar is not correct.

Authentic Brockum Worldwide T-Shirt Tag

authentic vintage brockum worldwide t-shirt tag

Follow this link for more examples of genuine Brockum Worldwide tags.

Fake Fruit of the Loom T-Shirt Tag

Fake FOTL t-shirt tag

For this one, focus on the fruit. The finer details are gone. The shading doesn’t exist. Not only that, they made the grapes purple so they wouldn’t have to use an additional color.

Authentic Fruit of the Loom T-Shirt Tag

Real FOTL t-shirt tag

Fake The Brockum Group T-Shirt Tag

They made a decent stab at this one. The sheen on the tag fabric is on point. But the interwoven pattern on the font in the above example has too much space and is not as tight-knit. It’s especially obvious if you compare the Ks.

Compare the differences between the R’s in “GROUP” and the text below it isn’t a great match. The true version’s text looks to be in a bolded font.

Authentic Vintage The Brockum Group T-Shirt Tag

authentic vintage the brockum group t-shirt tag

Follow this link for more examples of genuine The Brockum Group tags. You can also get a complete history and timeline of Brockum tags.

Fake GEM T-Shirt Tag

fake gem great entertainment merchandise t-shirt tag

This one also suffers from the same issue the Wild Oats tag does – the branding ends up under the hem – the top border isn’t visible. But I’ve seen the odd legit tag with this issue. Overall, this one is pretty decent, you could argue the blue color is too day glow. The swirl on the G is too thick. The font below isn’t a great match. But the fatal mistake they made was to fill in the missing blue border on the bottom of the globe.

On the true one below you’ll see the border on the bottom right is broken, there’s a gap on the true version.

Authentic Vintage GEM T-Shirt Tag

authentic vintage gem t-shirt tag

Follow this link for more examples of genuine GEM tags.

Fake Liquid Blue T-Shirt Tag

This one is pretty good. Though, their color selection is off – made obvious by the fact that the pattern formed inside each swirl isn’t as visible. Also, it looks as though each swirl on the fake one has a distinguishable border around it. Zoom in on the blue swirl.

The Liquid Blue font is pretty decent, but you can still see some differences, especially the thread count.

Authentic Vintage Liquid Blue T-Shirt Tag

Authentic Vintage Liquid Blue T-Shirt

Follow this link for more examples of genuine Liquid Blue tags.

Fake Screen Stars by Fruit of the Loom T-Shirt Tag

Fake Screen Stars by Fruit of the Loom value weight T-Shirt tag

Lots of small differences here. The blue is slightly too dark, though I have noticed some inconsistencies in this regard between genuine tags. The box around Screen Stars is more of a square than a rectangle. Subtle differences in the SS logo. The font for “by” is incorrect. “Value Weight T” is spaced incorrectly.

Authentic Vintage Screen Stars By Fruit of the Loom T-Shirt Tag

Authentic vintage Screen Stars by Fruit of the Loom value weight T-Shirt tag

Follow this link for more examples of genuine Screen Stars by Fruit of the Loom tags.

Fake Vintage Tultex Tag

Fake all black Tultex Tag

This is another fake tag that’s convincing when not directly compared side to side. The spacing between the TULTEX letters is the main giveaway. TULTEX should be more cramped and this is very common across the various tags I examined. There does seem to be some exceptions to this rule, where there’s more space between the letters, but it’s never the amount as shown above.

Authentic Vintage Tultex T-Shirt Tags

authentic vintage tultex t-shirt tag

Genuine Tultex tag with slight spacing

By the way, it’s completely normal for the legit versions of this tag to have some interesting transformations to the “COTTON” black bar after some wear and washes.

authentic vintage tultex t-shirt tag washed
authentic vintage tultex t-shirt tag worn

Follow this link for more examples of genuine Tultex tags.

Fake 3D Emblem T-Shirt Tag Version 1

Fake 3D emblem T-Shirt Tag

The material and edges of the tag are convincing. But the 3D effect is lost in the fake version. The font for the size is too thick. The 3 and D don’t match. The “Emblem” font is wrong. This fake tag also features the design being partially buried under the flap. Other than everything, it’s perfect!

Fake 3D Emblem T-Shirt Tag Version 2

Second version fake 3d emblem tag

This one is pretty sloppy too. The shadow effect isn’t achieved. The 3 and D are cramped. The size is strangely positioned.

Authentic 3D Emblem T-Shirt Tag

genuine 3d emblem t-shirt tag

Follow this link for more examples of genuine 3D Emblem tags.

Fake Bay Club T-Shirt Tag

Fake Bay Club Tag

When there are fakes being made of bootleg t-shirts, and the brands most commonly associated with bootlegs, you know the vintage t-shirt market is hot. There’s more than one flub, when you examine these Bay Club tags. They didn’t exactly nail the unique logo very well, and it’s missing half of the information on a real one. The real ones fade like crazy after a handful of washes, and also fray along the edges.

Authentic Bay Club T-Shirt Tags

genuine bay club t-shirt tag

Genuine, worn bay club t-shirt tag

Fake Resurreccion T-Shirt Tag

Fake Resurreccion Tag

@Tees_4_fears has graciously donated his analysis for this guide. Lots of discrepancies here, but it’s such a busy tag that the multiple issues might fly under the radar. The R and the detail within the heart are always the biggest red flags.

Real Resurreccion T-Shirt Tag

Real Resurreccion t-shirt tag

Fake Fantasy T-Shirt Tag

Modern Fake Fantasy T-Shirt Tag

Ten years ago I would have never imagined that a low-cost, poor-quality blank, used by bootleggers would have fake versions. But here we are. The dead giveaway here is how the bottom of the red t-shirt outline is visible through the Fantasy font. But the material the tag is on and even the basic construction of the t-shirt, is kinda impressive.

There are multiple Fantasy tag designs you can see here – but this appears to be the only one targeted thus far.

Authentic Fantasy T-Shirt Tag

fantasy a&g tag blue rn 55774 100% cotton

Fake Backstage Pass T-Shirt Tag

Fake black Backstage Pass T-Shirt Tag

Lots of differences here. Look how the S breaks from the right border. All the letters PASS letters are slightly off. The spacing is off. It’s missing the “TM.” (BUT there are also legit BSP tags with no TM, see below.)

Btw, the one above was a fake tag that was sewn in.

Real Backstage Pass T-Shirt Tags

real backstage pass t-shirt tag with "TM"

real backstage pass t-shirt

Fake Metallica T-Shirt Tag

Fake Black Metallica T-Shirt Tag

This one is pretty good to the naked eye, and if you’ve assumed there aren’t any fake Metallica tags, it may fool someone. I haven’t seen one in person, but the material of the tag doesn’t seem correct. The letters of the Metallica logo are off – they aren’t as tall – the C is what seems to be the most obvious. In the real version, it’s more of a half-circle. The “A” in made also obviously off.

Real Metallica T-Shirt Tag

Real Metallica T-Shirt Tag

Follow this link for more Genuine Metallica T-Shirt tags.

Fake Spring Ford T-Shirt Tag

Fake Spring Ford T-Shirt Tag

The forgery above is using a different font, it’s a script/handwriting font that’s connected in some parts. Compare each letter individually and the whole thing is obviously incorrect. Plus they forgot the period after U.S.A.

Authentic Spring Ford T-Shirt Tag

Real vintage Spring Ford T-Shirt Tag

Follow this link for more Genuine Spring Ford T-Shirt tags.

Fake Anvil Blue Bar Nicaragua Tag

fake anvil blue bar tag

The Nicaragua Anvil tags came to be around 2004. So if you’ve got this tag on a t-shirt from prior to that date, it’s a red flag. You’ll notice the fake has a dull blue color as well as a bolded font below the bar. The Anvil font looks to be slightly too thick for this blue bar version (it matches the font on the red bar better.)

The deadest giveaway is the height of the L – it should generally line up with the dot on top of the i, and that’s standard across all Anvil tags. On this fake one, the L is way too high.

Check out this Anvil History for more examples of authentic tags.

Authentic Anvil Blue Bar Nicaragua Tag

Authentic Anvil Double Tag Nicaragua

Fake Gildan Ultra Cotton T-Shirts

Fake Gildan Ultra Cotton T-Shirt Tag El Salvador

I can’t believe we’re in an era where Gildan double tags are being counterfeited. There are lots of subtle differences here – the placement of the circle inside the A, the “activewear” font inside the blue bar, the details on the under tag, the real tag’s design takes up more real estate, etc, etc.

Then there’s the one below, where the U from Ultra is elevated. All the letters are too close, and look at the font in the blue bar – as well as the fact that the A & C have too much space between them.

Fake Gildan Ultra Cotton Haiti tag 2

It all becomes obvious when you compare these two to the one below.

Authentic Gildan Heavyweight T-Shirt Tag

Real Gildan Ultra Cotton T-Shirt Tag el salvador

Fake Gildan Heavy Weight Cotton T-Shirt Tag

fake gildan heavy weight cotton t-shirt tag

Looks like the bootleggers got creative here and added a shading effect to the blue line that passes through the logo. That line is also too thick and you can see it improperly cuts off the entire bottom tip of the N.

Authentic Gildan Heavyweight T-Shirt Tag

real gildan heavy weight cotton t-shirt tag honduras

Fake Alstyle Apparel & Activewear T-Shirt Tag

Fake AAA Alstyle Double Tag

That line at the bottom of the fake tag, shouldn’t be there. The top A, doesn’t have enough space under it. The fonts, font weight, and spacing used in the under tag aren’t a great match.

Authentic Alstyle Apparel & Activewear T-Shirt Tag

Authentic AAA Alstyle Tag

Fake Winterland T-Shirt Tag Version 1

Fake Winterland vintage T-Shirt Tag

The first fake Winterland tags are too tall. The box around the “W”/Crown is also too tall – the W should be mostly centered. They also made them too silvery. The TM symbol is too low. The spacing (leading) between the lines is too generous, and the bottom line from the real tag, “Esamblado En Mexico” is absent.

Fake Winterland T-Shirt Tag Version 2

Fake Winterland t-shirt tag version 2

The second version we’ve spotted sports a Winterland logo that’s too tall. Go ahead and compare every letter in the logo and you’ll see it’s off. But it’s the D in Winterland that’s easiest to hone in on – it looks square. It kinda looks like WINTERLANO. Plus, the leading is off – look at how cramped the line with the sizes is – when compared to the one below.

Authentic Winterland T-Shirt Tag

real winterland t-shirt tag

To be continued…In the meantime, if you’ve spotted a fake tag out in the wild, please get in touch with us.

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Jimmy founded Defunkd in 2004 when he started selling vintage t-shirts online. 20 years of experience later and he hasn't looked back since. Actually, he looks back all the time given he's a sucker for nostalgia. For more, check the history of Defunkd and Jimmy's Expertise.

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