T-Shirt Forums banner
1 - 7 of 7 Posts

· Premium Member
13,203 Posts
It's been mentioned in these forums that the US has the same laws.

I'd guess with international trade agreements, etc. that most countries in the world have some kind of law regarding what has to appear on a clothing label.

What I don't know is if it has to appear on the garment itself, or if the care instructions could just be included on the hang tag (unfortunately I think they probably have to be included on the garment itself).

· Premium Member
13,203 Posts
Yeah, I've wondered about that before.

I know that physical shops in the UK do sell them (If Scotland is bound by the same laws, Threadless lists a retailer in Edinburgh for example - but I've also heard people talking about buying shirts in Camden, etc.). Whether it's legal or not, people are doing it (and possibly out of simple ignorance - I never knew about these laws before these forums, they're not particularly intuitive).

Technically "Do not wash, buy new at Threadless" could be considered a washing instruction :) Threadless tags actually vary from shirt to shirt - as well as the "buy new" one they have a "Crumple into a ball, hand to mom" one.

In general their tags, while amusing, don't meet the legal requirements that I've been told about.

I think it helps that the rules are pretty stupid and it's not like police are going to go around checking.

Still, it could get them in legal trouble.

But then so could the fact that they frequently publish copyrighted material, and even re-print infringing designs after the original print has been caught. I love what Threadless produce, but as a company they have a few highly questionable business practices. Their brazen attitude towards copyright infringement is starting to make me very angry.

· Premium Member
13,203 Posts
This was starting to really capture my interest, so I did some research to get a more definitive answer. Note that this is just my interpretation of the regulations and does not constitute legal advice. Note that for the sake of convenience I have used the word "label" throughout, but the FTC specifies that printing directly onto the garment is an acceptable alternative.

First off... who does this apply to? The FTC says this: "If you manufacture, import, sell, offer to sell, distribute, or advertise products covered by the Textile and Wool Acts, you must comply with the labeling requirements." So basically everyone. There are exemptions, but they're not relevant here.

Obviously any blanks you buy already have labels in them that cover all of this. If you plan on removing those labels completely, you need to replace them with your own - so you need to know what they are required to do. If you don't relabel your shirts, you never need concern yourself with this stuff.

Here's possibly the clearest thing you'll read on the topic of relabelling:

Replacing another company’s label with your own
An importer, distributor, or retailer may want to replace the original label on a textile product with a label showing its company or RN. This is perfectly legal as long as the new label lists the name or RN of the person or company making the change.

NOTE: If you remove a label containing required information, the label you substitute also must contain that required information. Otherwise, you’ve violated the Textile Act.

Some retailers, such as bridal salons, remove labels with required information from the garments they offer for sale without replacing them. This is illegal under the Textile Act. If a retailer removes any label containing required information, it must substitute another label with its own name or RN and any other required information that appeared on the original label. In addition, anyone substituting a label must keep records, for three years, showing the information on the removed label and the company from which the product was received.
I recently took another look at the Threadless labels: the first thing I noticed (that I'd previously overlooked) was that they include an RN. The US FTC site says "[Businesses] may, however, use the RN in place of a name on the label or tag that is required to be affixed to these products", and that "you may use your company business name on the label instead of an RN". In other words clothing sold in the US isn't actually required to include an RN, you just have to include either the (full) name of the company or the RN (both is fine if you choose to obviously).

That's why every t-shirt I've looked at always has the RN on the care instructions tag - it makes it nice and easy for designers to legally remove the brand tag.

They also say "Alternatively, the goods may be labeled with the RN or business name of the company that is buying the goods from you - such as a distributor or retailer." (since most retailers don't have their own RN that's unlikely to be relevant most of the time). Apparently RNs are free and quick to get if you're interested though - not sure what the requirements to qualify for one are, but I suspect it would be quite easy.

Anyway, none of this gets you out of providing care instructions though. So on to that...

Simply put, you must provide at least a basic set of care instructions. Anything standard that isn't explicitly prohibited against on your label (e.g. using a hot iron) is considered to be safe. So if your label just says "Hand wash in cold water.", you are saying your garment can be bleached, tumble dried and ironed.

The manufacturer must "possess, prior to sale, a reasonable basis for the care instructions they provide". In other words they've tested them and know they work. At first glance the Threadless instructions seem to (technically) pass this requirement - they do have a reasonable basis for believing that those instructions will work just fine.

Luckily the law doesn't actually allow for stupid loopholes like that - part of the "reasonable basis" requirement is also that you can prove that less restrictive methods will harm the garment (you must be able to provide "Reliable evidence that the product or a fair sample of the product was harmed when cleaned by methods warned against on the label.").

When Threadless state "Don't wash, buy new at Threadless" it is officially considered a warning (exactly like "Dry Clean Only") - they are saying "if you hand wash this it will damage the garment". This can easily be proven false, so it contravenes the regulations.

The label must include "the fiber content, the country of origin, and the identity of the manufacturer or another business responsible for marketing or handling the item".

Near as I can tell when they say the fibre content, they want a percentage breakdown. E.g. saying "Cotton/Polyester" is not good enough, you need to say "90% Cotton / 10% Polyester". I'm not positive about that, but fairly confident (also a couple of other minor rules apply here that aren't relevant so I won't go into them).

The country of origin requirements are pretty simple - you have to list more or less every place part of the manufacture occurs. So if the fabric is made in Mexico and the garment assembled in the US you'd have to clearly indicate exactly that. If you say "Made in the USA" then it needs to be completely made in the USA (I would speculate you would get a large fine if you lie on that one, but that's just conjecture).

Now, since Threadless was brought up earlier in the thread and examples are useful I'll talk about them some more. As near as I can tell Threadless labels in the past did not meet the legal requirements for labelling. Their newer labels have changed and very nearly meet the requirements, but I think they still fall short.

Here are some examples of their new labels. Here is an older one.

As has been discussed, their older label doesn't have valid care instructions. It also doesn't list the country of origin, or the material the garment is comprised of. It doesn't have the full company name, but it does have an RN so that's okay (if you look up that RN you will find it is in fact for Threadless themselves).

The new labels? They list country of origin, garment material, care instructions, and RN in lieu of company name. What's the problem? There are actually several. First, they list the fabric as a "cotton polyester blend" - they didn't specify the percentages. Second, according to their FAQ they use Fruit of the Loom t-shirts, and (correct me if I'm wrong here) I'm pretty sure FOTL aren't wholly manufactured in the USA, invalidating their "Made in the USA" on the Pandamonium shirt. Third, their Regrowth shirts were printed on American Apparel and (again, correct me if I'm wrong here) AA are all 100% cotton - whereas the label says it's a Cotton/Polyester blend.

Anyway, the point of this is not to complain about Threadless, but rather to point out how hard it can be to get the labels right if you don't pay enough attention to what you're doing.

You may be thinking that these rules are unnecessary for such a simple garment, or that it's all too much trouble. Here's a word on penalties from the FTC:

Failure to provide reliable care instructions and warnings for the useful life of an item is a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act. Violators are subject to enforcement actions and penalties of up to $11,000 for each offense. In enforcement actions, the FTC contends that each mislabeled garment is a violation. Since 1990, the FTC has brought 16 enforcement actions, one of which was litigated and 15 of which were resolved by settlements. Penalties have ranged as high as $300,000.

Zoran Ladicorbic Ltd was fined $14,000 for "failure to attach care labels to garments", Laura Ashley, Inc. was fined $60,000 for "failure to provide written care instructions". I think it's fair to say it's just not worth the risk, no matter how under the radar you are (it's not like you even gain anything from flouting the law).

Some other requirements:

The requirements on terminology are quite reasonable - basically the label has to make sense to the consumer, but it doesn't have to use a set of pre-designated terms (though of course if you stray from agreed upon lexicon your label may not meet the requirements of being clear and accurate).

Everything legally required to be on the label has to be legible and in English (it can appear in additional languages if you choose). It has to be equal point size, font, etc. It has to be non-deceptive, but can have extra information so long as it's not made to deceive. It can be alongside other voluntary information (e.g. urls or slogans) so long as that information doesn't distract from or minimise the required information. The required info can't be "abbreviated, designated by ditto marks, or placed in footnotes" (with the exception of agreed upon country names).

The label has to be permanent and remain legible for the life of the product.

If the garment has a neck hole the label has to appear exactly where you're used to it appearing (easiest way for me to describe it :)). The country of origin has to be on the front of this label, but other information can be on the front or back.

The label has to be easily visible when the customer purchases the item. If the tag is hidden inside a package, the instructions must be visible another way (a hangtag for example). I don't know how this applies to mail order/websites, but I would speculate it means you should include care instructions in your FAQ to meet legal requirements (this may not be necessary - I don't know).

The label doesn't have to write the care instructions out, it can use standard symbols (there's a specific approved set, so if you're doing this make sure you have the right ones). The US symbol standard is slightly different to the ISO one. You can have just text, just symbols, or both (which is what they generally recommend, but may take up more space than you want).


If a garment is completely reversible and "the product is designed to be used with either side as the outer part or face" it "is exempt from the care label requirement."

You can apply in writing for an exemption if you think including a label "would harm the appearance or usefulness of the product" (I can't see how any t-shirt would qualify for this).

If you have "reliable proof" that "the product can be cleaned safely under the harshest procedures" (as outlined by law - basically all dryclean chemicals, all bleach, hot wash, hot iron, hot dryer) then you don't need a permanent care label (again, won't apply for t-shirts).

If you meet any of these requirements you will still have to provide care instructions in a conspicuous way (e.g. hangtag), just not on a permanent label.

If the goods are solely for export, you are exempt.

(Hmm. That turned out longer than I expected, but I must say I have a much better understanding of how everything works now. The topic has come up several times now - Rodney, if you think the info is any good, feel free to copy it to the articles section)

· Premium Member
13,203 Posts
Rodney said:
Thanks Solmu, I think it would make a good sticky for the article forum. You wrote all that yourself, right?
Everything that isn't in quote marks or a quote box, yes. There's a lot I've quoted (and indicated is a quote) without attributing a source, but the source was always the FTC website or a site linked directly from it. I should be able to go through and footnote the direct quotes with a source if you'd like.

Since I was writing it while reading other articles and the regulations there is always a chance for subconscious plagiarism, but it should be okay. I read over it again and it all looks like my style, and quotes heavily, so I'm happy to stand behind it.

· Premium Member
13,203 Posts
A screenprinter informed me that is you relabel t-shirts then that means you are liable if a customer's tee doesn't wash correctly or something of that nature. He even told me that if you don't relabel them then the originator (Hanes, Gildan, etc.) would be liable and not you.

Is this correct?
Hmm. Probably/kind of. Bearing in mind this is just one person's opinion, not legal advice, but...

If you relabel the shirts, you are responsible for them. So yes, you're liable. If you don't... you're still liable (the customer comes to you with a complaint, you fix it), but you can then pass on that complaint to the manufacturer. Thing is, best case scenario they will replace the blank shirts (and I do mean best case), you'll still be out printing costs, good will, etc. So liable may not quite be the word.

· Premium Member
13,203 Posts
Like I mentioned before this thread was full of information on American Apparel blanks but not much else.
None of the information in this thread is specific to American Apparel, that just happens to be the brand the person who started the thread was using. Everything I quoted from the FTC applies to textiles in general (it says that at the top of the post) - not just t-shirts, let alone a specific brand of t-shirt.
1 - 7 of 7 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.