How To Tell If A T-Shirt Is “99% Brand New” Or Not (Non-Vintage)

When I started this t-shirt orphanage, I wanted to create a grading systems for the consumer so there would be no question as to what the condition of the t-shirt is in upon purchase of the item.

So I did!

In my grading system, I feel as though every grade other than 99% Brand New is pretty self explanatory: “Brand New” are t-shirts with tags, “Vintage Used” are old collectible t-shirts with wear, etc. Those shirts are quick and easy to grade but there are many factors to look at when considering if a t-shirt is 99% Brand New.

The following is my six step process for determining whether a t-shirt should be considered “99% Brand New”:

1. Look at the Tag:

Inside printed tag

Printed Collar Tag (notice missing letters and numbers)

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Wrinkled Hanging Collar Tag

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Wrinkled Hanging Inside Tag

NOTE: There are two places to look for tags: on the collar and on the inside/bottom of the shirt. Sometimes there is only one but a shirt can have tags in both places at times.

This should be the first place you look. Collar tags can be both printed or hanging and should be easy to tell if either is worn or not. Letters and numbers on a printed tag may be missing or faded because its gone through the wash multiple times. A wrinkled or worn hanging tag indicates that the shirt has been washed as well. These t-shirt symptoms indicate that it is pre-owned.

2. Look For Stains, Holes, Rips, etc:

See the stains barely noticeable on the back of this t-shirt?

See the small, white stains that are barely noticeable on the back of this t-shirt?

Just a random stain I didn't notice in the store!

Just a small, random stain I didn’t notice in the store!

Oops! Didn't notice that hole until the model tried it on!

Oops! Didn’t notice that hole until the model put it on!

IMG_8662

Deodorant stain

I will seek these out no matter how small or barely noticeable they are. Many times I think I’m buying a shirt at a “99% Brand New” rating and I come home to find out I’m going to have to auction it as a pre-owned “Excellent Used Condition” t-shirt. Many times this happens as I turn the shirt inside-out for ironing.

3. Look for “Pill Balls”

Pill balls come from washing a t-shirt multiple times.

670px-Remove-Pilling-From-Clothing-Step-1

An extreme case used for brevity. I wouldn’t sell something with this many pill balls.

Pill balls can be hard to see on a t-shirt if it has been worn a few times so you have to look closely:

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See how closely I’m looking?

I take the subject of pill balls seriously. With this t-shirt, there are some tiny pill balls on it:

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It is difficult to capture such small pill balls in a photo but trust me… they’re there and this shirt would not be considered a “99% Brand New” t-shirt.

5. Turn T-Shirt Inside Out

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Look at all that…

Many times, the outside of a t-shirt can look good but upon inspection inside the shirt turns up hair, stains, pill balls or any combination of the three.

6. If There Are Graphics, Inspect Them Closely

Most all of the t-shirts I buy and sell have graphics on them. I’ve noticed that casually glancing at the graphic on the t-shirt doesn’t cut it. You have to inspect the graphic very closely to see if they have cracked or are in the process of cracking. You can detect cracking by gently pulling on either side of the graphic.

Notice the small cracks appearing when I gently pull on either side of the Undertakers face...

Notice the small cracks appearing when I gently pull on either side of the Undertakers face…

No cracks on this tuxedo t-shirt!

No cracks on this tuxedo t-shirt!

Also, sometimes graphics attract the color of the shirt it is attached to. If you look closely into the graphic on some shirts, you can see the material has started to attach itself to the graphic after it has been washed and dried:

See how the white material has begun to blend into the blue Cubs logo? The logo is no longer a crisp blue. It is faded with white lint material.

See how the white material has begun to blend into the blue Cubs logo? The logo is no longer a crisp blue. It is faded with white lint material.

That’s it! If any t-shirt has any or all of these tell-tale signs of use, it will be graded in “Excellent Used Condition” (unless it is a vintage tee).

All this inspection may seem a little obsessive but I want to be as transparent as I can be when selling to anyone. No one likes being mislead and through this process I hope I can avoid doing that.

Bored with all this technical t-shirt bullshit now? Go browse the store now knowing that I have nothing but your best interests in mind. 🙂

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