Heather T-Shirts, More Than Gray

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Alternative Heather

Greetings and salutations. Back in the '80s, girls named Heather and heather t-shirts were all the rage. Even if you weren't a Heather, we bet you at least probably wore a heather t-shirt. And while you might not know exactly what a heather t-shirt is—even if you wore one—we're about to give you the full story on who, what, heather.

Back to School

retro high school gymIn that iconic era of the '80s, '70s, and even before, a heather t-shirt was your best friend and your worst enemy. Same difference.

A heather tee of that time might bring to mind your high school PE uniform with its unintentionally retro printing of your school's name and mascot. Not cool. Perhaps if you and heather t-shirt had been properly introduced—outside of running a timed mile or ducking a dreaded dodge ball—you might feel more fondly about your first one.

Think hard about that old tee, and let's be honest. If you happened to get your hands on that first PE heather t-shirt again, you might not want to give it back. Remember that oh-so-soft feel? It's just one of the reasons a heather t-shirt was invented. You probably can't forget that broken-in feel with every wash. That just so happens to be a byproduct of the invention of heather tee and one appeal. But before we talk about all-things heather, we'll need a quick lesson on terminology.

Pop quiz, kids!

The Vocab

yarn blendsLet's cover some quick terminology, shall we? Most people associate the word "heather" with the effect of that now-coveted marbled look to a tee. Not so fast. In the industry, that mottled look—the effect—is called "heathering." We know, you never thought you'd be back in your high school English class, covering nouns and verbs, but heathering is the effect created by using yarns especially blended to create this heather design.

"Heather" or "heather yarn" is also sometimes just referring to the specific yarn blended and used to create that special heathered effect. Also, "heather" sometimes refers to the finished fabric from that heather yarn to create that finished heather t-shirt. You'll mostly see the word "heather" in front of a finished product. Heather t-shirts, heather hoodies, heather sweatshirts. Even colors will tip you off by throwing the word heather in front of their title. Heather lilac? It's more than likely going to be a heather t-shirt. Lastly, you'll see the word "grey" heather t-shirt tossed willy-nilly in the industry. Grey is fine—if you're feeling fancy or crossing the pond from jolly old England. Since we're not, we'll be sticking to "gray" today.

Pencils down, kids. How'd you do? No worries. No one's grading these quizzes here. School's out.

Blending in

gildan g200 ash greyOne of the basics in a heather t-shirt's popularity is what it's made of. It actually has a lot to do with your gym teacher's whistle still screeching in your nightmares to this day. ("Hustle, Johnson, hustle!") The popularity of your favorite old-time athletes and your old-school uniform was for the same purpose. It's because even today, heather t-shirts wouldn't be caught dead in 100 percent cotton. Wait, what? Really.

What makes a heather t-shirt what it is, is sometimes overlooked. Heather t-shirts are constructed of a bi-blend. Sometimes in the case of blends, there's no true industry standard for percentages. Some fabrics are as little as 50 percent cotton, while others also consider 90 percent cotton a heather t-shirt. That other percentage? It's a manmade material, usually a polyester, occasionally a rayon. As always in the case of blends, it's the best of both worlds. Cotton has that natural breath ability while polyester performs by creating a durable fabric. While engineered for professional athletes and we high school benchwarmers alike, the added bonus is that unique softness of a cotton-polyester blend.

Can you remember how each wash made that tee softer and softer? We bet you'd really like to have that old PE tee back now, wouldn't you? While we can't go back in time, we can help you revisit those that tee in a throwback like our Gildan G200 T-Shirt 6.1 oz. Ultra Cotton in Ash Grey. We know, we're already breaking our "grey" rules, but it's a 90 percent cotton and 10 percent polyester blend with a feel that you'll remember. The only thing missing is your school's name written across it.

Shades of Gray?

bella + canvas 6004 hrhr grassWe mostly think of heathered t-shirts as simply that marbled or speckled gray. And absolutely. It's still the look in the highest demand, and not just for its cool retro factor. As we already stated, the most iconic heather t-shirt is that blend of black and white threads, giving it the gray you might be used to. But it's no longer a black and white—or even just a gray—world. We were later introduced to the popular heather blue. The concept was the same: a dark blue blended with white. And at some point, someone realized, "Hey, we could do this with so many other colors!"

Heather yarn isn't just primary colors, anymore. Or even just two colored yarns, even. Creating heather yarn now is like a painter at a canvas. Raspberry? Tan? Let's mix and see what we get. But the heather look of mixing colored yarns is the same. Manufacturers found that not only did they suddenly have some creative license, the cotton and polyester blend actually held those unique colors and heathering in place even more than a solid cotton tee. So while so many of us immediately think of traditional gray, see how heather is taking on the rainbow. Our Bella + Canvas Women's "Favorite Tee" T-Shirt in Heather Grass Green isn't the gray of yesterday, is it? With a 52 percent cotton and 48 polyester blend in a fitted tee, it's probably isn't anything you'd remember from heather of the past. And Bella + Canvas is forefront with offering heather tees with a pop of color. The future has never looked so bright.

Voted Most Popular

Did you know that the popularity of heather t-shirts is actually an odd fluke? At one time, you'd be thrown out of the crocheting club—but that's an odd elective in high school, anyway. Let's talk about heather as a yarn. At first glance, it looks like any solid color. It's at a closer glance that you can see the blend of two or even more colors. While the effect of heathering is now sought out, it was once considered a flaw to have anything but one precisely dyed color for a yarn. With heather yarn, the so-called flaw creates unique designs where no two tees are exactly the same. Not only does it hide so-called imperfections in a knit, it actually celebrates them. Gone are the days of one color if you're a heather t-shirt fan. And heather knit is now very much beloved because it creates an optical illusion of depth and texture. Imperfections are beautiful. Don't you wish someone would have told you that in high school?

So Many Heathers

We've used the word marbled to describe the effect of heathering, but that's just the beginning. Three different types of heathered looks are slub, marble and speckle. New to the forefront is black heather. Just as manufacturers have played around with color, there's more ways to heather a tee now.

heathering typesSlub This effect has the more uniform heathered blending that strikes some as classic. It's the more subtle of heathered looks, but it's never to be mistaken for any ordinary tee.

Speckled The speckled look is extra credit for heathered. Speckled is just as it might sound, featuring specks of white mixed with its featured color. The look is a bit more subtle than marble, more pronounced than slub, but there's still no mistaking it for anything but a heather.

Marble And then there's marble, the college course class of heathered. Marble features more of a contrast between one color and bold flashes of white. There's no mistaking a marble for a signature heather when you go with this style. Go bold with a marble.

Black Heather We should mention the latest heathering, a Bella + Canvas creation, so new it's only on the tip of everyone's tongue. While other heathers rely on a light-to-dark contrast, Black Heather goes goth. It's a black-to-dark blend, giving it a subtle black heathering with black as a main dye and dark undertones. Of course we carry it. We're too cool for school, too. Get a look with our groundbreaking Bella + Canvas Unisex Jersey Short-Sleeve T-Shirt in Black Heather.

All heathered t-shirts have that blended texture that gives a tee dimension. Slub, speckled and marble are a matter of taste. They're created differently, sure, but since each has its own signature look, you're sure to have a favorite.

Since Bella + Canvas carries so many heathering styles, let's use them as a reference. In our Bella + Canvas Women's Flowy Simple T-Shirt, three effects are featured in this one fashion-forward flowy tee. Check out Asphalt Slub versus Black Marble versus Deep Heather Speckled. Just how pronounced do you want that heathering effect in your tee? Same shirt, totally different look.

It's Your Turn, Heather

It's not that the old heather t-shirt is history. Instead, just like you, it's all grown up. It's not the dweeb it was when it was young. Instead, heather t-shirts are going back to their high school reunion complete successes. They may have been scoffed at in your PE locker then, but look at them now. Heather t-shirts have all the softness you remember, a playful blend of new colors, and the unique effect only adding to that beautiful, traditional t-shirt.

Heather, my love, there's a new sheriff in town. Yes, the old heather t-shirt's uncool rep is history. Let's celebrate by moving a new heather t-shirt into your current closet.

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Tags: Heather T-Shirt Material Fabric

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03/25/2022 |

Interesting. But, if you're allergic to formaldehyde like me, it's really annoying that blended colors are not available in 100% cotton. Why can't these colors be made with all cotton?