Getting to know men’s clothing fabrics: vintage and garment-dyed shirts


Creative, young and informal: garment-dyed fabrics are recognisable from the emotion, the sensation they immediately convey. Their lived-in look makes them perfect for easy, comfy wear, but also for drinks out or a dinner with friends. Usually, this type of garment is not for formal occasions, but if we’re talking about casual business wear, then it can be worn in more serious outfit combinations. Garment-dyeing is very popular for men’s shirts, when in fact this process can also be used on jackets, trousers, and sweaters. This versatile technique can be applied on different compositions, including cotton, linen, and wool – natural fibres.


But how does it work? Well, the term speaks for itself: it is a garment that is coloured, meaning that the starting point is not a dyed fabric that is then sewn, but quite the opposite: the garment is made up with a fabric that is “ready for dyeing” and usually has a very neutral colour (normally white or beige). After the garment has been put together – in our case, the shirt, with all of its processes – it is coloured using special dyeing procedures. This means it can be washed with different solid colours or decoloured in specific areas; cold dyes can be applied, using special enzymes, to create stunning “worn” effects, such as degradè, and misdyed styles. The technique is versatile and also dates back to ancient times; in Japan it has been known as shibori since the 8th century

We can also talk about “overdyed” garments, where the item is made up using a coloured or printed fabric and then dyed on top. The result is a mix of different shades and colours which, if done well, will create a unique garment with a vintage feel.


So where does technique finish and style begin? To answer this question, we should take a careful look at the details on a men’s shirt. Garment-dyed shirts often have irregular colouring around the seams, on the cuffs and on the front placket; this shows that the dye – because it is added later – penetrates the fibres irregularly. But this is the secret beauty that makes a style eye-catching and at the same time, informal, stylish and with no starching.  

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