Made famous by the likes of James Dean and Jane Birkin… THE T-SHIRT has become an absolute essential for the modern day consumer. Versatile, comfortable and easy. For every wearer, style and occasion, the white t-shirt has found its way into our hearts as a crucial element of our wardrobes. It offers an extensive market for any brand to tap into. Everyone wants to be the maker of the worlds best t-shirt.
But what qualities make this true? To what extent is paying a triple digit price tag actually increasingly the quality of said garment? We all hiccup a little when we see a t-shirt we like over one hundred dollars. The bargain hunter within all of us comes out and we end up in Kmart comparing the two. “But this t-shirt feels just as soft as the other more expensive one… and its 100% cotton too!”. So what is the actual difference? Why are so many paying so much more for the simple white tee?
THINGS ARE CHEAP FOR A REASON
The first lesson here is that things are cheap for a reason. Business owners are constantly cutting corners to keep up with their competitors, and to keep their costs down. An example of this is offshore manufacturing, where labour costs are considerably lower and less regulated. In countries such as Bangladesh and India, brands will pay much less for the same garment than if they produced them locally in the USA or Australia, for example. But what does this mean for the actual quality of the garment? Not a lot, but it does make a difference for the considerate consumer, concerned with social injustice and sustainability. The ‘true cost’ in this case, is considerably more.
But in reality, labour makes up a very small portion of the end cost of a garment. The majority of the monetary cost, is in the fabric. Cheap materials will bring the price of a product down. You might notice after indulging in an afternoon at Cotton On, Big W or similar, that your bargain of a t-shirt is a pilled catastrophe after just one wash. And that softness that enticed you? Cheaper t-shirts are coated in a layer of chemicals to make them feel soft in store, which eventually wears off after a couple of washes. ‘Faux’ has reached new heights.
Its also important to have a quick glance at the manufacturing. Long stitches, loose threads, unfinished seams and already noticeable holes are all signs that a garment is made with corners cut. This probably means it won’t last long in the wash, and you’ll need to go out and buy the same t-shirt again in a month. No thank you!
So let’s turn to the heftier price tag. Just because it’s more expensive, doesn’t necessarily mean that its of better quality. Most of the time, the most expensive part is the brands name. It’s important as a consumer to know what you’re actually getting, so check the tag.
Maison Margiela T-Shirts
ITS ALL IN THE TEXTILE
Generally, a cotton t-shirt is best. But remember that different fibres will have different qualities. Two t-shirts might have the exact same cotton content, but one might feel much smoother and softer, due to the quality of the cotton. This is called cotton grading. The longer the fibre of cotton is before it is manipulated into yarn, the softer it will be. The shorter the fibre, the more joints the yarn will have and the scratchier it will feel across the skin. Look for Egyptian, Pima and Sea Island cotton. Or even the thread count, if they have it. And let’s not forget about organic cotton!
And with even more expensive t-shirts, you start to drift from your upscale cottons and into bamboo, cashmere and modal. Oh the luxury!
So lets turn to one of my more expensive t-shirts. My Acne Studios Over-sized T-Shirt. Priced at a concerning $250 AUD. I’ve owned this t-shirt almost a year now, and I’ve washed it countless times. It feels absolutely superb. Like new, I must say. But let’s turn to why it feels so good, and why it has aged so well. Here’s a run down of the tag: 100% cotton, Gojina Dyed, made in Portugal. I can tell the fibres in the cotton are quality because when I contrast it in the light, the fabric looks consistent. The weave of the fabric is also tight. Moving to the construction, the stiches are tiny. 2mm tops. It’s also double top stitched on the sleeves and hem, making for a hearty combination of strength and longevity. Honestly, I’m tempted to buy it in more colours.
So when it comes to price, sure… you’re going to get a bargain with the cheaper version. But in the long run, you’re going to save so much more in purchasing something of higher quality. Don’t be fooled by marketing strategies and shiny brands. Do your research and invest wisely! The white t-shirt isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.