Everything You Need to Know About Collecting Vintage T-Shirts

Rocking vintage clothes has never been so easy with our tips and tricks.

Published August 15, 2023
rack of vintage t-shirts

Instead of the Age of Aquarius, it’s the Age of Vintage. In the past decade, finding and selling vintage has become an insanely popular pastime. If you’re new to the game, we’re going to help you cut those early corners and learn all the tips and tricks for finding vintage t-shirts, learning how to take care of them, and avoid getting scammed.

Types of Vintage T-Shirts

Part of the appeal of buying vintage t-shirts is how many different kinds there are to choose from. Everyone can find a style or cut perfect for their fashion sense. Some of the more common types of vintage t-shirts that people look for are:

  • Band/tour tees
  • Novelty t-shirts
  • Baseball shirts
  • Plain white tees (and other plain colors, too)
  • Uniform t-shirts
  • Collegiate tees

What to Look for When Buying Vintage T-Shirts

The last thing you want to do is be duped into paying a big price tag for something that’s not real vintage. If you know what to look for, you’ll be able to parse out the fake stuff from the real stuff every time.

Look for Wear and Tear in the Right Places

Fake vintage t-shirts can be passed off because they’ve been artificially aged. But it’s hard to replicate that worn-in look with some sandpaper. Real aging will show in a variety of ways:

  • The fabric is thin and sheer. This can happen with natural fibers and consistent wear.
  • There are holes at the seams. The more you wear something, the more strain you put on the seams. You’re likely to wear out those junctures the fastest, leading to holes.
  • Decals and artwork may be faded or cracked. Depending on how the t-shirts were made, they can crack, fade, or start to peel after being exposed to sun, weather, sweat, and detergents.

Check the Interior for Mold

Some vintage tees have been very well-loved by their previous owners. With that comes the risk of them having molded over time. If people didn’t dry them out properly or wore their long hair wet in them for years on-end, the fibers might have started molding.

Mold is very difficult to get out of vintage shirts because they’re delicate and can’t withstand the same kind of bleach or scrubbing treatment that new ones can. So, check the inside (especially the collar and pits) for tiny black flecks in the weave. If you see this, you should probably pass.

Corroborate Merch Artwork With the Timeline

Most often, people are attracted to music-related vintage t-shirts. But one quick way to double check that something is genuinely vintage is to make sure the math adds up. Tour dates should match the artwork for the tour. You shouldn’t have albums with cover art from years later. Like with AI art, if the pieces aren’t adding up, something funky is going on.

Where Can You Find Vintage T-Shirts?

Unlike some vintage fashions, t-shirts are some of the easiest articles of clothing you can find. But, depending on what you’re looking for, you’re going to need to browse different places.

Online Marketplaces

General online marketplaces like Etsy and eBay are useful because they have a huge number of sellers, such as Etsy’s sweetVTGtshirt, and a big inventory. However, they’re not specifically geared towards t-shirts, so there’s no guarantee you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Similarly, people tend to list the best that they have. So, if you want something rarer or signed, these are good places to start.

Other places include:

  • GEM: GEM is another great resource. It scours internet listings for clothing matching the search description.

  • Depop: Anyone can list their own goods on Depop, and you might be able to find some cool vintage t-shirts for a fraction of their value. 
  • Poshmark: Poshmark is a well-known online marketplace where people can resell your well-kept clothes—vintage t-shirts included. 
  • Grailed: Grailed is an online retailer full of high-quality apparel like streetwear, Americana, and more. 

T-Shirt-Specific Online Retailers

If you don’t want to sort through any other listings to get to the t-shirts, these retailers are perfect for you:

  • Wyco Vintage: Wyco Vintage is your one stop shop for rare vintage t-shirts. Those limited-run, single concert tees from that prog rock band you love that’re worth a couple hundred would end up on Wyco Vintage.  
  • Kissing Booth: Kissing Booth is the place to go if you’re not after statement t-shirts. They’ve got a small collection of t-shirts from various decades.

Thrift Stores

shopping for t-shirts

Thrift stores are great options for making unexpected finds and getting them cheaper than you can online. Thrift stores don’t always know what they’ve got with vintage t-shirts and will underprice them. Just know that you may have to browse a lot before finding anything to take home. But that’s part of the fun of hunting stuff down in-person.

But Can You Wear Vintage T-Shirts?

Whenever someone brings up vintage clothing, people come out of the woodwork to debate over whether you should or shouldn’t wear it. At the end of the day, if you purchased an item with your own money, you’re at the liberty to make that decision for yourself. Some people just want old pieces to add to their collection, and others want to work them into their wardrobe; both choices are fine.

On the less moral front, vintage t-shirts are safe to wear. The only thing you’re fighting against is the fabric falling apart. The more you wash and wear something, the more agitated and worn it’s going to get. So, if you really love a t-shirt you found, we suggest learning how to mend, because you’re going to need to do it someday.

How to Wash Your Vintage T-Shirts

If you want your vintage t-shirts to have a long life, then don’t just haphazardly throw them in the wash. Instead, always wash them on a delicate cycle in cool water with a gentle laundry detergent. You can hang or lay flat to dry if you think the tumbling in the dryer is going to result in tears or loose seams.

Rocking Vintage Has Never Been so Easy

Many vintage clothes are cut and sewn using tailored lines that we don’t really wear today. Waists might be higher or lower and shoulder seams cut too far inwards. But vintage t-shirts are the one vintage clothing item that literally anyone can wear, anytime. No matter your personal style or budget, you can find a vintage t-shirt that’ll work for you.

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Everything You Need to Know About Collecting Vintage T-Shirts