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Trojan T-Shirts

I was playing around on facebook today, when I came across a Gizmodo article entitled Free T-Shirts Given to Neo-Nazis Revealed a Secret Message After Being Washed. You can read the entire article here.

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Now, I am head over heals in love with this entire concept. From a social standpoint, I adore the message of peace and tolerance that the shirt conveys. As a crypto-buff, I admire the use of steganography (the art/ science of hiding messages). But most important, for the purposes of this blog, I am intrigued by the technical process. In other words, I see this and have to ask, “How did they DO that?”

While I don’t know too much about more complicated dying processes (yet), I know there are 2 basic elements to dying or printing: dyes and resists. Dyes are the what actually penetrate the fabric and create colors. Resists stop the dyes from penetrating into the fiber either in part or in full, this is how all manner of batiks and marbleized effects are done. According to the article, the top image washes out in the first wash. The top image could possibly have been created using some kind of resist, which would not stick to the fabric when washed. However, looking closer at the image of the shirt after washing, you can see that the black of the t-shirt isn’t as dark, in fact it seems that the top layer has broken up into fine particles and dispersed throughout. This might be a resist used in combination with some other paint or dye.  In the commentary to another article on the same shirts, a commentator called Phisrow suggested that “…a starch-binder adhesive mixed with titanium dioxide or a similar pigment powder…” would most likely account for the effect.

Sadly, I do not have an answer as yet as to how they pulled it off, even after spending the last 2 hours searching for an answer on teh internetz. However, this just makes me all the more in awe.

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