Over the years here, I have definitely come across and read about the Screen Stars t-shirts of yesteryear. As far as I can recall, everyone who wrote about them, loved them.
So, when I received the following email from a reader, I thought it would be a great time to dig deeper and learn more about this beloved t-shirt to see what all the fuss is about. In the process, I learned some neat stuff.
I have been on a mission for the last couple of years (on and off) searching for someone who sells Screen Stars as they are my favorite t-shirt of all time. I have a few remaining from the late 80s early 90s of which I just started wearing the last remaining unopened package. I have found several companies in the UK who sell the new Screen Stars made by Fruit of the Loom. For some reason you cannot get them in the states.
My question to you: do you know if the “new” Screen Stars are any where close to the original? I have contacted a company who is willing to ship to me in the states. I’m so excited that I have found them but I don’t want to be disappointed when they arrive and have them be completely different from my originals. I understand there will be slight differences, I just hope they didn’t take the screen star name and slap it on a different design.
Thank you for your time.
good to hear from you buddy and thanks for your question.
first things first: what’s the rn number on the back of the screen stars shirts you own?? send me that asap so i can do a bit more research.
i have definitely read good things about the screen stars brand of t-shirts. the ones that seem to get the most love are the 50/50 poly/cotton undershirts, but maybe their 100% cotton undershirts were great too. which ones do you have?
my guess is that it’s less likely that the new screen stars will be close to the originals. the reason i say that is because based on what i can tell, there were certain construction techniques used on the vintage undershirts of yesteryear that are not used in many of today’s t-shirts. the techniques i’m referring to include fabric weight, knit type, weave tightness/looseness, quality of fabrics used, and pre-shrinking processes used. while i’d love to give you good news, i doubt you’ll find these new screen stars to the same caliber as the old ones for the above reasons.
here’s a blurb i found about the evolution of screen stars:
Screen Stars was purchased in the 80′s by BEST, which was later taken over by Fruit of A Loom. The remnants of the Screen Star style can be found today in the Fruit of Loom BEST style tee. Many vintage tees were printed on the 50/50 screen star t-shirt blank with the paper Screen Star tag. The lightweight comfort and feel of the screen start blank is desired by current collectors in the industry world wide.
i did a bit more research, and it seems as though that blurb might not be 100% accurate. as far as i can tell, the brand “screen stars” was developed by the union underwear company (fruit of the loom) during the 1970′s to sell unbranded t-shirt blanks to wholesalers for promotional print purposes.
now, i will tell you that i’m doing a special investigation project for another two readers who are trying to track down some sears comfortsoft undershirts from the same vintage time frame, and my guess is that it has much of the same characteristics as the screen stars. i’m trying to get a fabric sample to send to some folks in the fabric biz to get the fabric evaluated to see if we can learn something more about the fabric.
the only way i can tell if there’s anything similar would be to see the actual screen stars shirt.
this kinda reminds me of the old towncraft 50/50 undershirts. they were so beloved, but jcpenney discontinued them. a company took notice, and came up with an updated reproduction called retro fit early last year, and it’s been a huge success for them. maybe they’d do the same with the screen stars or even the sears comfortsoft?? who knows.
let me know your thoughts – would love to help you find something here!
Screen Stars History
During my research, I came across some other great resources to help me piece together the history of Screen Stars tees.
Reware Vintage: Back in 2010, these folks put together a great overview of the evolution of Screen Stars t-shirt, first recording their 70′s era tees. The post also includes the different care labels the brand used.
Defunkd: My buds over at Defunkd.com also have a page on their site providing a Screen Stars t-shirt overview. They also have photos of the various care labels the brand used.
Funding Universe: This is where I kinda hit the jackpot when I found a comprehensive write-up on the History of Fruit of the Loom, an original brand brain-child of B. B. & R. Knight Brothers textile company from back in 1851. That is where I found this little gem of information:
In 1976 Union acquired the century-old BVD trademark. The company began to merchandise BVD as a completely separate line of underwear aimed at the more upscale department store market. Union also began to expand its product line in 1978 to include “Underoos”–decorated underwear for boys and girl– and began to supply blank T-shirts for the screen print market during the 1970s. The expansion into plain T-shirts soon evolved into a huge business known as Screen Stars, which sold unbranded T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweatpants to wholesalers who imprinted them for promotional uses.
Back to Jeremy
Jeremy and I had a few more email exchanges, where he confirmed that the product he was looking for was the loose-knit, super lightweight, 50/50 cotton/polyester blended Screen Stars. He even sent me this image of the care label here he pulled off of Rewear Vintage.
He was hoping the $3 per shirt solution from that UK company would be close to what he was looking for, but frankly I’ve never run across a vintage-style 50/50 t-shirt or undershirt that was priced under $20 and it was something that I shared with Jeremy. Come to find out the UK’s Screen Star tees were a 97/3 blend and not 50/50.
So, as of right now, there are only a small handful of companies that I’ve come across making 50/50 cotton/polyester loose-knit super lightweight “tee” / undershirt like this, and they include:
- BDG V-Neck Tee from Urban Outfitters ($14 per)
- Amercian Apparel 50/50 Poly-Cotton Short Sleeve ($20 – $22)
- Canvas 3402 55/45 distressed tee ($15 per) – search google
- Retro Fit from RibbedTee ($13.95 per)
- Hanes makes a 50/50 ComfortBlend undershirt, and it’s nice, but it’s not super lightweight
The two closest to what Jeremy was looking for were BDG and Retro, and based on my last email exchange with him, I know he picked up some Retro’s, but not sure if he made it over to Urban Outfitters to grab some BDGs. Hopefully we’ll find out.
If anyone has found any other 50/50 tees/undershirts that are super lightweight, stretchy, and loose knit, let me know about it in the comments section below.
Category: Ask Tug