The art of american apparel screen printing dates back farther than you may think. The process first gained traction in the 1960s, when it was used as a form of expression in the civil rights movement and by pop artists like Andy Warhol to create his Marilyn Diptych, among other pieces. By the 1980s, the fashion industry was abuzz with shirts plastered with brand names and characters from popular television shows. As the process continued to improve, it became easier for brands and individuals to use shirts as marketing tools.
That trend was helped along by a change in fabric, as well as the development of a new type of printing ink called Plastisol. This ink consists of white PVS resin and a clear liquid plasticizer, and it requires high temperatures to dry. It’s a game-changer, since before this invention, water-based ink was the standard.
In the early years of the ’90s, major brand names started using t-shirts as their own form of advertising. This began with Coca-Cola and Disney products and characters, but quickly spread to other types of tees and ball caps. It was around this time that the fashion world also fell in love with a particular style of tee: the super-soft, ringspun cotton variety.
The fabric’s popularity with shoppers, as well as its comfort and durability, led to the birth of the modern cotton tee. Then, in the mid-2000s, another innovation came to fruition: tri blend fabrics. This combination of cotton, polyester and spandex has become a new industry standard, as it offers all of the benefits of cotton with the added strength of polyester and spandex. It’s also extremely versatile and provides a soft, smooth feel that’s comfortable to wear.
For many companies, the appeal of tri blends is that they provide an opportunity to offer their customers a made-in-America option. This is especially important to companies that print t-shirts for sports teams, fire departments and bands. That’s why American Apparel kept its direct-to-consumer wing alive, even after founder Dov Charney departed the company in 2014.
However, over those nine months of 2019, the “Made in USA” shop grew anemic. And by January of 2020, the label was gone entirely. In its place is a link to Amazon, where shoppers can still purchase the same products that were available in the American Apparel store, but without that specific tag attached to the items. And in addition, the company has shifted its business model to one that focuses on selling blank garments to other wholesalers. american apparel screen printing