If you’re talking about wardrobe staples, there is nothing more timeless or more essential than your basic t-shirt. You can wear these all-season items on their own, layered up, out and about or when going to bed. While there are probably times where you wouldn’t want a t-shirt as your sole layer, there are always going to be far more times where you can wear a t-shirt than where you can’t.
Because it’s such a wardrobe staple, it’s essential to be able to tell a good brand for t-shirts from a bad one. For that reason, Daniel Patrick is going to go through the essentials of what makes a good brand, and how you can tell before you buy a brand what the quality of something is going to be like. A good shirt may sound easy to find in principle, but there are a variety of factors which go into making a quality product.
Before you buy or wear anything, you need to look at the fabrics. Natural fabrics offer comfort and sustainability in ways that synthetic fabrics don’t, but synthetic fabrics offer benefits for athletic performance that otherwise would be difficult to acquire from natural ones. The fabric your shirt is made from impacts how it feels on your as well as how to care for it to extend its life.
When it comes to comfort, cotton is king. High-quality cotton is luxuriously soft, durable, and breathable, making it ideal as a base layer on hot days and a layering tool in mild weather. Cotton can also be woven into a wide variety of medium and heavyweight garments, making it a popular component in any type of clothing. In luxury wear, look for specific cotton fabrics to be mentioned, such as jersey or loop terry.
Wool lacks some of the comfort of cotton, but offers unique properties that other fabrics can’t meet. Wool is thermoregulating, meaning that it can help keep you cool during warmer months and warm during cooler months. As a base layer however, you have to make sure your wool products are high quality otherwise you’ll be dealing with severe discomfort.
Synthetics like spandex, nylon, polyester and rayon all have subtly different properties but share a great deal of similarities. Synthetic fabrics generally contain moisture wicking or moisture resistant properties, keeping you dry for longer or helping you dry off if you’ve gotten wet from the rain or from swimming. Synthetics also tend to be subtly elastic, adding an extra bit of give to clothing. For this reason, synthetics and synthetic blends are highly desirable in athletic gear and loungewear alike.
Beyond knowing the standards of a company, there’s several ways to analyze the quality of a garment from pictures or from seeing it in front of you. The first of these is simply touching the material. If an article of clothing is going to be going directly on you, it should feel good above anything else. Cottons will be soft, and synthetics will be sleekly smooth, but low-quality materials may feel merely average or actively unpleasant.
Also of importance is how you can see your clothes. Try placing your hand in between the layers of a garment, and staring through it on its own, then in the light. If a garment isn’t made to be partially sheer, and you can see your hand through it, it may be a sign that the piece is cheaply made and not built to last.
Pilling can also be a sign of low-quality garments. Since t-shirts in particular utilize cotton to a fair degree, it’s important to know that cotton as a material is pill-resistant, and high quality cotton should not pill before you’ve had it for a very long time or before you’ve even bought it.
Where They Make It
Construction isn’t everything, but it can give you a hint as to the values of your designer. If a designer is American but sources all their manufacturing overseas, it can be a sign that they are looking after their bottom line more than their product quality. Lax labor laws allow companies to underpay workers and potentially use unsafe manufacturing processes, leading to a worse product and a worse environment. Admittedly if you are buying from an international company you shouldn’t be surprised to see a foreign location of manufacture, but if you see a local company doing the same it may be a sign of something untoward going on.
Local manufacturing has an impact beyond solely ethical concerns, however. For example, look at Daniel Patrick. We source almost all of our manufacturing in our local community of LA, which allows us not only to support our home through the success of the company, but also have a further on-hand experience when it comes to the production process where many items are hand-made. The sole exception is in our footwear, which is presently made in Portugal more for the abundance of high quality materials there than anything else.
Cost can be a good indicator of the quality of a company, and its ethics. This doesn’t necessarily mean that more expensive is better, but there are many reasons why a product may cost what it does. Just as cost-cutting practices allow companies to offer goods at low prices, so too do practices which ensure quality at a higher cost lead to goods being offered at higher prices.
For example, if a company sources its labor in a place like California, where labor laws ensure fair wages, the cost of an individual price goes up. If a designer puts out smaller batches of products in order to ensure a higher standard when it comes to individual garments, that drives the prices up. If the materials and stitching of a garment are higher, it stands that prices will rise. While cost isn’t an indicator of higher quality, high quality, which can often be seen if you know how to look for it, is often an indicator of higher cost.
With individual brands, it’s not hard to find an underlying purpose, whether that’s an admiration for specific design elements, a constant hunt for quality or a specific mission statement. With many fast fashion companies, it can be hard to divulge a specific purpose besides being on-trend, and that shows in the products they put out in the world.
It’s easy to figure out what we’re all about from a single glance. Much of our line takes inspiration from a fundamental love of fashion and athletics tied with a keen interest in the world around us, whether that be hip-hop music or the vast array of landscapes and cultures that make LA special. By choosing to buy from designers with a true purpose you know that far from simply getting a quality shirt, you’ll also be investing in an artist who’s truly interested in where the world is going rather than where it is right now.
Examining the way a garment is made can also help you figure out whether or not care was put into its design. Check the seams of your T-shirt, whether that be on the sleeves or the pockets, in case your t-shirt features a chest pocket. The material should line up evenly at each seam, and maintain a uniform quality or pattern. If it doesn’t, it can be a sign of cheap design.
Also of importance is the tightness of the seams themselves. When you lightly tug at the seams of a shirt, you shouldn’t see holes in the space where you tugged. This can be a sign that once a material starts to come undone, which if the seams are poorly made will be quickly, it won’t be long after that the shirt itself will disintegrate.
An American designer who deserves far more credit than she earns is Claire McCardell. This designer helped to popularize the use of sportswear when it came to mainstream fashion, but just as essentially to fashion history she focused on the practical side of clothing, including introducing her own take on the capsule wardrobe. In a capsule wardrobe, an individual uses a small number of garments which can easily be mixed and matched to create a large number of outfits.
In essence, a good t-shirt should fit in well with a capsule wardrobe regardless of how many items you have in your closet. The ideal shirt should be versatile, something you adore wearing and finding yourself gravitating to as much as any other item. The versatility of a shirt is affected by many things, including its comfort, design, and the way it looks. In other words, much of what makes a shirt an effective and versatile piece are elements which make it a quality shirt to begin with.
Product Examination: Varsity Tee
For a quick example of putting our fundamentals to the test, we’re going to examine a few shirts, starting with the Varsity Tee from Daniel Patrick. From a design standpoint, the shirt is made from heavy weight jersey material which is milled and garment dyed locally in Los Angeles, passing all standards for fabric and manufacturing. The shirt features a ribbed neck, applique logo graphic, and is designed for a slightly oversized fit, showcasing a conscious effort towards design that’s a hallmark of high-quality goods. By aiming for an oversized fit, style and comfort is assured regardless of whether the wearer gains or loses weight or stays exactly the same.
The Varsity Tee is available in five different colorings, including blacks, greys, natural, and a desert-evoking mojave. One variation, heather grey, is specifically made from a polyester-cotton-rayon blend to fuse the comfort of cotton with the athletic and aesthetic benefits of synthetic materials. All in all, the Varsity Tee showcases an intentionality and exactness in design that more than explains and justifies the cost.
Product Examination: Summit Tee
Daniel Patrick’s Summit Tee makes for another compelling installment in the rich history of streetwear and graphic t-shirts. Sunsets and sunrises alike change the landscape around us in beautiful ways, and this tee is inspired by the ethereal beauty of Los Angeles’ mountains which at times glow pink in the setting sun. The graphic is distressed to give the whole shirt a well-worn vintage look while maintaining brand-new quality.
The shirt as a whole is made from heavyweight jersey giving it a comfortable feel that’s ideal worn either on its own or layered up for more inclement weather. The shirt has an oversized fit, but for a more regular fit can be gained if the shirt is worn one size down. The Summit Tee is also available in both neutral and colorful styles, ranging from standard black and natural, to mountain blue, hunter green, and camel. Whether worn as a solo piece or layered up, the shirt is available in enough styles that it can serve as an essential piece in any wardrobe.
Knowing a Good T-Shirt Brand
A surprisingly deep amount of information, from design to production, goes into making a quality t-shirt. Whether you’re looking to get a more comfortable shirt, a company that’s more ethical, or getting gear that’s built to last and not just be recycled after a season, there’s plenty here to help judge whether or not something is going to be your new favorite piece, or just quantity masquerading as quality.