5 Tips and Tricks for Vintage Tee Shopping

The world of vintage clothing is exploding, and the resale market is undoubtedly on the rise. 

According to ThredUp’s 2019 Fashion Resale Report, the secondhand market will reach $51 billion in 2023 (up from last year’s $24 billion) with resale, thrift and donations driving growth. Capitalizing on the thrill of the hunt, sites like The Real Real, Poshmark, Depop and ThredUp are owning the online sector, and brick-and-mortar classics like Goodwill, Salvation Army and vintage boutiques are swiftly gaining clout.

ONE37pm is leaning into the trend. We followed an Indiana native as he visited every single Goodwill store in his state, asked Jordan Page of @veryadvanced to highlight ten vintage pieces that have stood the test of time and outlined the five places that aren’t garage sales for making a substantial profit on clothing. But with brands like Urban Outfitters and other mid-tier retailers printing ‘80s and ‘90s graphics on brand-new tees, it can be hard to tell what is authentic and what is a knock-off.

So, we tapped Thomas Huerta, a videographer at VaynerTalent with a penchant for vintage tees, to spill insider tips and tricks for identifying truly hidden gems worthy of a $40 price tag. “Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure,” he says casually in a ONE37pm conference room. Proceed confidently, armed with these six bits of advice to score killer vintage T-shirts.

The garment tag

If the shirt in question is authentic, the garment tag will look retro. Hanes tags, in particular, show their age if they’re from past decades. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, most companies derived their blanks—or the base fabric—from a few companies like Wild Oats, Giant by Tultex, Fruit of the Loom, old Harley Davidson blanks, Jockey and Screen Stars Best. If you’re lucky enough to find a shirt with one of these tags, snag it.

Blind seams on the neckline

The quickest way to wade through a rack of tees is to thumb through the necklines. Ignore the graphics on the front at first. Cheaper shirts constructed today have an exposed double stitch instead of a blind seam—one that disappears into the fabric and favored years ago. Mass-market retailers like Urban Outfitters will cut costs and use the less expensive double stitch, so if you spot one, steer clear.

Single stitching over double stitch hems

These slim-fitting shirts, made popular in the late ‘90s, have a narrow body and sleeve opening. Look for a single row of machine stitches along the bottom edge of the tee and the sleeve opening. But beware: Some contemporary brands are replicating this method to imitate the coveted vintage look, so consider all the other tips and tricks in this guide to determine the garment’s value. 

In 1995, there was a transition period where the arms were double stitched and the hem was doubled. There is a lot of discrepancy in construction over the years, so use your best judgment.

Tubular construction over side seams

While tubular construction—where the side seams on the garment are replaced by a fabric knit into a tube shape— offers higher quality, it is not an indication of vintage. While the fit will feel more fluid, which Huerta prefers, there are still industrial manufacturers replicating the pattern. It is a key indicator of quality when vintage shopping.

Key graphics

While graphics are innately a personal preference, certain categories of prints bring a higher value. Band or tour shirts capture ultimate nostalgia, rap tees are all the rage and any prints with wolves on them—like ONE37pm favorite Keiser Clark—seem to be trending. Vintage NASCAR, basketball or Harley Davidson prints dominate the sports sector. Culturally, cartoons like Looney Tunes and Disney characters are coveted. 

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