The Art of the Loopwheel: A Guide to Premium Quality T-shirts

Forget the stuffy suits and forget the itchy sweaters. The new status symbol in the animal kingdom isn’t a roaring mane or a dazzling plumage – it’s the luxuriously soft, impeccably crafted Loopwheel T-shirt. Yes, you read that right.

The Bear has officially put Loopwheel on the map, or I should say two prominent loopwheel brands – Whitesville and Merch B Schwanen.

What is a Loopwheel T-shirt?

Imagine a T-shirt with an incredibly soft, heavyweight feel. That’s the magic of a loopwheel tee. Unlike your average T-shirt, loopwheel tees are constructed using a special technique that creates a seamless, tubular body. This means minimal seams, typically only at the shoulders, resulting in a smooth, comfortable fit.

Beyond the Basics: While the concept might seem simple, the loopwheel method produces a noticeably superior fabric.

Loopwheel machines at work. Photo from Kanekichi Industries.
Loopwheel machines at work. Photo from Kanekichi Industries.

The Loopwheeling Process: Unveiling the Magic

The term “loopwheel” actually refers to the vintage knitting machines used in this process. These machines create a continuous loop of fabric, eliminating the need for side seams on the T-shirt. But the magic goes beyond the machine itself.

Quality From the Start: Loopwheel tees typically use long-staple cotton fibers. These extra-long fibers create a stronger, smoother yarn, which translates into a more durable and luxurious final product.

Brooklyn Gang. New York City, 1959, by Bruce Davidson.

Step-by-Step: Here’s a peek inside the loopwheel production process:

  1. Ginning: The journey begins by separating the cotton fibers from the seeds.
  2. Carding: The fibers are then aligned and cleaned to remove any impurities.
  3. Combing (Optional): Some manufacturers use combing to remove even shorter fibers, resulting in an even smoother yarn (not all loopwheel tees go through this step).
  4. Drawing: At this stage, the fibers are further refined and thinned into a cohesive strand.
  5. Ring Spinning: Finally, the fibers are twisted together to create a strong, smooth yarn.

The Payoff: This meticulous process, combined with long-staple cotton, yields a T-shirt unlike any other. Here’s what sets loopwheel tees apart:

  • Superior Fabric Quality: The combination of long-staple cotton and minimal seams creates a fabric that’s not only soft and comfortable but also incredibly durable.
  • Long-lasting Wear: Loopwheel tees are known to resist shrinkage and warping better than regular tees, making them a true investment piece.
  • Enhanced Comfort: The tight knit of loopwheel tees allows for better airflow, keeping you cool and comfortable throughout the day.

Check out this video below – give us a deep dive regarding the loop wheel process.

Loopwheel machines at work.

Where Does Loopwheeling Come From?

While loopwheel machines were once widely used, their popularity declined with the rise of faster, more automated knitting methods. However, there’s been a recent resurgence of interest in the superior quality of loopwheel tees.

Wakayama, Japan: The Loopwheel Capital: The traditional center of loopwheel production is Wakayama, Japan. This region is known for its skilled artisans and their dedication to using vintage loopwheel machines.

Beyond Japan: Loopwheel isn’t exclusive to Japan. Here are a few other regions embracing this time-tested technique:

  • Germany: Germany has a rich history of textile production, and the Swabian Alb region was once a hub for loopwheel knitting. A well-known German loopwheel manufacturer is Merz b. Schwanen, famous for their exceptionally crafted “GOOD ORIGINALS” T-shirts.
  • Pima County, Arizona (USA): The United States is also starting to see a rise in loopwheel production. Pima County, Arizona, known for its high-quality Pima cotton, is a prime example. Some Arizona-based companies are using Pima cotton and loopwheel techniques to create unique and luxurious T-shirts.

How to Spot a Loopwheel T-shirt in the Wild

So, you’re ready to experience the loopwheel difference? Here’s how to identify a genuine loopwheel tee:

  • Look for the Seamless Sides: The most obvious giveaway is the lack of side seams. A true loopwheel tee will have a tubular body construction.
  • Feel the Fabric: Loopwheel tees tend to have a denser knit, resulting in a soft yet substantial feel.
  • Check the Brand Reputation: Do your research! Look for brands known for using loopwheel techniques and committed to quality.

The Loopwheel Difference: A Wardrobe Investment

Loopwheel tees might come with a slightly higher price tag, but they’re an investment in a wardrobe staple that will last for years to come. The superior quality, comfort, and durability make loopwheel tees a worthwhile addition to any T-shirt.

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