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How to Shop for a Soft Vintage T-Shirt Online

What to look out for when you can’t feel something IRL.

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A woman wearing a red vintage Adidas T-shirt and jeans Photos by Chris Fitzgerald for Denim Refinery

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The perfect vintage T-shirt is inexplicably soft, just the right amount of worn in and distressed, and usually has some sort of great lettering, like an old brand logo or sports team emblem. The perfect vintage T-shirt is also very hard to find — there are a ton of old things out there, and they’re not all collector’s items.

The most important factor when shopping for a vintage tee is how the shirt feels, and that’s easy to figure out if you’re digging through a pile at your local thrift store, but it’s a lot harder to do online. How can you know if a T-shirt is something you’re going to want to live in and sleep in if you can’t actually feel it?

Here, Janet Sung of Denim Refinery — an online shop known for its solid selection of vintage jeans — walks us through the four things to look out for when shopping for a vintage tee online. The most important: fabric composition.

One: Look for a Made in USA tag. This usually ensures a higher quality fabric and a good design.

Two: A 50% cotton and 50% polyester fabrication is the best blend. With more wear comes a softer feel. (At the 22-minute mark in this video, you’ll see the exact types of holes you should look for, too.)

Three: Athletic or academic colors like black, white, red, and gray always tend to be the most wearable and classic. Colors from this palette also tend to look more elevated when paired with more formal pieces.

Four: Make sure the collars on crewneck tees are never stretched out — nothing looks messier!