Why you should care

Now you can drink red wine while wearing white.

The iconic white T-shirt has become a staple of American fashion, especially when teamed with frayed Levi’s and repetitive high-fives. The reality, of course, isn’t so picture-perfect, as wearing said white T-shirt involves heavy-duty use of Tide stain remover, and daily risks of pit stains, ketchup spills and frothy latte overflow. But one Australian company is attempting to bring basic back in style with the use of technology that makes your shirt stainproof. Yup, you read that right.

Melbourne-based Threadsmiths has concocted a unique “nanotechnology” formula that it’s embedded in white, 100 percent cotton T-shirts. The goal: Make them 100 percent barbecue-proof. Naturally, a claim like this requires serious testing, and my friends happily obliged, soaking me with ketchup, mustard, wine and more. Covered in condiments, I then rinsed off with water, watching in awe as the sauces turned into tiny liquid globules that rolled down off my chest, leaving me wet, but clean. And pretty surprised. The T-shirt handled further testing with aplomb, the one aberration being a dose of sriracha which left small red marks after a rinse.

Water repellency is reactivated by tumble-drying after every few washes.

Threadsmiths CEO Lewis Pitchford, a former graphic designer, was inspired to create the shirt after getting soaked on a walk home. He focused on improving the “humble” white T-shirt, which he considers the “most versatile piece of clothing.” Threadsmiths’ patented hydrophobic coating, similar to that of waterproof hiking boots, is the secret behind the stain resistance. The shirts are available in male and female cuts for $55, and they’ve started selling a $25 baby-size tee, which Pitchford says has been very popular. Yes, we’re already imagining perfectly dressed babies who laugh in the face of formula spillage. The shirt is guaranteed to last for around 50 washes; water repellency is reactivated by tumble-drying after every few washes.

There are other repellent options on the market. NeverWet is a spray that provides stain resistance for clothes. But Pitchford says the advantage to his product is that it’s a ready-to-wear garment. Next up for his company: embedding the hydrophobic technology into a line of men’s business shirts and women’s dresses, and expanding its baby line.

It’s great to have a shirt that saves you from the dreaded pizza sauce splash, but is it good for you to be wearing it? Fashion writer Andrea Kiliany Thatcher, author of From Atelier to Runway, has concerns about chemicals in the coating and their contact with skin for prolonged periods of time. “We don’t yet have solid research on how healthy it is,” she explains, or if those chemicals actually extend the clothing’s life. (Pitchford refutes this, saying the coating is safe and has been thoroughly tested.) Plus, Thatcher says, the fashion-forward know that it’s all about the right fit for your figure, as the same T-shirt will not suit everyone. And while this technology can save you from spills, having to wear a soaking wet — but clean — shirt for the day isn’t exactly ideal.

Still, a future where the washing machine becomes anachronistic sounds pretty good to me.

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