Is This the Greatest T-Shirt Ever Made?
American Giant’s quest for the perfect summer tee
“Is this the greatest T-shirt ever made?”
The question comes up when you’re discussing American Giant, the clothing company that, a few years back, made a splash with “the greatest hoodie ever made” (also known as “The Best sweatshirt known to man”).
Mind you, that Slate article wasn’t a paid piece, but a rather surprisingly in-depth look at a brand new company that had decided to make wardrobe basics in a very particular way: namely, dropping the middleman, utilizing American manufacturing and keeping things focused on the basics.
“Before that article came out, I thought, ‘Why would anyone care?’” explains Bayard Winthrop, CEO/founder of American Giant. “It was a totally transparent look at our structure. But after that came out, we went from about eight orders every hour to getting twice that every second. And it kicked off this broader discussion about U.S. manufacturing and the supply chain.”
While a success story in hindsight, at the time the crush of publicity caused a serious order backlog (four months plus). The company then had to figure out if people were still going to care after the backlog was settled — and hey, ask any nascent company what it’s like to not be ready to scale.
The original sweatshirt was inspired by Winthrop’s memories of growing up in the Carolinas in the 1970s, wearing Champion gear (“Those were sweatshirts that got better with age. They were iconic.”). He wondered why he couldn’t find the same quality in U.S. manufacturing today.
Initially launched with just men’s sweatshirts, today the the brand caters to both men and women and expanded into shorts, track pants, sweatpants, baseball jackets and lightweight zips.
And now, a summer tee.
Launched this week, AG offers two initial styles: an everyday 100% cotton tee, and a more premium version that’s a six-plus-ounce ring-spun slub fabric with a tailored fit. Available as V-necks or crews.
Both are available in a multitude of solid colors (Black Onyx, White Smoke, Oxford Blue, Battleship Grey, Nautical Blue, Woodland, Blue Stone). And they’re durable: interestingly enough, on first try-on, they do remind me of a classic, dependable Champion sweatshirt, but fitted for warmer months.
One way the shirts are truly exceptional: the price. Starting at $24, and $34 for the premium. “You’re seeing similar tees for 60 bucks. And to me, the economics of a 60-dollar T-shirt doesn’t make sense,” says Winthrop.
Makes perfect sense to us.
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