10 Tips for Identifying Vintage Clothing Labels

To know how to identify vintage clothing labels has a lot of benefits. For instance, we can see if people sell real vintage or only modern second-hand clothing. That means when they claim to sell true vintage clothes; a double check is always better. The overall knowledge is also beneficial for oneself if you want to own real vintage clothes and see if the money is really worth it. It's a good guide for vintage clothing

I will show you some tips and tricks on identifying the tags in a vintage clothing shop or online, if that's possible. 

1. The Fabric of The Label

Usually, the fabric of the tags says a lot if an item is vintage or not, but unfortunately, it doesn't say how old it is specifically. However, the label and logo have changed through the years. The modern ones are often made out of thin fabric, or they're even only printed. It has probably to do with the manufacturing costs and speed of the production.

One of the most famous brands in the vintage fashion market is Nike. You can see an example of the difference throughout the years.


            Modern Tag                           late 90’s/early 2000s        


Above are two examples of the Nike tag from the 90s - to today. 

Not only the fabric has changed but also the country where the products were manufactured, which is the second point. 

2. Manufacture/Made In

It is not a coincidence that older products were manufactured way more often in the USA or Mexico. It doesn't mean that they didn't produce in other countries like Bangladesh, Thailand, or Indonesia. They sure did, but nowadays, it is very rare to find modern clothes manufactured in the USA/Mexico. The reason behind this is the manufacturing costs since it is costly in the states and much cheaper in the other countries.

90's Fruit of the Loom and 80's Russell Label made in USA and Mexico

3. Different Logo Tags

Brands have changed their logo tags quite often than we think. Especially when it's a brand that's at least 30 years old, it is a part of the cycle, and it does not only give a brand a new character and helps us identify the tags and the era of the vintage clothes. Here is an example of popular vintage items.


             Modern Carhartt Tag                             90’s Carhartt Tag

As you can see, Carhartt still has the spiral as their logo, but they changed the placement. In contrast to the 90's tag, the logo on the modern label is bigger and the text smaller. I can't tell why they did it but sometimes change is very important and necessary. It also helps us to identify the age of the clothing easier and quicker. 

4. The Look of The Tag Says It All

This one is for cardigans, pullovers, and dresses, especially for women's vintage clothing

Sometimes you're lucky, and the vintage clothing labels look exactly like it's vintage, and they often are because nowadays, not only the clothing but also the labels look modern. For instance, if modern vintage dresses confuse you whether it's true vintage, just check the label; you often see it immediately. I'll demonstrate two labels as an example:


5. Wool Marks

On the vintage fashion market, you can find a lot of wool clothes. Authentic vintage clothes have wool marks which can help with validating. The wool marks differentiate into three categories: 

The first one is 100% wool and is at most not older than 1963. 
The second mark is 50-99% wool till 1971.
and the last one is 30-49% wool till 1999.


6. RN Numbers

RN numbers were used in 1952, the first time from the number 00101. You can determine the age of the item by looking at the RN numbers. 

Without doing any big math here, you can simply count the digits to see which decade the product is from. If it's five digits, it's probably from the' 60s-'70s, and if it's six digits, it's from the '80s. 

When the number is very low, for instance, 03654, it is probably from the '50s. 

You can see the RN number directly on the label. 

There are already calculators on the internet, especially for RN numbers, so if you're unsure, you can just pull out your phone and tip the RN number quickly.

For instance, this RN 62245 was made in 1977 (5 digits). 

7. Countries That No Longer Exist

Odd names of countries or countries that don't even exist anymore can still be found on vintage tags. For example, "made in the Republic of China" or "British Crown Colony." Today it's only a country name like China or Hong Kong. 

8. Collaborating Productions

Brands used to collaborate like Hanes with Harley Davidson or Nike with Fruit of the Loom. When people see a Harley Davidson T-Shirt with a different tag (Hanes), they may think the product is fake. But it's not right at all. They used to work together, which indicates that the product is actually vintage! Sometimes there is no exact year given, but it's usually from the '80s to the '90s. 

Another famous collaboration is between Nike and Fruit of The Loom. When you find a product from Fruit of the Loom with a Nike logo, it's probably from the 90s, and you're lucky because they're rare!

9. The Tag Does Sometimes Have a Date

It is not often the case, but sometimes the tag has a date on it, and you can simply see how old the product is. Usually, vintage Disney or Harley Davidson Sweatshirts have the feature, and it's marked with a "@" before the date. Harley or Band T-Shirts also have the datum right on the front or back of the product since it's telling when the bike week or the band tour was. 

10. 3D Emblem, Grey Tag

If you find items with a 3D Emblem or a Grey Tag, you're also lucky – they're basically from the '80s! 

Harley Davidson items have a 3D Emblem tag, so you know that the older ones have different labels, and the newer ones have their own Harley Davidson Tags. 

The Brand was founded in 1903 by the three brothers, William S. Harley, Arthur, and William A. Davidson. It was initially intended for passionate motorcyclists, but today it's a world-renowned brand, and anyone who likes the vintage flair loves the Harley Davidson clothing. 

On the other hand, the Grey Tag is the label from Nike from the year 1989-1994.

It is characterized by its grey background and red Nike Logo, which is why it's called the grey label. 


This guide should help make your search for vintage clothing easier. Now you basically know what to look out for and how simple it actually is once you know the fundamental knowledge. 

I am sure there are many more factors on how to identify vintage clothing labels.

Whether you're looking for women's or men's vintage clothing, the tips are the same. 




Meet The Author

Dan Shewan

Originally from the U.K., Dan Shewan is a journalist and web content specialist who now lives and writes in New England. Dan’s work has appeared in a wide range of publications in print and online, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Pacific Standard magazine, The Independent, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other outlets.

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