How to Make Max’s Faded Black T-shirt
by Max Replica
My Mad Max Road Warrior Faded Black T-shirt
Max’s shirt was a black Australian Bonds brand T-shirt. It is faded and torn and usually only glimpsed under his jacket. But you can get a good look at it in the scene where he eats the dog food.
Here are some screencaps of the shirt:
|This shot is a little dark, but it actually reveals a lot of the little holes in his shirt. Try turning the brightness on your monitor up.
|Or, check out this version of the same shot that I blew out the exposure on. You can see a lot of holes:
In order to replicate this item for my screen accurate Road Warrior costume, I first purchased a black Bonds brand T-shirt from Australia. (Currently available for about $18 U.S. but the shipping from Australia makes it cost nearly twice that)
(The light blue Bonds T-shirt he and the other MFP officers wore in the first movie were discontinued years ago, but luckily the black ones are still around).
Using the original Bonds shirt is important for accuracy as it has diagonal raglan cut sleeve seams. U.S. t-shirts don’t generally have these. If you don’t care about 100% screen accuracy then you’ll be fine with just an old black t-shirt (after all, much of the shirt is hidden beneath the leather jacket under most circumstances). Ordering the proper Australian T-shirt is just for the crazy obsessed. And if you’re reading all of this, you may fall into that category, so let’s continue…
When ordering a new Bonds shirt keep in mind that their sizes run a bit small. That’s okay for the blue shirts from the first movie as those were meant to fit tight, but Max’s black T-shirt is a bit looser. I’ve tried several sizes of these, but my current Road Warrior shirt is based on a size XL / 20 (in U.S. t-shirts I would normally wear a medium).
Max’s shirt, as you can see from these screen shots, has the sleeves cut off, the collar cut off and is faded to a brownish-black. Also, there are numerous large and small holes throughout the shirt (it wasn’t until the HD version of the movie became available that I realized just how many holes were in his shirt).
The first attempt we made at replicating this shirt involved us leaving it on a mannequin in the California sun for about two months. This definitely faded the shirt (with a bit more fading near the shoulders because of the angle of the sun) and gave it a cool look. However, it faded to more of a light black or even grayish color, as opposed to brownish. This is probably what Max’s shirt would REALLY have looked like after wandering the outback for a few years, but I wanted one like the movie.
Our next step was to experiment with bleaching.
Luckily, we had the assistance of a bleach and dye master with many years experience in the garment business.
The magic formula he finally zeroed in on was:
A solution of 2 percent bleach, soaked for 5 minutes in a 1/20 fabric to water (by weight) ratio bath – with warm water (100 – 110 degrees F). The t-shirt was about halfway immersed in the water and was moved around by hand.
Then washed by hand to get the bleach out, then put in the drier at low to medium heat.
BE WARNED – All shirts are different, and all bleaching conditions are different. I cannot guarantee that the above technique won’t ruin your shirt. Also, it’s important that you not cut up your shirt before this process. Washing and bleaching the shirt after all of the cutting can cause it to stretch and lose its shape (these are 100% cotton so they are prone to stretching and shrinking no matter what you do).
After the color was done, I studied screen shots in order to cut off the collar and sleeves as close as possible. I even tried to make similar holes in the front. I probably need to make more holes in order to match Max’s, but I wanted to start slow so as not to overdo it.
(Note: the color of the backs of the shirts is a bit more accurate than the front, they’re more of a lighter, brownish, faded black. The way the sun was hitting the mannequin made the front of the shirts look a bit darker).