Ask Tug: The quest for the Towncraft Undershirts begins

October 3, 2008 | By | 207 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… 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?


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. He is also one of the most knowledgeable individuals on sweat management solutions, men's shapewear, grooming, and new fabric technologies. Got a question? Visit Tug's contact page and hit him up.

Comments (207)

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  1. kelsey


    Tug, Interesting posts, however……You all have missed the true “Towncraft T Shirt”.

    There were a few differences between the true “Towncraft” and the “Towncraft” your speaking of. The ones I wore as a kid in the 60s & 70s in the Beach cities of southern California were 100% cotton, brushed or combed cotton.

    Thick heavy cotton with a tight crew neck, not V-neck. That’s what made them so special. As soon as I got them home from “J.C.Pennys” I would throw them in the washer with a little “Tide” and then the dryer. they were so soft and felt so good.

    In those days I never seen 60/40 or 50/50 it was the real deal. I lost track of “Towncraft” when I joined the army in 72. After I came home I wasn’t able to locate them again. I remember that my drawer at home was full of “Towncraft”. As time went on and I needed T-Shirts there were no “Towncrafts” around, only Staffords.

    I’ve looked for “Towncraft” for almost 40 years. Same Damned thing with 501s. Made in Mexico and not worth a shit.

    You can still buy the original 501s from Levi in San Francisco but there $350.00 bucks. Glen Beck has started a company that makes identical, down to the rivets, 501s. Buys all the ingredients, cloth,thread,rivets and whatever else is needed to make “Levi” 501s, from the same people that “LEVI” buys there parts from, so that he can replicate “Levi” 501s, like they use to be. The cost is still $200.00 a pair. Not bad for the quality.

    Nothing comes close to “Towncraft”. Heavy Duty T-shirts are the best I’ve found.

    • Tug says:

      heya kelsey — thanks for stopping by and posting your thoughts.

      towncraft was simply a house brand under jcpenney, and they made several different products under the towncraft brand.

      but, as many people here know, the undershirts that they were making at the time were really amazing products. most people here were looking for the thin 50/50 blend vintage towncraft undershirts, but of course, towncraft made other options as well, like your 100% cotton thick crew neck undershirt.

      as the old saying goes “they don’t make them like they used to” — this holds true with some of these very well made vintage undershirts.

      jcpenney decided to “sunset” (get rid of) the towncraft brand for some reason, and then tried to quietly migrate customers to the stafford brand of undershirts, a new house brand of penneys.

      if my memory serves me right, they started changing the product line up based on customer demand, but that left folks who loved the old style undershirts in the dark, and without a product.

      anyway, there are some companies making thick tight crew neck undershirts/t-shirts. i’ve got a handful of articles here on my site about it.

      here’s one of the articles:

      hope it helps! keep me posted on your search!

  2. Dennis


    I too love the Towncraft T shirts that were 60% Combed Cotton 40% Fortrel Polyester. I am down to only one now and nothing that I have found has the soft comfortable feel of this shirt. I am heartbroken that someone made the unwise decision to discontinue these wonderful shirts!

    • Dennis


      Tug, With the amount of people looking for these shirts, maybe you should have these shirts manufactured & sold under your own brand! Looks like you have a ready market!

      • Ali


        I think the problem is with the Fortrel material. I’m under the impression that it’s no longer made. Isn’t or wasn’t Fortrel a trademark?

    • Tug says:

      you guys should scan through the commemnts (:

      there are some brands that are making something similar to the lightweight towncraft undershirts.

      but, fortrel polyester is no longer available so you won’t find something that is identical.

      for those looking for the heavier weight items, you may want to check out the 60/40 from next level apparel you can buy on amazon.

  3. Lynn


    My husband has loved these Towncraft shirts since we were engaged back in the ’90s. I bought him the Stafford ones but they are NOT at all the same as the Towncraft. His old Towncraft shirts are so thin from all the wearings and washings, but I hate to take them away for rags until I find a decent replacement for them. Le Sigh.

    Maybe we’ll try some of the ones recommended here.

    • Tug says:

      hey lynn, yeah definitely try some of the recommendations. if i come across anything else similar to the original towncraft undershirts, i’ll certainly mention it here (:

  4. Rick


    After reading the unsuccessful attempts at finding Towncraft T’s or a close substitute all I can say is “I’m glad I’m not the only one looking”. I’ve held onto a few I bought years ago hoping to buy new but Since I only wear them under dress shirts & cannot buy new Towncraft T’s anywhere I’ll have to keep these good ole boys until they’re rags!

    • Tug says:

      no doubt rick. there’s 196 comments here from people interested in those vintage towncraft tees (undershirts), and tens of thousands of people have read this article.

      so, you’re not alone.

      the closest comparable tees/undershirts i’ve come across are listed here throughout the comments. scan through them all and you’ll see some viable options.

      good luck (:

  5. Brian


    I found this site after googling towncraft 60/40 replacement.

    Towncraft 60/40s are the only undershirt I’ve ever worn, going all the way back to freshmen year of high school (1998). I’ve tried others but nothing ever compared to towncraft. Luckily, I ordered a couple packs of them in 2010 or 2011 before they stopped selling them, but those shirts are now starting to wear out and need to be replaced.

    I read through the suggestions here and it seemed like no one could agree on a suitable replacement, but I think I found one. I ordered a couple different brands of plain white t-shirts on Amazon (one was a 50/50 and the other a 60/40). While the 50/50 was “ok”, it just didn’t feel right. The 60/40 arrived last weekend and I was pleasantly surprised by it’s look and feel.

    I think it’s on par with towncraft, but maybe I’m not as picky as others.

    Anyway, here’s the link to the 60/40 I like. I’m going to order 10 more.

    • Tug says:

      heya brian,

      thanks for stopping by and posting the info on the next level apparel 60/40 t-shirt. very cool find indeed!

      i’ve always been a pretty big fan of next level apparel, but it’s mostly been available only available to “businesses” looking to buy them wholesale. i have noticed recently though that they’ve been making them available on amazon, so that’s pretty cool.

      if the 4.3oz is square yard weight, that would bring the shirt in at 145gsm (or gms), which in my opinion is ok, but it’s not really quite as light as the earlier generation towncraft 50/50 undershirts. 150gsm or higher is about t-shirt weight, so 145 isn’t too bad.

      the 60/40 towncraft came in a few different generations, the oldest being the thinnest/lightest and then getting progressively heavier throughout the years.

      i’m definitely gonna pick-up some of these and see what they’re like.

      thanks again for letting us all know (:

      • Brian


        No problem! Post an update after you try them, I’m curious how they measure up.

        On a side note, the prices have gone up since I posted that this morning. The white shirts were approximately $6.50 each + free shipping, but now they’re $8.95 + $6.99 shipping.

        I should’ve ordered the others already! (I was going to wait until after I washed it to make sure it didn’t shrink). Bummer.

  6. Tug says:

    anyone looking for an original towncraft 50/50, size large, crew neck undershirt?

    check out this listing on ebay:

  7. mitch


    LOL…..there is a large fortune to be made here …..someone get the d…. FORTREL material and cotton and get RICH…what is wrong with the jcp stock holders……..I would be furious!!!!!!!!!!!!…

  8. Mark


    I would strongly suggest not getting the Retro fit (50/50 and tri-blend) from Ribbedtee. What they DONT tell you is this will shrink about 2 full sizes. I ordered one of these overpriced shirts and regretted it. They are also WAY too transparent.

    • Tug says:

      heya mark, thanks for taking the time to comment.

      i don’t know when you got your retro fit tees last, but i’ve had some 50/50 and the new tri blend undershirts, and have not experienced any shrinkage like that.

      did you contact the company about the issue? as far as i have heard, they have always offered refunds or will replace any bad items for free.

      do you want me to forward your comment to the company?

  9. Taylor


    I stumbled upon this website by searching for towncraft shirts. I have both the 50/50 and the 60/40. Ive had mine for about 18 years or more I bought my shirts sometime while in high-school, I am 33 years old and graduated in ’99. I am still wearing the same TC undershirts. I will not wear anything else my family buys me for Christmas or birthdays and have refused any alternatives because they don’t measure up! Its just funny to me that my 60/40s have lasted this long and I need more of them because they are just now starting to show their age. These shirts have outlasted my memory.

    I am astounded that JCP stopped making these shirts. The 60/40’s are more durable than the 50/50 blend but no other undershirt that JCP or Dillards sells can even come close. These are wonderful shirts, comfortable enough to wear under a regular tee shirt, comfortable to sleep in and comfortable enough to lounge around in. I find it hard to believe a shirt like the original tc are so sparse.

    Any way, I remember seeing a pesky ad on my facebook page for Mack Weldon, they have a 47.5/47.5 long staple cotton modal to a 5% lycra blended undershirt. I have no idea how comfortable it is but the search continues. I am uncertain of a single undershirt costing $32. It is just asinine. Even a pack of two shirts for $30 is ridiculous. I’m not made of money! I miss the 3 pack for $18 TownCraft, what a steal!

    Any way, I havent found another shirt close to this and its been sad to watch my shirts degrade little by little knowing there are no more out there like it. The search continues, I was just at JCP and am disappointed. I have already been down that road with stafford, hanes, whatever else there is to buy in a store just isnt the same. They feel like cardboard compared to TC.

    • Tug says:

      heya taylor, good to hear from you buddy and thanks for stopping by my site!

      the closest comparable undershirts too the towncraft 50/50 undershirt are the ones i’ve mentioned here before in the comments.

      the only brands that can sell undershirts for really cheap are those that mass produce.

      who knows, maybe one day one of the big guys will introduce an undershirt that’ll compare to the once great towncraft 50/50

    • Luis Espinoza


      I googled 60/40 blend undershirts and came across your site.
      I seemed to be having bad luck in the 60/40 undershirt quest.
      I was devastated when Town Craft went away and was somewhat comfortable with the Stafford Essentials classic fit, but lately I’ve noticed that 60/40 blend is now going away and being replaced with a 100% cotton undershirt…
      I was wondering if the 60/40 blend is at least available online? Does anyone have any idea where I can get those?

      • Tug says:

        heya luis, good to hear from you buddy!

        jcpenney has been regularly making their stafford cotton blend undershirts, but doesn’t normally advertise its fabric blend. i’m pretty sure those undershirts are 60/40 and they are the later generation ones that are a bit heavier than the early generation ones back in 70s & 80s.

        if you visit, and use their search function to search for ‘stafford cotton blended‘ you will find some options there.

        if you can’t find what you’re looking for there, i do know there are other companies making 50/50 shirts in a similar weight, like the 50/50 white t-shirt from american apparel, and the 50/50 comfortblend from hanes.

        good luck and let me know how it goes (:

        • Ali


          I finally found a T-shirt that’s the closest to the Towncraft 60/40 blend. I found it at Nordstrom rack in the women’s department. The brand name is Abound and it’s a 6040 blend also. It’s as lightweight as the Towncraft, as long as the Towncraft and is also a V-neck.I purchased it in the extra-large and I typically take a small female teeshirt. It works for me because I use it as a nightshirt and like it loose. I don’t know if this will work for anyone else but I absolutely love the T-shirt. It’s soft and very comfortable. I purchased two and love them both so much I’m going to go back and see if they have another one because it was almost impossible to find one like the 60/40 Towncraft.

          • Tug says:

            hey ali, thanks for the intel on the abound 60/40 women’s t-shirt!

            the only bad news about that, is if those tees are at nordstrom rack, they are most likely being discontinued and won’t be available for very much longer.

            if you’re looking for a super lightweight tee/undershirt for a night shirt, you may want to take a look at:
            1. some of the tees from american apparel that have a gauze/mesh weave that are slightly transparent
            2. the 50/50s bdgs from urban outfitters
            3. shirtless undershirts from
            4. retro fit (50/50 and tri-blend) from ribbedtee

            check those out and let me know how they compare to the abound 60/40 (:

            sound good?

          • Ali


            I have already checked them all out except for the undershirt less and those look like they are not a blend. The others simply do not compare to the abound T-shirt. They’re not as comfortable. I just bought mine a couple of weeks ago so I will return this weekend to see if they have anymore. I still have the old Towncraft so now I have three tees that I can rotate. The aboundare so similar to Towncraft it’s unbelievable. Thanks for your prompt response.

  10. Mark


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


    • 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.

  11. Mitch


    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


      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.

  12. Doug Powell


    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!!

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