Guide To: The Vintage 90s Nike T-Shirt

by

HF Lanzer

Retro Nike T-Shirt Outfit

Let’s start with a quick ‘T-Shirt Eco-Impact’ puzzle! How many gallons of water does it take to make ONE new T-Shirt? A 145 B 562 C 766. Yes, sadly the correct answer is C, 766 gallons of this precious resource for one teensy weensy tee. This is the same volume of water that would fill 10 bathtubs to the brim. Makes you think, hey? And on top of this, two billion of these newly manufactured T shaped tops are sold globally EVERY year. Wowser. Time for a vintage tee, methinks.

The name of this most basic of clothing articles derives simply from its shape of a capital T: short sleeves, round neck and made of a cotton/jersey material. Well, it certainly was a capital idea to design this piece of apparel, which has developed from practical workwear to unisex fashionwear as well as bold make a statement with a slogan wear. Surely this iconic item has earned its place in everybody’s wardrobe today? And possibly not just the one! How many t-shirts do you confess to own?

1 = Mmm, hope this is of the iconic plain variety, if you’re being quite so minimalist

2–4 = OK, so this collection won’t see you through a week, but guess you’re happy to do laundry 

5–6 = Decent number, but choose their designs carefully, if you’re doubling up on the shirt:day wearage ratio

7+ = Now you’re talking!

But how many of these are vintage? 1 / 2–4 / 5–6 / 7+

No surprise now, to learn that in this blog we are discussing not any old retro tee, but the specific Nike variety as manufactured in the 90s era. Yes, we are narrowing our focus to one of the most glorious decades which produced so many cool pieces of clothing: the 90s. The added joy of this smaller window for us, is that these 90s bangers all sail happily under the flag of the good ship Vintage, thus providing us and you with an awesome armada of tee shirts, already worn, and awaiting further discovery.

 

Nike T-Shirts Vintage

How to identify a 90s Nike T-Shirt

An authentic nineties Nike T aka short-sleeved crewneck shirt can be challenging to identify as such, given that included in their midst are hundreds of different unnamed designs, which were all produced in the timespan of these 10 years. Identifying these vintage heaters today can seem quite a task, but that’s where we are here to help! Nike used many many labels on its products throughout the course of the 90s, but thankfully the consistent marker for them was the trademark RED swoosh, which appeared on nearly all of them.

With 90s vintage tee shirt fashion, the seams themselves provide a clue, as double stitching was used from the 80s into the early 90s for strength and durability. Further clues can be found just by researching the fashion of the decade yourself, reading Y2K blogs for example will tell you which kinds of tees people really wore at that time, so you can look out for them knowledgeably.

Below are the range of labels attached to Nike products from the 90s to help you identify your vintage finds accurately:

 

90s nike labels

How to style a 90s Nike T-Shirt

Check out our How To Wear Oversized T-Shirts: Guys Edition before reading on!

There’s not much difference among the key retro brands, such as AdidasUmbro or Reebok, when it comes to the tee, other than the company logo design on the front, back or short sleeves, though we are concentrating here on those specific Nike 90s nuggets. When it comes to choosing a 90s Nike T Shirt, there are then a satisfying heap of ways in which to style it, including for starters:

  • Wearing a collared shirt on top in a contrasting colour and coupling this top vibe with a retro pair of jeans
  • Looking for a really rare and funky 90s Nike Tee, and wearing it in a relatively plain outfit, making sure all eyes are drawn compellingly to the star of the show
    • Striking out with a super oversized look by pairing your tee with a pleated skirt, bicycle shorts or short shorts

     

    Vintage Nike t-Shirt

    How to know the worth of a 90s Nike T-Shirt

    Now you know how both to identify and style this classic piece of salubrious upper-body wear, let’s move on to the nitty gritty of whether that Nike vintage t-shirt in your cart really is worth its accompanying price label. Or not. The tag will tell you a lot for starters, as, if the t shirt was manufactured in the early 90s, it will most likely be more expensive than its late 90s successor, but not always.

    As long as your T is an authentic Nike 90s (ie non-bootleg) piece, you should (at current time of writing) be able to sell it for at least £20 GBP in almost all instances, but it won’t usually go higher than £50 or so unless it’s a really rare piece (of which there are many). As there are so many designs in circulation still today, we recommend carrying out your own preliminary online search to try and nail down the one you’re researching, then scout the market further to see if it really is worth the asking price.

    For a casual buyer, the general guide is, that the cooler the garm looks, the more expensive it will most likely be. The reason behind this, is that these vintage tees are by definition no longer being manufactured, which is the reason for some rare exemplars costing an arm and a leg. Tags will tell you a lot, as this tag is very desirable:

     

    90s Nike Label

    The design is the most important thing here. A unique graphic print or reference to a sports team will raise the price of the tee shirt, with its colour being a further major factor: cream and unique colours usually command a higher price.

    Based on this theory, we’re now ready to put another puzzle to you, but this time in the form of a lil round or two of what we call ‘Vintage Value’!

    Take a look at these 90s Nike tees, without looking at the price (below the image), and guess what you think the worth of each one is:

     

    Vintage Nike Tee

    £25

      

    90s Nike T Shirt

     

    £80

     

    Vintage Nike Tee

     £30

     

    Vintage Nike Tee

     £28

     

    Vintage Nike Tee

    £55

     

    Vintage Nike Tee

    £35

     

    How many did ya get right? Full house? Pair? Zilch!!

    How a 90s Nike T-Shirt fits

    Generally speaking, all the late 80s to 90s Nike tees fall into the category of slightly oversized wear. The popular style was crewneck and featured bold prints, slogans and logos with an overall relatively loose fit.

    Of course, with any styling guide, this section is just that: a guide not a hard and fast rule to be followed to the letter T! Our ideas are general and the pointers may vary from tee to tee. After all, the very purpose of buying vintage, is to cut a unique look! One thing however is clear, and that is the classic 90s Nike T Shirt is neither slim nor tight fitting, as today’s designs are. With a 90s Nike tee, front and back, you can be guaranteed a comfy generous fit!

     

    90s Nike T Shirt Outfit

    Conclusion/Takeaway

    We really hope you now feel fully equipped to identify and style the ultimate authentic vintage tee-shirt made by Nike in the 90s era, decide what best to accompany it with, and are ready to step forth confidently, able to deftly rep this iconic style for yourself. If you are new to vintage, we recommend the Nike 90s T-Shirt as the perfect gateway choice – rescue an existing number today to avoid a new one being added to the pile of two billion newbies this year!

    We’d love to see what style you develop as far as the Nike 90s tee is concerned, so please share your ideas and photos on our Insta and we can all enjoy the diversity of looks you have achieved with this timeless superstar, initially repped quite unwittingly as a piece of practical workwear in summertime heat! Nowadays, it can be used as an item of clothing to express yourself, your beliefs and to show the world who you are!