How do I find more of the best tee shirt I ever owned?
August 7, 2018 6:10 AM   Subscribe

I have a men's black short sleeved tee shirt made by Claiborne, which I bought at Dillard's, probably close to 30 years (!) ago. (Photo; photo showing fabric texture.) It's magical. The texture seems to repel kitty-cat hairs, it has never stretched out, and it still drapes nicely on my pudgy middle-aged frame.

Regular price was expensive, at about $40 even way back then. (Over $80 adjusted for inflation!) I paid less than $10 on clearance. $40 would have still been a bargain, based on its longevity. Unfortunately, the label has faded so I don't know what the material is, but It feels like a poly/cotton blend. It's not "stretchy" but has some give, and has never shrunk or gotten deformed. It's not sheer, but breathes; you can see light through it, but not skin (thankfully). I like the narrow hem on the collar as opposed to the wider crew neck on most tees.

So, that's a lot of verbiage for a tee shirt, but my searches both online and in stores of Claiborne and other brands has come up empty. I'm hoping someone with more sartorial knowledge than me can provide me with at least some other keywords to search based on the fabric type or shirt style. (BTW: I haven't tried to contact Claiborne, as their online catalog doesn't show anything like this one, so I assume they don't have a secret stockpile.)
posted by The Deej to Shopping (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
The fabric looks like a pique - the way that it has that sort of dimpling pattern that is woven in. A lot of polo shirts used to be pique, so if you try to think back to eighties or nineties ones you might remember a similar fabric. That's probably why it has a dry hand and doesn't attract cat hair. It may or may not be all cotton. Pique is designed to breathe a bit more than other weaves, which is one reason you find it in sports clothes, but it has more body than a fine jersey and so looks better if one is not quite in fighting trim.

Unfortunately, it's hard to find pique tees at all, and anything produced in the nineties will be better made than almost anything - even expensive things - that you'll find today. Everlane and ASOS have some right now. Everlane's quality is good enough but the fit is more contemporary; ASOS is probably basically junk.

If you have a chance to look around a few big department stores, high-end golf supply places or fancy makers of men's tees, they might have something that doesn't make it onto the website - Maus Hoffman, Zimmerli, maybe google "Italian tee shirt" or "swiss tee shirt". You might find them at the kinds of places that cater to rich older men who golf. As dull as this sounds, rich older men who golf are probably among the very few people who are in the market for high-quality cotton knits, and anything made for them will be very expensive but should last well. If you can't find any pique ones, shelling out for a couple of good non-pique ones might be worth it anyway.
posted by Frowner at 6:35 AM on August 7, 2018 [9 favorites]


In addition to it being a pique knit, I think the other critical element is that based on your description and timing there's a good chance it's a modal/cotton blend. If it has good breathability and moisture wicking properties then I think that is more likely than a cotton/poly blend, which is notoriously less breathable than cotton. Tencel is a similar cellulose-based semi-synthetic fiber that emerged in the late 1990s and should give you similar feel/wear characteristics to modal.
posted by drlith at 6:56 AM on August 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


I would put out an e-bay alert for the brand and maybe even these fabrics just to see what turns up.
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:01 AM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


You may be in luck trying outdoor or climbing shops as at least here in the UK they tend to have a good selection of different weave fabrics on offer. Im your photos it also looks a lot like a narrow weave Airtex fabric so that may be worth a bit of googling.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 7:07 AM on August 7, 2018


I don't know what size you need with that "pudgy middle-aged frame" but h&m has a pretty amazing pique 100% cotton tshirt; I believe the largest men's size is large. I've bought a few for my husband and he is kind of obsessed with them. They also have a pique hoodie and a long sleeved tshirt version, just do a search on their site. The linked shirt has writing on it in the blue and grey versions but the white and the stripes are plain.
posted by the webmistress at 7:42 AM on August 7, 2018


Maybe this?
posted by nantucket at 8:18 AM on August 7, 2018


there's a good chance it's a modal/cotton blend. If it has good breathability and moisture wicking properties then I think that is more likely than a cotton/poly blend, which is notoriously less breathable than cotton. Tencel is a similar cellulose-based semi-synthetic fiber that emerged in the late 1990s and should give you similar feel/wear characteristics to modal

It's certainly not impossible, but honestly it seems unlikely that a garment with a significant modal, poly, rayon, or tencel content wouldn't have stretched out/deformed by now if it was worn regularly, especially if there was no lycra or similar in the mix. Maybe if the % was small enough, though. Possibly a mercerized cotton?
posted by praemunire at 8:20 AM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


Thanks for more answers and insight than I thought I would get! I think "pique" is the magic word. And based on the current prices of what I'm finding, that $80-with-inflation price is an underestimate!

This definitely heads me in the right direction.

I don't know what size you need with that "pudgy middle-aged frame"

L or XL works, depending on brand.
posted by The Deej at 8:42 AM on August 7, 2018


Years ago I had a Lands End pique polo that I liked - looks like they currently sell a few types of those at various price points.
posted by exogenous at 11:02 AM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


men's pique t-shirt at Everlane
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:30 PM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


Everyone’s answers were so helpful. Frowner’s info was especially insightful and earlier today I ordered two pique pocket tees on Everlane (the same one Iris Gambol linked to.) I’d rather it didn’t have a pocket, but for the price it’s worth a shot. I mainly want a tee that doesn’t look sloppy, or like an undershirt, and is nice enough to wear with a blazer.

Thanks everyone!
posted by The Deej at 3:32 PM on August 7, 2018


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