T-shirts were once simple sweat absorbers, then for a few decades they were "movable billboards," but in the 21st century, the "cutting-edge T-shirt is all about the T-shirt," writes Hugo Lindgren in New York magazine. Comfort, not logo or slogan, is the name of the game, and a great deal of art and science has been devoted to giving tees that worn-in look and feel. Techniques range from a “slub knit” that uses varying types of threads for a “clotted” appearance to literally shooting a hole through a shirt.
Some designers use the “burnout” effect, chemically treating shirts so that they’re virtually see-through. Others say if you’re going for a faded look, start at the source: They collect old T-shirts, dye them, and put new prints on them. “There are people already doing almost anything you can imagine,” says a printer. “And as soon as somebody does something cool or successful, it goes right up the chain. They’re already selling slub-knit shirts at Target.”