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We all have t-shirts in our closets and drawers (unless you’re Richard Branson) that fulfill different functions in our day to day lives. It’s a rare bird that actually knows anything about how t-shirts are produced or the fun facts that surrounding the t-shirt business. From field to factory to neatly folded and put away in a dresser, the journey of t-shirts is full of insane (but true) things you would never guess.

  1. Cotton is a major component in the production of most tees. It takes 713 gallons of water to grow the cotton need to make just one t-shirt. Fortunately organizations like the World Wildlife Federation are working with farmers to in Pakistan and India on the Better Cotton Initiative that is yielding results like increased profit for the farmer, a 39% reduction in the water usage and almost half as much pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Go WWF!

  2. Cotton is manipulated into strong yarn by pulling and stretching the fibers in a four step continual process until they are thinner and longer. The result is yarn 30 times thinner than it began. And in the world of textile, thin = strength.
  3. Actually sewing a t-shirt together is still a manual process. A talented team of 8 can sew about 140 t-shirts per hour.

  4. 98 percent of clothing is imported from other countries.
  5. Your average designer t-shirt has a markup of 60 percent. That’s one mighty expensive tag.

  6. Brothers John and Bert Jacobs turned their love of art and selling tees into a billion dollar PRIVATE business, Life is Good, (indeed.)
  7. Plastisol ink is the traditional ink used for screen printing. It’s called plastisol because it’s actually made of PVC and plasticizer.
  8. The rotary press was invented by Mike Vasilantone in 1960 making multiple color screen printing on tees a commercially viable venture.
  9. In 2006, John Anton launched, one of the first online t-shirt design studio websites in the world.

  10. The invention of the t-shirt was essentially bringing the undergarment to outer garment status starting in the late 19th century. Hail to those forbearers that said no to stuffy and hello to comfy.

  11. A lot of donated clothing is sold and shipped to sub-Saharan Africa where it is resold in markets. Next time you’re in Sierra Leone take a look around, we bet you’ll see how discarded promotional t-shirts take on a second and perhaps more interesting life.
  12. The Hard Rock Cafe claims that their t-shirt is the best-selling t-shirt of all time, (it could be since merch accounts for 40% of their business.)

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