T-Shirts are like business cards. Anyone can order some from a 3rd party manufacturer, and it shows. But not all of those garments are well-made, well-fitting (especially for women), and the impact of the production on the environment and the workers is almost never disclosed.
In this post, I’ll share my journey to find the softest and best-looking tee money can buy to feature five well-loved classic film camera prints.
Finding the right fit.
I think that putting a piece of clothing up for sale comes with some responsibility. Not just in terms of choices when it comes to labour and environmental practices, but also in the quality of the product and how it makes its owner feel. Make something mediocre and it’ll end up in the landfill quick.
My wardrobe is now full of tees that look similar — but not the same. I’ve ordered test tees made in a variety of materials, with numerous image placement options, from three different marketplaces. Not all of them felt good — some smelled like vinegar out of the package, others had scratchy tags, and certain cuts just fit badly.
The search started over a year ago and concluded recently with Cotton Bureau as the printer and Next Level as the garment maker.
Cotton Bureau is a Pittsburgh, PA-based printer and an e-commerce platform. They’ve been making shirts and other things for a while. Their list of notable clients includes Adam Savage (MythBusters), and MKBHD.
Next Level is a garment producer who sews fabric in South America and Asia. You can check out their social responsibility page here.
My favourite thing about these tees is the material. It’s an ultra-light and super-soft tri-blend of cotton, polyester, and rayon. Comfy stuff.
The texture of the material has a “vintage” look, which works really well with the graphic. Note that the image will fade slightly with each wash, which is the nature of the DTG on-demand printing process.
I tried tees made of organic and recycled cotton, but in the end, I decided to go for the material that looks and feels best. Plus, Cotton Bureau had much better cuts that looked great on my wife without having to tuck or modify the fabric in any way. The hope is that better-made stuff will find a use for much longer than garments that don’t look good.
A little more about the cut.
I made two versions of the tees: unisex/men’s and women’s fitted.
Men’s fitted tees have a little more shape than the usual cuts you may find elsewhere. They are slimmer (although you could size-up). My first choice that’s now available at the shop works really well with a blazer for a fancier outing but also works as streetwear.
Women’s tees are fairly tight-fitting. The manufacturer recommends you order a size or two up if you’ve never tried “junior fit” tees. I had Betty try a few of the cuts and the “junior fit” one felt the best. All other versions came short — some needed tucking, rolling sleeves, and other hacks just to avoid looking boxy.
I chose five film cameras as the models for the “cafe” setting. Yashica Electro 35 GT is a close cousin of the first “serious” film camera I bought many years back. Minolta TC-1 is the smallest film camera ever made. Olympus OM-1 is a legendary film SLR; it’s one of the smaller full-frame cameras of the type with a delightfully-minimalist design. Olympus PEN FV is the only half-frame SLR; with a pancake lens, it can fit in a pocket! And finally, Olympus Mju I, a great everyday point-and-shoot that’s been gaining popularity (again) recently.
All of these cameras have a page on Analog.Cafe.
These tees are well-made, but if you’ve got one and would like it to last, here are the manufacturer’s care instructions:
Machine wash cold. Tumble dry low. Low iron. Do not bleach. Do not dry clean.