A Simple Buyers Guide to Vintage T-Shirts for Business Marketing

by Molly Joyce

Did you know that true vintage t-shirts (over two decades old) can become cult favorites that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Why do you think vintage clothing maintains its popularity? It’s largely the emotional, nostalgic factor ‌it communicates—the attraction and safety of bygone days.

So, how can you tap into this retro fever and build a line of collectible vintage t-shirts for your business? It all boils down to choosing the right elements that make up a vintage shirt.

In this guide, we’ll answer these questions:

  • What is a vintage shirt and its benefits?
  • Which common features identify vintage t-shirts?
  • How does pricing work for custom vintage shirt printing?
  • What key points can help you order the perfect vintage shirts for your business?

What Is a Vintage T-Shirt?

A vintage style t-shirt recreates the nostalgia, soft hand feel, and distressed, faded print of decades-old t-shirts. Technically, true vintage shirts need to be at least 20 years old.

Remember, vintage differs from antique, which refers to items 100 years old and more. It also differs slightly from retro, which means imitating styles from the recent past. That said, nowadays vintage and retro (and sometimes old school) are used interchangeably.

Now you’re thinking, how do you recreate a vibe and feeling that’s decades old?

We create vintage t-shirts using a combination of screen printing techniques, including reduced inks, halftones, distress textures, and no underbase to produce a faded print and well-worn feel.

How to Make Your T-Shirts Feel Vintage 

1 - Soft, Well-Worn Tri-Blend Fabric

You don’t have 20 years of washing to achieve the signature, soft hand feel of vintage t-shirts for your business. The next best option is to make vintage t-shirts out of tri-blends.

Tri-blends are fabrics that comprise three materials in varying ratios:

  • Cotton: natural, highly absorbent material that is strong yet softens with wear and washing
  • Polyester: synthetic material stronger than cotton and resistant to wrinkles and shrinkage
  • Rayon: natural fiber made from wood pulp that is light, drapey, stretchy, absorbent and luxurious

twin oast brewery triblend raglans

By combining the three materials, you get a t-shirt that exhibits the best characteristics—soft, breathable, absorbent, and wrinkle-free.

2 - Faded, Distressed Print

There are five techniques we use to screen print a vintage shirt:

  • Reduced inks: we thin the ink before printing
  • No underbase: the dark shirt color shows through the ink
  • Halftones: tiny dot gradient in the artwork diffuses the color
  • Distress texture: a grunge filter gives the print a cracked, weathered finish
  • High mesh count screen: a screen with 230 mesh or higher deposits less ink

The aim is to create a print that appears faded and weathered right off the bat with minimal print layers that still maintain legibility.

Wildflower vintage t-shirt to support a local business

Expert Tip: Some businesses that are on the cutting edge or tech-focused may not jive well with vintage styles. Partner with an experienced designer who can advise you on the best vintage elements that would suit your business niche and target market.

partner with an experienced designer

3 - Retro Warm Colors and Typography

maddie and bella coffee vintage sweatshirt and shirt

Vintage shirt colors are warmer and more golden yellow. They’re less intense and often avoid cool blue tones. These color choices enhance the nostalgia of the design.

Typography styles with a vintage feel vary from the hard and geometric to the intricately curved—think of art déco and steampunk vs art nouveau and mid-century.

When choosing typography, narrow down precisely to your target market. What do they value and what have they experienced in life?

For example, the intricate or delicate fonts of Victorian and art nouveau eras would be lost on a rustic customer who’s into hunting and living simply.

These four elements together make vintage shirts an advantageous merch choice. But what exactly are the benefits of vintage shirts for businesses?

How Can Your Business Benefit From Vintage Style?

1 - Vintage Shirts Create an Emotional Branding Opportunity 

You know that feeling you get when you smell your favorite childhood meal or find a bunch of old, forgotten birthday cards? 

It’s nostalgia. It’s potent. You’re basically creating a wearable version of it for your customers. 

And how does it work?

They wear your merch, take a walk down memory lane and associate the positive memories with your business.

Benefit: You're able to achieve brand loyalty and likeability with a bit of ink and fabric.

2 - Vintage Shirts Are Timeless and Evergreen

macqueen orchards vintage shirt

If something is already old, does it go out of style? No, it just reinvents itself with each new iteration.

Here’s how it works.

By incorporating the retro fonts, warm filter and weathered look, the vintage shirts you recreate for your business gain an instant charming patina of age. Instead of looking dated after years of wear, they’ll only seem more authentic.

Pro Tip: One of the easiest wins we help our customers with is printing shirts with an older or their original logo version. It establishes the history of the company in the community and their success over time. Check out these examples of custom vintage shirts we've printed for our customers.

Benefit: You don’t have to keep dedicating resources to reinventing and updating outdated designs on your merch because the vintage style is timeless. 

3 - Vintage Shirts Provide Instant Comfort to Your Customers

In mimicking the well-worn feel of vintage shirts, the combination of soft, light fabrics and less dense prints creates the perfect summer tee and wardrobe essential.

It’ll be breathable, soft and comfortable. 

Benefit: Your customers will thank you for the most comfortable branded t-shirts by wearing them everywhere, all the time—yielding more brand visibility and positive feedback for your business.

By choosing vintage shirts for your business, you provide your customers with the comfort, timelessness and quirky nostalgia that makes your merchandise a keeper. Talk to us about your vintage shirt ideas for your business.

Price Range for Vintage Style T-Shirts

Now that you know all the features to look out for in vintage shirts, what are the accompanying costs?

Cost of the T-shirt Itself

T-shirt blanks for bulk printing can cost anywhere from $4–$15 depending on the brand and fabric composition.

For instance, high cotton blends cost more than low cotton blends. Additionally, t-shirts manufactured in the US are more expensive than those imported from Asia or Central America.

Number of Colors in Each Print

Multicolor prints cost more to screen print because they require more individual screens and ink. Each color needs its own screen.

At Jupmode, we can print up to 10 colors per print location. Keep in mind that the more colors and print locations in a design, the higher the print cost.

Color of the Shirt

Dark-colored shirts require a white underbase to offset the ink so that the design prints true to color. However, light-colored shirts don’t need this additional print layer and cost.

However, there are times where with vintage shirts you can get away without printing an underbase on a dark shirt. It results in a faded, dull print which gives the impression the shirt has been worn and washed for years.

Number of Printing Locations 

Extra printing locations, such as back and sleeve, will bump up the cost of screen printing because of the additional screens and setups required. 

Variety of Sizes Printed 

Extreme sizes—children’s sizes, XS, 4XL, and beyond—can’t use the same print size as the average sizes. You would need to adjust the print size up or down, resulting in extra design work and costs.

Size of the T-shirt Order 

Economies of scale also apply to printing shirts. The cost of printing multiple vintage shirt sizes in several color options reduces significantly once you’re printing in the hundreds or thousands.

Add-on Printing Services

Additional services such as graphic design can increase the ultimate price of your t-shirt, especially if your design needs plenty of adjustments and proofs beforehand.

There are quite a few other additional services that oftentimes accompany screen printing. For instance, if you require a specific brand color, there is a Pantone matching fee (yes, we can mix and match any Pantone you request!).

Here is a quick list of some of our add-on printing services:

  • Color change 
  • Relabeling neck labels
  • Printing on spandex or patterned polyester
  • Personalization
  • Poly bagging
  • Drop shipping
  • Sampling

If you’re interested in finding out the cost of vintage t-shirts for your business, please reach out to our team regarding your project. We’ll be happy to help.

What Others Said About Our Vintage T-Shirts

We’ve created so many cool vintage style t-shirts for our city and local businesses that at this point, Jupmode is almost synonymous with the retro vibe.

Don’t just take our word for it. Our customers have plenty to say about the:

  • Comfort and soft wearability of our vintage t-shirts
  • Durability and washability of the vintage shirts
  • Priceless emotional and nostalgic elements they deliver

“I remember Lion Store downtown where my grandma worked in the children's department… I loved it.”
Mary, Lion Store Vintage Shirt

“Hearing my family reminisce about how great Toledo used to be was priceless!!!”
Vintage Holy Toledo Shirt

“Great fit. Washes well, love it!”
Lindsay, BGSU Vintage Falcon Women's V-neck

What Are the Most Commonly Sold T-Shirt Sizes?

This is one of the most common questions we receive. Fortunately, we have been printing shirts for other people and selling our own shirts for quite a while. 

This experience has provided us a lot of data which is useful in guiding customers who are new to placing shirt orders. 

To figure out how many pieces of each size to order, here’s the size distribution we recommend based on our historical data:

Size Percentage of Total Shirt Order
XS 4%
S 18%
M 25%
L 26%
XL 19%
2XL 7%
3XL 1%

For example, an order of 200 vintage shirts would have 8 XS, 36 S, 50 M, 52 L, 38 XL, 14 2X, 2 3X.

How about when making smaller orders? For orders below 100 pieces, considering omitting the extreme size groups of XS and 3XL.

And, of course, always consider your audience. If you are ordering shirts for high school students, your sizes will skew smaller.  

What Are the Key Points to Consider When Choosing Vintage Shirt Sizes?

Apart from size distribution, the following factors will also determine the sizes you print:

  • Customer demographic: Younger customers might want more loose fitting, therefore, it’s advisable to size up.
  • Fit or cut of the t-shirt: Slim or fashion fit shirts require you to skew your sizing towards larger sizes.
  • Fabric shrinkage: Factor in shrinkage for pure cotton tees and compensate for it by ordering larger sizes.
  • Men vs women vs unisex designs: Men’s and unisex designs are looser and boxier compared to snug-fitting women’s designs. If the design is snug, size up your order.

What Are the Best T-Shirts for Vintage Business Merch?

Here’s a breakdown of our go-to t-shirt blanks for creating vintage t-shirts:

T-shirt Brand Tri-blend Composition Number of Colors Available Sizes Country of Fabrication
Allmade AL2004
  • 50% polyester from recycled plastic bottles
  • 25% organic cotton
  • 25% Tencel™ Modal
15 colors XS–4XL Haiti
Next Level Apparel 6010
  • 50% polyester
  • 25% cotton
  • 25% rayon
22 colors XS–3XL Nicaragua El Salvador Honduras Cambodia Haiti
LA Apparel TR01
  • 50% polyester
  • 25% cotton
  • 25% rayon
6 colors S–2XL USA
American Apparel TR401W
  • 50% polyester
  • 25% cotton
  • 25% rayon
9 colors XS–2XL Central America
Comfort Colors 4410 100% cotton 6 colors S–3XL Mexico Honduras
District Perfect Tri Tee DM130
  • 50% polyester
  • 25% ring-spun cotton
  • 25% rayon
20 colors XS–4XL Honduras Hong Kong
Bella + Canvas 3413
  • 50% polyester
  • 25% Airlume combed and ring-spun cotton
  • 25% rayon
36 colors XS–3XL USA
Jupmode’s top t-shirt blanks for creating vintage t-shirts macqeen shirt t-shirt blanks for creating vintage t-shirts
the florian shirt black shirt red bird

Types of Other Custom Merch Ideal for Businesses

People love having a few choices on offer when it comes to custom merchandise.

Here are other goodies on the Jupmode roster that would complement your vintage t-shirts:

  • Crewneck sweatshirts: Whether custom embroidered or screen printed, they’re wearable year round and very versatile.
  • Jackets and windbreakers: Perfect for cold, windy or rainy spring and fall days, layered over vintage tees.
  • Hats and beanies: They make splendid gifts as they are one-size-fits-all and available in a variety of designs.
  • Sweatshirt blanket: Perfect for keeping warm and cozy.

testimonial from Teri Toledo

Get Started On Vintage T-Shirts for Your Business

Vintage t-shirts are fantastic merchandise options for businesses because they are comfortable, timeless and always relevant. They evoke positive, nostalgic emotion, which is an asset in building brand loyalty.

Make sure you choose the right combination of t-shirts, colors and fonts that will achieve an authentic vintage vibe for your custom shirts

We’ve been creating these vintage wonders since 2006 and are exceptional at it. Contact us today to get a quote and begin your journey to awesome merch.

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