Ask Tug: The quest for the Towncraft Undershirts begins

October 3, 2008 | By | 181 Replies More

If you’re here, you’re probably wondering where you can get some of the original Towncraft 50/50 Undershirts. The short answer is that they are no longer being made by JCPenny, but keep reading because you just might find what you’re looking for below!

2/22/11 Update: Looking for an undershirt just like the Towncraft 50/50? Check out the Retro Fit undershirt line from RibbedTee.

Yes, these undershirts [original Towncraft] were great, but for some reason JCP decided to stop making them. From time to time you may be able to find some on eBay, where they normally sell for $20 – $35 USD.

If you want a little more background on Towncraft undershirts, read below.

– Original Article –

Holy moly!

Ever since I made mention of the TownCraft undershirts in this post, I’ve gotten about 50-75 emails from readers who are in search of these undershirts. While I don’t have any direct personal experience with wearing them, it’s pretty obvious that they must be good!

So, in true Tug form — I’ve begun the quest — the quest to find the last remaining TownCraft undershirts on earth! If there are any available, I’ll find them.

I’ve emailed friends in the undershirt company business and they have started emailing folks. I’ve emailed fabric manufacturers, JC Penny headquarters, hell — I’ve even emailed some overseas garment manufacturers in hopes of tracking them down.

I did find some on eBay recently, and the last auction for a package of TownCraft XXL undershirts ends in about 20 minutes!

Now, I could use some help from you. If you know ANYONE who knows ANYONE who can get their hands on some of the original TownCraft undershirts (not Stafford), please let me know immediately. They could be left overs from flea markets, extra unsold inventory, etc. I’m sure the folks who have emailed me would greatly appreciate it.

The other thing that would be helpful is if you used to wear TownCraft, but now have found a suitable alternative, please let us know what you found, by way of posting a comment here. I’ve got some feelers out in this area as well.

Check backhere often (or subscribe to the RSS) on our progress. I’ll post updates as I receive them!

Update #1: I sent an email out to the folks at Wellman Inc., the company that manufactures the Fortrel® polyester that was used in the TownCraft undershirt 50/50 blend. I was impressed to receive such a prompt response from the folks there. Unfortunately no luck with tracking down TownCraft, but their recommendation was to try out the Fruit of the Loom 50/50 tees which contains the same Fortrel® polyester fabric as the TownCraft. They also said that they weren’t going to be available very much longer due to a recent announcement that the company is exiting the polyester staple fiber business. I did a quick scan, and I found these Fruit of the Loom 50/50 tees on Amazon. Thanks to the folks at Wellman for the information and the quick reply!

Update #2: Mrs. Tug located a package of TownCraft v-neck medium undershirts. Details here: Towncraft Update: Towncraft Men’s V-Neck Tagless T Shirts NEW white set available on eBay

Update #3: This is kind of lame, but expected. A friend of mine received an email from the JCPenney Stafford Brand Director who said the following:

“The Towncraft underwear has been updated and improved…..now known as Stafford® Essentials Cotton/Poly. This underwear can be found in stores or online.”

Duh, We knew that already. My friend emailed him back with some additional questions on Monday (10/06) but has not yet heard back from him yet (nearly two days later).

Update #4: Got an email from a reader who shared the following:

JCPENNY is now selling a new line of Stafford Essential undershirts that have the same 60-40 blend that the much sought after but discontinued Towncraft blend once had. They are awesome! I’ve been searching for a long time for a replacement for the Towncraft shirts. This is it– and quite affordable. I bought 8 v-necks on sale for 25 bucks yesterday. Pass it on!

Note: This is awesome news, but I have heard from other readers that they have also tried the Stafford Essential undershirts in the past and haven’t found them to be an equivalent replacement to the original Towncraft undershirts. However, I really couldn’t say if they were talking about the former 100% cotton Towncraft undershirts or their 60/40 cotton/poly blend undershirts. So for those former 60/40 Towncraft undershirt wearers, if you have also tried the new Stafford blend, please let us know if you are as satisified with them as this reader!

Note Update (4/30/10) – Confirmed. The new Stafford 60/40 are not a suitable alternative. I now have some vintage towncraft 50/50 and stafford 60/40 in my possession and they are definitely not the same. The Towncraft 50/50 is far more comfortable.

Update #5 (12/20/09): A reader might have gotten a line on one of the original 50/50 Towncraft undershirts that is in near new condition – only washed once. Here’s a picture. Look familiar anyone?

towncraft-original-vintage-50-50-v-neck-undershirt

4/30/10 Update – Check the comments below and if you’re interested in being notified when I find a suitable alternative, post a comment below and don’t forget to include your email in the field provided!

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Category: Ask Tug

About the Author ()

Tug is the world's undershirt expert. Looking for undershirt or men's shapewear information? You'll find it here on my site - guaranteed! You can also find me on

Comments (181)

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  1. Mark says:

    So whats the story? Has Ribbed tee found an alternative or at least optimized their existing weave???

    Mark
    Virginia

    • heya mark! thanks for stopping by and posting your comment/question!

      word on the street is that the company did a few rounds of prototyping and consumer testing and wound up introducing an improved retro 50/50 fabric starting around june.

      if you want more specific details, my recommendation would be to contact ribbedtee and ask the company to provide additional details and find out if it’s been deployed across all of the line.

  2. Mitch says:

    I too have been in search for the towncraft…nothing compares too them of course….It doesn’t bother me to say this at all …that JC Penny must have a idiot for it’s CEO….Yes that made me feel better. LOL.

    • heya mitch — have you tried out the american apparel 50/50, bdg 50/50 from urban outfitters, or the retro fit 50/50 from ribbedtee?

      they are all fairly similar to the early generation towncraft 50/50.

    • oh, and yes – i agree. it wasn’t the smartest move by jcp to sunset that legacy line.

      of course they’ll recommend their newer stafford brand undershirts, but the 60/40 blend stafford is really heavy and not at all like the super lightweight 50/50 towncraft of yester-year.

    • Pat J says:

      I looked and nothing compares to the Towncraft brand I resorted to Dickies poly cotton blend from sears for my husband. JCP is too far away from where I live in BK NYC.

  3. Doug Powell says:

    I’m on a vacation trip right now, but took a moment to check on what had happened to my favorite Towncraft undershirts from Penny’s, and found out that I was not alone. I’ll be following through on this more when I’ve returned home. In the meantime, I’ve got a burning question. Has anyone gotten an answer from somebody at Penny’s as to what possessed them to discontinue a highly popular, and I would assume, profitable product? Further, has anyone asked when they might regain their senses, and restore the original Towncraft undershirts back into their stores again? There’s an old saying, “don’t fix something that’s not broken”, and in this specific case, why did they replace a popular and profitable product with, in my opinion, an obviously unpopular and inferior product? However, realizing that anyone and any company can make a mistake, I would hope that they would “see the light” and get the original Towncraft undershirts back in their stores. Otherwise, I wish they would give another company permission to manufacture and put them back on the market. I’ll be watching for some response to my comments.

    • heya doug, thanks for stopping by my site and posting a comment — especially when you’re on vacation! that’s just totally awesome.

      over the years, i’ve had a handful of email exchanges with the folks over at jcp, and when i’ve asked them about the vintage towncraft items, they simply refer me to the new stafford products even though we (and they) know are not the same. in checking through some of the emails from back 3 years ago, my contact there did say they still got requests for them, but didn’t say much more.

      what’s unfortunate is that i never got more clarity than that. i do think they would reach out to me if they had any plans to bring them back, but alas i have not heard from my good friends at jcp recently, with exception to a quick email exchange in january about something completely unrelated. very nice people over there!

      i don’t think they need to give any other company permission to make those vintage 50/50 undershirts, unless of course the company wanted to release them under the former towncraft brand name. since that trademark is still in force and currently owned by jcpenney, i would highly doubt that jcp will give permission to any other company to use the trademark, unless of course that company paid some sort of licensing fee to do so.

      that said, if you scroll through the comments here on this post, you’ll see that some other companies are making comparable products. none of them can use the fortrel polyester that was used in the towncraft 50/50 because fortrel doesn’t exist anymore, but at least 3 or 4 of them regularly stock a similar 50/50 or 60/40.

      if you have any other questions, please ask away. if not, enjoy your vaca buddy and please stay in touch! thanks again for stopping by!!

  4. Sandy says:

    I came across a Towncraft tee v-neck. DO NOT know where it came from, but it was in my drawer. May have been from X-husband. Anyway, I gave it to my son and he loves it. Wanted to find more as he loved the length. I did not realize til after we bought other tee’s what brand it was. After doing this research I too am in search of the 50/50 blend. 100% cotton in ANY brand always shrinks. Will keep this website a favorite for further updates. THANKS.

  5. David says:

    I remember Towncraft 100% cotton T-shirts as being very thick and having a neck him that would never loosen or get stretched out. It was so thick in fact that we used to wear them to high school as our only shirt. They were also great under our button downs!

  6. Ali says:

    Oops! Just noticed the retrofit tee is also combed cotton. Decisions, decisions.

  7. Matthew says:

    So in need of some L 42-44in 50/50 18958-9 crew neck undershirts. Everything else I try I hate. :)

    • heya matthew! have you tried bdg from urban outfitters, retro fit from ribbedtee, or the canvas 3402 distressed? they are all similar to the vintage towncraft 50/50 undershirts.

      let me know if you wind up trying any of those and what you think of them!

  8. Eric says:

    Just got a pack of retrofit crew necks from ribbedtee. I have been holding onto about 5 or 6 towncrafts from the early 2000′s (they must have a hundred washes each with no signs of wear, amazing shirts). The retrofit’s are pretty much exactly the same cut as the towncrafts with maybe a little more length which is fine. The fabric is equally as stretchy and comfortable, but unfortunately the retrofit is about 2/3 the thickness of the towncrafts. It appears almost sheer with a more skin tone showing through. I use my undershirts in military uniform where the crew neck is showing so the additional sheer in the fabric is a no go. I can say that if you don’t mind the slightly thinner material, they are very very close to original towncrafts. So close for me but the search continues. Maybe ribbedtee can up the thickness slightly.

    • good stuff eric! yeah, i did hear something similar from one other reader about the retro fit items being thinner than the towncraft 50/50. but i will say that i also learned that there were many generations of the towncraft 50/50 undershirts that ranged in fabric density.

      some of the late-model towncraft 50/50 were pretty thick, and similar to the 60/40 stafford brand undershirts jcp currently makes. some of the vintage towncraft 50/50 undershirts i’ve seen are super-duper thin, and in many cases even thinner than the 50/50 retro fit undershirts.

      then, i’ve also heard of yet other generations of towncraft 50/50 undershirts that were somewhere in between the two thicknesses. based on your description, it sounds like these are the ones you’ve had.

      from a durability point of view, i heard from another reader that the retro fit undershirts will show signs of pilling after about a year of use. while pilling doesn’t physically affect the function of the undershirt, it does so from an appearance point of view. the weird thing about pilling is that i’ve seen pilling on loads of different blended undershirts, from nearly every manufacturer, even the really expensive micromodal ones. but from all accounts, some of these vintage blended undershirts, like your 50/50 towncraft, seem to be fairly indestructible.

      i’d love to know what makes these similar fabric blends so vastly different in durability. i know the vintage towncraft 50/50 undershirts were made with fortrel polyester, which was supposed to be pretty durable and had a softer-hand similar to cotton. i just don’t know exactly why that particular polyester was so much more durable than other types. maybe it’s the way the thread is spun/twisted or something like that.

      for what it’s worth, my guess is that if there’s a way improve the retro fit over time, ribbedtee will do it.

      thanks again for dropping by and posting your feedback!

      • Ali says:

        Absolutely love the Towncraft t-shirt. I wear it to bed every night and it’s the only material I can bear to have next to my skin when sleeping. Please keep me posted if anything comes close in quality. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve washed this and the fabric doesn’t have any holes and the seams have help up. Amazing for a t-shirt that is probably a decade old. I might try the JC Penney Stafford blend tee. If I do, I will let you know how it compares to the Towncraft. Btw, my Towncraft looks exactly like the one in the post above.

        • ali, there are different generations of towncraft undershirts. some are a 50/50 blend, others are 60/40 blend, and yes there were some 100% cotton too.

          to make matters more complicated, within each of those blend mixtures, there were different generations. the earliest versions were very lightweight and semi-see through. then some later ones were a bit thicker, then the latest generations were much heavier and similar to the current stafford-brand undershirts.

          through all of my searching, i found a small handful of lightweight blended undershirts that were most similar to the original vintage fairly thin / semi-see through towncraft undershirts. they include:
          1. bdg from urban outfitters 50/50 blend
          2. 50/50 from american apparel
          3. 50/50 retro fit from ribbedtee
          4. canvas 3402, which is a 60/40 blend

          one of my readers was in search of a replacement for his old screenstars vintage undershirt, which was kinda like a middle generation towncraft 60/40 and he said that out of all the undershirts he tried, he liked #2 (the 50/50 from american apparel) the best. but his focus was a combination of comfort and a high/tight crew neck collar.

          my recommendation would be to start with the list above and see which one fits your needs the best.

          good luck and keep me posted!!

          • Ali says:

            Thank you for your suggestions. I went online for the Stafford undershirt at JC Penney and they didn’t have it in my size. The Towncraft that I have is the 50/50 blend so I will try one you suggested and let you know how I like it. I read Michelle’s comment below on the pilling. Fortrel polyester must have been the strongest polyester at the time b/c Towncraft has never pilled in over 10 years. I did a quick search on Fortrel polyester and it says that it’s a spun polyester whatever that means. Anyway, it looks like there is a similar polyester around “Cottunique” (trademark name) and it is used in table linens. When you think about it, look how many times tabel linens are washed. Also as far as the pilling I believe I’ve read somewhere that pilling is caused when low quality threads are used.

          • Ali says:

            P.S. I noticed that the American apparel tee is the only one that says combed cotton which was also used in the 50/50 Towncraft tee.

        • good stuff ali!

          yeah, i’m thinking that fortrel polyester was the cat’s meow.

          i have seen some 50/50 and 60/40 vintage towncraft undershirts with pilling. but they are also very old undershirts, so for them to look as good as they do after all this time, there is definitely something unique about the materials used in them.

          combed cotton is pretty common so i would assume it’s used in the lion share of undershirts that contain cotton. maybe not in the cheapo-cheap undershirts or t-shirts though.

          do you have an urban outfitters near you? they usually carry the bdg 50/50 in store. maybe you can go check it out in person??

          • Ali says:

            I do have an Urban Outfitter near me, but after taking a look at the tee online I don’t really care for it and it’s imported. Ribbed Tee and AA are made in the U.S. Hopefully that still means something these days. I’m looking for a tee that’s long. My Towncraft is around 29 or 30″ long and the only one that seems similar is the American Apparel one.

      • Michelle says:

        I also just purchased the retrofit crew from ribbed tee for my fiance, who has been holding on to his towncraft shirts for forever. He really liked the feel and comfort and length of the retrofit crew until a few washes, and the retrofit started to pill really bad. So much for finding a replacement for some old, yellowed towncrafts!

        • heya michelle, good to hear from you and thanks for the deets on the retro pilling. i heard that from another reader as well.

          i’m super glad you mentioned it though because i am aware that there is a lot of product development work being done on that product to minimize the pilling. from what i’ve been told, the pilling is a result of the combination of the polyester content and the loose knit weave used in the undershirt. the company is in search of a polyester replacement yarn that is either low or non-pilling. word is that if something can’t be found in polyester, an alternate yarn may be substituted. so stay tuned.

          i’m not a big fan of how a pilled garment looks, but my personal experience has been that i haven’t noticed any fit or feel difference because of it. two of my favorite underwear are pilling like crazy, but i still love the way they feel on me. some of my sock are pilling badly too!

          of course i wish they didn’t pill at all, but it’s something that i’ve noticed a lot lately, in fabrics like micromodal, modal, and viscose from bamboo.

          thanks again for stopping by!!

  9. Clutch Performer says:

    I am looking for the towncraft briefs. Any ideas where I might find them in a 38? Or a suitable replacement?

  10. Andrew C says:

    I need help!!! I am looking for Town Craft V-neck t-shirts. They are the best, they don’t shrink!!!! I am in NV. I have looked everywhere, I used to get them at jcp. They don’t carry anymore.

    Please HELP!!

    • andrew, if you’re looking for the vintage, no longer made, loose-knit weave 50/50 towncraft undershirts – i’m sorry to say they don’t exist anymore.

      jcp did away with the towncraft brand, transitioned it into the stafford brand, but stopped making those super lightweight 50/50 undershirts a while back.

      the closest comparable undershirts today include bdg 50/50 from urban outfitters, retro fit from ribbedtee, canvas 5401 60/40 distressed, and a 50/50 or triblend from american apparel.

      the first two (bdg, retro) are the closest to the vintage towncrafts. good luck man, let me know what you wind up doing.

  11. laura says:

    This blog was an awesome find. Been looking for Towncraft underwear for my dad with no luck. This info. will be a big help. Amazing to see how many customers are in the same boat. Thanks for the tips.

  12. Ken says:

    Tug, what is the latest? I have been looking for these tees for no less than 4 years with little success. I have about 20 from 15 years ago and that’s all that I can wear. Are the 50/50 Hanes blends at Target the next best thing that you have found?

    • hey ken, if you’re looking for an undershirt that is a close comparable to the vintage loose-knit weave towncraft 50/50, you ought to check out the bdg from urban outfitters, the canvas 3402 distressed tee, or the retro fit undershirt from ribbedtee.

      the hanes 50/50 is pretty nice, but it doesn’t quite fit and feel like the vintage 50/50 from towncraft.

  13. R. Wheel says:

    Hanes comfort soft, Tommy H, Calvin Klein. No success.

    • try those others i mentioned. those will be the closest to the original loose knit 50/50 towncraft. if you had the tighter weaved ones, you might like the 50/50 comfortblend from hanes.

  14. R. Wheel says:

    I’ve tried several alternatives. Nothing replaces Towncraft. JCP destroyed a great brand. The Stafford Essential doesn’t come close to Towncraft. I assure you the decision was made to cut cost. I’ll just deal with the bacon collar. Hopefully they’ll decide to listen to the customer.

  15. MS says:

    My boyfriend has been wearing the same Towncraft 60/40 shirts from when JCP used to make them. He refuses to give them up despite stains and worn collars and holes. He swears that nothing else can compare. If anyone can get their hands on a pack of medium crew necks that would be great. Otherwise, if anyone has found a good alternative, please letme know.

    • hey ms! are the 60/40 towncraft undershirts the loose knit weave ones, or the tight knit. if you email me a close-up photo of the your bf’s undershirt, i can probably recommend a replacement.

    • Debra says:

      MS,
      I was shopping in Target and Hanes has new premium t-shirts that are 50/50. My husband loves them that we had to go purchase more because he feels they will stop making them.lol
      50 cotton 50 polyester
      I hope your boyfriend will feel the same when he tries them.

      • hey debra! thanks for the note and gotta tell you that i agree with you about the 50/50 undershirt from hanes. i was also at target not too long ago, picked some of those up and find them really comfy and they breathe pretty well too.

        i have to wear mine a little bit more to formulate my full opinion, but i got a very good first impression from them.

        there are definitely some other blend undershirts that may be a suitable alternative for what ms’ boyfriend is looking for, but wanted to hear back from her first about the weave to see if i can narrow down the list for her.

  16. Debra Adams says:

    Covington Crew T-Shirt, 6 pack, $19.98 Value Pack

    Sold by Sears Rating 4 (2 Written Reviews | Create a Review ) Create a Reviewclose
    or

    My husband tried the underwear with the 60/40 blend and so far so good.We are now going to try the undershirts. Pass it on to other towncraft customers.

    •60% Cotton/40% Polyester
    •Pre-Shrunk
    •Seamless Collar for Comfort
    •Contoured Armholes provide free and easy movement
    •Non-roll double needle coverstitch construction
    •Shrinkage controlled for lasting fit

  17. Andy says:

    I’m really surprised I found this blog. I’ve gone through 9 Towncraft Medium tall 60/40 cotton/poly undershirts. I last found a six pack online a few years ago for $35, but have not been able to locate anymore. I think it was on JCPenny. Mine says Made in Canada. The fabric on them is really interesting. Very tight weave and soft. They are the perfect shirt… and they stopped making them. How is that possible!

    • hey andy, off hand the only other 60/40 blend undershirt that i know of is the stafford (jcpenney) brand. i’m not sure how similar they are to the towncraft 60/40 tight weave undershirts you currently have, but it might be worth a visit to jcp!

      give it a shot and let me know how they compare.

  18. Alex Hurley says:

    I’ve been looking everywhere !
    Please notify me.

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