How To Make A T-Shirt.

A Timeline for The Shorter & Longer Tee.




Stripes actually started out with a (very) bad rap. In medieval Europe, stripes were considered evil & only worn by the condemned which is how we ended up with prison stripes. The French Navy is usually credited for the dramatic turn in how we perceive stripes. Striped shirts as we know them originated in Brittany, France where their navy was centered. A striped shirt became the official Mariner’s uniform in 1858, and allegedly was chosen to distinguish the sailors from the waves. Traditionally, the shirt was a boatneck, wool-cotton blend, with 21 blue stripes (one for each of Napoleon's victories) on a white ground. In 1917, Coco Chanel visited Brittany on vacation & brought the shirt style she saw there back to Paris where it was popularized. This traditional style is now called a breton shirt or a marinière.

The next to appropriate stripes were the beatniks, who generally speaking, admired the french & their things. And that brings us to me & my adolescent admiration for my father who himself had an adolescent admiration for the beatnik generation.


The t-shirt as we know it is American born & bred. Its origins are with the American Navy. Early 20th C. seamen wore them as undergarments cause they were cheap to make & easy to clean. Pre-tee, they wore a one-piece undergarment called union wear - a long-underwearish kind of a body suit. Designers then did away with the necessary butt flap by bisecting union wear at the waist. This top & bottom set became popular with miners, and by the 30’s, the t-shirt had become its own article of clothing & the choice garment for most physical labor. In the 50’s, the t-shirt lost its association with grunt work & became a standalone piece of casual wear thanks to James Dean & company.


Our collar is a crew-neck, mandarin, athletic jersey hybrid. The crew-neck refers to a round, high, collarless neckline. This is the neckline of the traditional t-shirt & most other knitwear.
The mandarin collar refers to the collar of traditional Chinese formal wear. It has a high neckline similar to a crew neck plus a short, stand-up collar with rounded edges that meet at center front in a modified V-shape. Mandarin collars are traditionally found in garments made from woven fabrics. 

Athletic jerseys occupy a sartorial terrain with slightly looser conventions. Most uniforms & practice jerseys have evolved out of the physical requirements of the sport, & so by & large, practicality reigned as the determinant of jersey necklines. Thus, there are a lot of crew and v-necklines and not much else (with the exception of the collared attire reserved for traditionally "upper-class sports" like Tennis, Golf, Polo & Rugby). Recently, as dress codes have become less stringent & the athleisure sector of the fashion industry has expanded, athletic jersey designers have started tinkering with various traditional necklines & collars to make odd & inspiring hybrids (like ours!).


(Childhood inventions/misinterpretations accounted for with an *.)

September, 1985. Parents meet teaching English at the same high school.

April, 1987. Parents go on a trip to Ireland for Spring Break* after they’ve just started dating. Parents purchase maroon & navy striped t-shirt in Ireland to share*.

September 6, 1990. Parents make me & pass on their taste in most things with a special emphasis on oversized clothing, androgyny, messy hair, beaches, literature & t-shirts.

Spring, 2006. Take a dive into parents’ closet & come across the maroon & navy striped t-shirt, which I take & incorporate into my wardrobe.

2006. Wear shirt sparingly, but never return to parents. Think the shirt is a little weird because the side seams both skew left.

2008. Realize that this t-shirt is my favorite piece of clothing & would be a perfect top for The Fourth of July, my favorite holiday.

October 12, 2012. Wear shirt on the first day of the best weekend of my life when I fell in love with my three dream friends in Gaztalugatxe, Spain.

June 16, 2013. Wear shirt on the last day of last weekend spent with my same dream friends on Isla de Tabarca, Spain before one friend moved far, far away.

July 4, 2014. Finally get around to wearing this shirt on The Fourth of July & am called “the coolest” by an older, cooler friend who I respect & admire very much.

October 2014. Stop wearing & washing shirt because the thread count looks precariously bare, & its holes have multiplied.

August 26, 2015. Am informed by a fellow Virgo, that astrologically, today is nothing short of the luckiest day ever for Virgos. Other Virgo & I discuss & clarify my creative goals over dinner. Return home sure that I want to create something like a clothing line inspired by this shirt, its fit & my attachment to it.

August, 2015. Start working on The Keep Collection (then still named Keep & Co.) & realize my muse of a t-shirt has gone missing.

September, 2015. Recruit search parties for the t-shirt in Massachusetts, Washington, DC & California.

September, 2015. Start designing shirt & its specifications from memory. Alter collar; alter color; keep diagonal side seams!

September, 2015. Discover the Pacific Continental Clothing factory in Rancho Dominguez, CA through Everlane (a San Francisco based clothing company that I love & admire). Make a phone call & elect PCC my #1 potential manufacturer.

September 25, 2015. Launch Kickstarter campaign for The Keep Collection (still titled Keep & Co.) to fund the production of a t-shirt & the creation of a company.

October 3, 2015. Find shirt in closet of my childhood bedroom! Compare my designs to the original & modify.

October, 2015. Interview my mom about shirt & learn that I've had its history completely wrong. (It was not in fact purchased by my parents in Ireland, but likely by my dad’s mother from Best & Company, a staple Northeastern retailer. It was perhaps stolen by my mother from my father on said trip to Ireland - which actually happened in the summertime & not over Spring Break, but we haven’t been able to pin down whether the Ireland part of its history is also something I made up. I’ve certainly seen pictures of my mother in the shirt; certainly remember them being from this trip to Ireland; certainly imagined that this trip to Ireland was the one pictured below. It was not. I was not alive for their first trip. Developing brains! Oral history! A mess!)

October, 2015. Decide to embrace all of my confusion over dates/history & build it into the legend of my striped t-shirt.

October 25, 2015. Raise $18,600 through Kickstarter with help from 103 of you.

Winter, 2015-16. Study tax law, fulfillment houses, shipping methods, accounting, marketing strategy, intellectual property law, e-commerce models, personal liability. Decide to make two versions of t-shirt with different sleeve lengths. Determine sizing policy, pricing policy, grading requirements & other shirt specifications.

January 12, 2016. File to form The Keep Collection, LLC in the State of California.

January 29, 2016. Tour & approve of facilities at Pacific Continental Clothing. Search through fabric samples before landing on a heavyweight 50/50 Supima® Cotton/Micromodal® Blend. Learn that the diagonal side seams & corresponding perfect cut of my parents' tee likely resulted from a common manufacturing error due to slippage when pressing the shirt to create its stripes.

February 11, 2016. Submit Purchase Order to PCC. PCC begins knitting the fabric & drafting the pattern for The Shorter & Longer Tees.

March 14, 2016. Receive first fit sample of The Shorter & Longer Tees. Make adjustments to the collar.

April 1, 2016. Receive second fit sample, & okay the production of 600 of The Shorter Tee & 400 of The Longer Tee.

April 7, 2016. Take The Longer Tee for a tour of Thailand.

May, 2016. Begin to understand just how comfortable I will have to get with manufacturing delays.

June 30, 2016. Proudly, excitedly, nervously launch Tees & The Identity Edition.