We all see it, google trends has captured it, if we like it or not, tie dye is coming back into style. You can blame it on coronavirus and everyone being locked up in their homes with nothing to do, the natural coming and going of trends (too bad the 20’s fashion isn’t back in style), or just an anomaly it’s back baby. Tie dye is a style that many people find extremely controversial, or absolutely love. But like the denim jacket, it’s here but who knows for how long.
This vibrant style, believe it or not, has just as a vibrant history. You may not realize it, but that tie dye shirt you are eyeing has had an impact on American, and global, culture. Here we look to dive into that history on how the tie dye style shaped a generation, played a part of a cultural shift, and is more than just a blob of color on a t-shirt. You may be shocked to learn that tie dye was not actually invented by “hippies” in the 1960s, and that it’s history is actually far older. The style of smashing colors together with paint and rubber bands may have gained global prominence through American trends, but it has actually been a large part of human culture for hundreds of years.
Nope, not the United States, but Asia holds the title for the first reference to tie dye in human history; specifically, China and Japan. It is highly likely that these countries did not have a cultural flower power era like the United States, but records of tie dye use started in 618 B.C. in China during the T’ang dynasty, and in 552 B.C. in Japan. As you may also believe, the methods used to make tie dye clothing in these ancient cultures is a little different from how we approach coloring clothing today. In fact, it is actually more… all natural. Those two ancient Asian powerhouses utilized different dyes from natural flowers, berries, roots, and leaves from their environments. Specifically, some of these herbs were (if you are looking to try it yourself): lichen, blackberries, onion, indigo, sage, and marigold. The colors were removed from those naturally occurring substances by boiling them in hot water. The apparel of choice was then dipped in soaked in the hot water, allowing it to absorb the coloring.
(Tsujigahana method pictured above)
The style then re-appeared once again in Asia in 1568 during the Momoyama Period; however, this tie dye method was a little different than before. This new tie dye was called: tsujigahana (we don’t know how to pronounce it either but pictured above) and involved utilizing tie-dye with a Chinese ink called sumi. The process was rather simple – a article of fabric or clothing was placed out, and a sketch was drawn on the fabric with ink. The fabric was then dipped into the dye which started to fill in the area with color and darkened the sketched design. What was produced as a result of this method was actually quite beautiful and housed a great fade combination of colors matching with an lovely illustration.
Tie Dye and the United States
(Picture of a tie dye scarf in the 1920s above)
Tie dye then took a brief break in human history and somehow made it’s way from Asia, to the United States; although, you will be a little shocked as to which era it first appeared. The Great Depression in the 1920s and into the 1930s brought about a lot of home innovation to help cut costs. Tie Dye was one of them. Individuals looking for a new way to decorate their homes and update their fashion looked to pamphlets that were being handed out which contained a step instruction on how to do so with tie dye. Mostly, this was reserved for home decoration, but it involved using: cotton flower (aged), coffee, and sugar sacks.
Tie Dye’s Rise to Prominence in the 1960s
The 1960s is where tie dye started to become famous in the American, and global eye, through Hollywood and popular cultural events. This is where tie dye really cemented itself with the hippie cultural lifestyle. Arguably, this also was no America’s most stunning economic period, and thus, tie dye became another easy, and cheap, alternative to customizing your clothing. Not to mention, that the vibrant colors, and style that was introduced to dying the clothing, matched well with the lifestyle and cultural shift that the 60’s generation was going through. The largest event where tie dye had center stage was the Woodstock concert and event where men, and women, danced covered in tie dye clothing. This era really set the trend and mindset for tie dye in the United States, and the world, for years to come. To this day, tie dye is widely associated with that very same mindset, and often referenced to that era.
Reappearance in the 1980s
After the 60s came and went, tie dye faded out of prominence, just like it’s coloring would fade on the t-shits after a few washes. But, tie dye re-appeared into American fashion once again in the 1980s, and in a big way. Tie dye appeared once more into media and prominent television shows, which caught the public eye. The big change to tie dye came to how it was made. Technological improvements to tie dye shirt manufacturing made the dyes reside longer, and permanently, in the shirts and various articles of clothing, without the worry of fading. The range of colors that could be used also increased, allowing for further customization.
Present Day and 2020
Our Tie Dye Hood-less sweatshirt in action ;)
We have already seen whispers of tie dye rising back to prominence today, have crept onto the scene in 2019. There could be a few reasons for this: slowing economy, COVID-19 keeping everyone at home, change in styles, and general interest of a growing generation. Regardless of the reason, tie dye is coming back. Famous artists have already been snapped sporting various tie dye designs in media, and the youth of tik tok have been seen dancing around in various assortments of tie dye clothing. Even us here at Plain have embraced this new craze, and added a small tie dye collection of our own. Make sure to checkout what we have!
So, what do you think? Is tie dye for you? Let us know below in the comments! We want to know what you think!