Screen Printing:

Trend Watch: The 3 ‘Rs’ of Fashion?

By Mark Brouillard, Contributing Writer

Comparing the concepts of retro, returning and refreshed helps us understand where current fashion trends are heading. These concepts, prevalent in movies, are mirrored in fashion apparel trends.

August 11, 2014

As my most recent birthday approached, I took some time to think about what I would receive as gifts. Socks were my first thought, followed by undershirts.  

Then, I started thinking about some of the gifts I received throughout my childhood and started to wonder: Are they now trending? I pose that as a question since I am not sure if they are considered retro, returning or refreshed fashion. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the answer is all of the above.

You are probably asking: How does this apply to the current state of affairs in fashion apparel? I believe it has everything to do with our current times and trends. What video game, movie, cartoon, fashion design, brand, television show or personality was popular during your childhood? I am betting that it currently can be — or soon will be — seen as part of a design on apparel.

Retro, Returning, Refreshed
What is a retro item? By definition, it is something that designates the style of an earlier time. Just look around at a local shopping center and you will find printed apparel of bands from the 1960s and 1970s that I doubt any of the young people wearing them ever knew about. In fact, I doubt they could name any of the band members or their hit songs.  Bellbottom jeans and patches on vests also are making a comeback. This is stuff from 50 years ago, yet these items are now in vogue. By the way, if you check the current asking prices, you will wish that you had hung on to your originals.

Returning is the act or an instance of something coming back. Unfortunately, a returning trend does not necessarily mean we are not going to have nightmares about fashion again. Case in point: I was shopping the other day and saw a glittery, pseudo-transfer T-shirt of three little girls (whose names start with “B”) that topped the cartoon charts during the 1990s. They are back with a vengeance, but as long as I don’t have to hear their theme song again, I will be just fine.

The definition that I am choosing for refresh is to freshen in appearance, color, etc. I think there is a movement where retro items are getting refreshed. Examples would be the brands that were original pioneers in sports fashion, now returning as refreshed retro apparel. The one brand that comes to mind is Ocean Pacific (OP). I remember being in the sixth grade when I got my first OP shirt on my birthday. I thought I was the coolest kid on the block. Today, you see their original style in a type of print that has been refreshed with neon colors, as opposed to the solid colors and pastels of years gone by. They are somewhat retro, but not quite returning, as they are slightly different due to being refreshed.  

The main reason for comparing the concepts of retro, returning and refreshed is to understand where current fashion trends are heading. The new blockbuster movies are either remakes of the originals, or based on comic books, TV shows or toys (though some are based on good books). Even new TV stations have now popped up, devoted to airing only old TV shows.

These also mirror fashion trends. Shirts with a guy saying, “You talking to me?” or “Hey, I am walking here” are just the beginning of the return of the refreshed retro look. There also is the clothing line based on pixilated prints of original video games (and the folks wearing them probably never played them and could never tell you the decade in which they originated).  

Not surprisingly, the print treatments also follow the fashion trends. There are transfers made to look like the bulletproof original ones, as well as comic book characters, cartoons and personalities of years gone by. Puff, glitter and clears also are popular again. Even old techniques to simulate transfers are popular on garments now.

I never thought my “Welcome Back, Kotter” T-shirt would be worth anything some 40 years after getting it as a gift, let alone see it in print again. Likewise, I never thought the giant shark shirt (“Jaws”) would be the new big thing. So, as my birthday approaches, I am reminded that what goes around comes around — albeit as a retro, returning, and refreshed fashion item.

I’ll take a size XL, please!

Mark Brouillard, International Coatings’ product manager, has considerable experience in formulating and manufacturing industrial compounds. For the past 16 years, his focus has been on the formulation and product development of textile screen printing inks. Brouillard coordinates the company’s product development efforts and deployments. For more information, visit and read the company’s blog at

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