T-shirts in the News: Wear Your Way to Comfort and Recovery

A recent story about T-shirts in the news made us feel really good about our company. The story was about a teenager with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. And of course you may wonder about how such a story could make us feel good, but bear with us, the story was about comfort. His response to his cancer made us feel good about our dedication to it.

A fashionable and athletic teen, our new comfort hero created a clothing line to help him (and others in his position) keep his dignity through his chemo.

The clothing line is called ComfPort and it combines style and comfort with functionality. The T-shirts have a pocket that unbuttons and gives unfettered access to a cancer patient’s port, the surgically planted catheter that connects to a main vein and is used to distribute chemotherapy drugs and draw blood. You can read the whole story here.

We will rarely write about another clothing company, but this one’s mission is just too good to ignore. His Kickstarter campaign states, “Fashion forward clothing that is designed for cancer patients and their supporters. 1 shirt purchased = 1 donated to a cancer patient! ” In this product, fashion and dignity work hand-in-hand to promote healing and comfort – both for those with cancer and those who love them.

smiley_faceFeeling comfortable is an important part of the healing process. Imagine having to take off and put on your shirt dozens of times each day. This is not a comfortable process under the best circumstances, now add the discomfort of jostling a port in your chest and you can see our hero’s dilemma.

Emotional and tactile comfort here are the keys to making it all work. From the moment we are born until the end of our days, our tactile senses feed our brains information about our environment. When our brains receive messages about comfort, happiness (and maybe even recovery) ensues.

Comfort Colors t-shirts may not help you recover from cancer, but they are known to be very comfortable, which may just be the first step toward your comfort and happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

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Color Therapy, Coloring Books, and Finding Some Comfort

rainbow-colors-spectrumUp here in the Northeast (Comfort Colors‘ primary dye houses are in Vermont and Massachusetts) we are starved for color right about now. We seem to be stuck in the grey season between winter and something more cheery and well, colorful. (It’s no surprise that the film Fifty Shades of Grey was released in February, the often dreary color is something most of us could relate to in February.) We need some rich, deep, vibrant color.

Color therapy, under various guises, has been around since the beginning of civilization. There are records of color “cures” in Ancient Egypt dating back to 1500 BCE. Later, Aristotle did all kinds of studies on light and color mixing. Issac Newton coined the term ‘spectrum’ to describe different colors. He concluded that the color white consisted of several different colors. Albert Einstein received his Nobel Prize for his discovery of the relationship between color and matter.

Color is caused in part due to light absorption and molecular vibrations. These vibrations effect us in subtle and not-so subtle ways. Today everyone from business owners to airline seat designers knows that color can have a powerful effect on important things like productivity, happiness, and comfort.

Lately people have started seeking out these effects through coloring books. This week “Adult Coloring Books” are the topping the best seller lists on Amazon. Mind you, these are not “Adult” coloring books, as in X-rated, these coloring books feature secret gardens, enchanted forests, and magic castles.

Some folks find these adult coloring books soothing and therapeutic; others call them puerile and ludicrous. Critics of the books lament our national loss of creativity (we used to do things like paint water colors for relaxation) and liken the coloring books to other mindless activities in which we hide from our responsibilities and real life. On the other hand, fans of the books find relief from the stresses of their daily lives in the peaceful pursuit that reminds them of childhood.

Sure we all enjoyed coloring books as kids. And we fully appreciate the power color has on our moods and perceptions. But for us, at Comfort Colors, the jury is still out on the “Adult Coloring Book.” We are not quite sure if its silly or soothing. What do you think?

And where is Bob Ross when you really need him?

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April Fools Day

April_Fools'_DayThis is no joke. The calendar says it is April Fools Day. The weather report confirms it.T.S. Elliot’s famous poem The Wasteland describes the situation this way:
APRIL is the cruelest month, breeding    
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing    
Memory and desire, stirring    
Dull roots with spring rain.

Weather forecasts underscore April’s cruelty: Unseasonable heat caused California’s famous poppy bloom to fall asleep, just as the Wicked Witch of the West predicted; Unseasonable cold killed Vermont’s legendary Lake Champlain Monster, claims one Vermont news source; Unseasonable cold weather has set records in four West Virginia cities. It is as if Mother Nature is playing a cruel joke on us.

But what is the deal with all this joking in April? We understand foolishness, April is the beginning of Spring, the season of love and love can turn us all into fools. But what of the Day? Why do we have April Fools Day?

There are a couple explanations. The first is that before the 16th century, New Year’s Day was celebrated on April 1st, which makes total sense as this is pretty much the beginning of the agricultural year. Things are growing – life begins in the Spring. But in 1583 Pope Gregory XIII, of Gregorian Calendar fame, moved New Year’s Day from April 1st to January 1st. The move had to do with Easter – a celebration that was initially tied to the spring equinox. There were also some debates about the length of the year, the debate was over a matter of minutes. The new calendar became a pretty big deal – adopted initially by all of the Christian countries of Europe and eventually by everybody for the sake of convenience in international trade.

Back in the day, the 16th Century day, those people who continued to celebrate the new year in April were considered fools.

NewHistorian.com sites some other possible origins:

There are other theories about the beginnings of April Fools’ Day which trace its origins to before the switch in calendars. Some suggest its foundations actually came from various pagan traditions connected to the start of Spring. In particular, they draw attention to the Roman festival of Hilaria, a day of celebration in the Isis-Osiris cult. Part of a month of festivities in March that were focused on the life of Attis, the son and lover of Cybele, the day of Hilaria brought the festival to a close with a day of rejoicing for Attis’ resurrection. Even though the Roman celebration did not occur on 1st April, (the day of Hilaria was actually on 25th March) it contained hints of the rituals associated with modern April Fools’ – practical jokes and fancy dress. There were other pagan festivals which took place to celebrate the start of Spring, many of which were also based on humour and deceptive fancy dress. (http://www.newhistorian.com/origin-of-april-fools-day/3399/)

Hilaria sounds pretty good. But a month of festivities! We’d be at wit’s end!

image attribution: By Flickr user baejaar (Dheepak Ra) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

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International Day of Happiness – March 20. Oops we missed it…Not!

united-nations-303670_1280March 20 was the UN International Day of Happiness, a day designed to promote happiness as a legitimate goal of public policy and social progress. We missed it! Here at Comfort Colors, we certainly did feel something happy in the air, but the special UN day passed us by without much more notice.

We love the idea of a day designed to promote happiness (we like to think every single day should promote such design). That public policy should have this goal is commendable, indeed. We also believe that happiness can and should be a legitimate goal of business. Happy employees do a better job. Happy bosses treat their employees better and make better decisions. Happy businesses inspire loyalty among their customers and staff.

When your brain is happy, your work improves. Look at it this way: negative emotions like fear cause your body and your mind to basically close down and run. When you are confronted by a tiger in the wilderness, this might be a good thing, but at the office or the shop, not so much. Positive emotions on the other hand help you see new possibilities and even expand your skills and our limits. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises…and eventually maybe even your paycheck will rise. When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.

When your laughing the sun comes shining through.

It’s all about neuroplasticity, which means that thought has the power to actually change the structure of your brain. And why not? Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and positive psychology expert who spent 12 years at Harvard studying what makes people happy, suggests that you can master your brain’s neuroplasticity and create more happiness in your work life by practicing these five habits for 21 days: gratitude, journaling, exercise, meditation, and email. Here is his list (from his article in Psychology Today):

1. Write down three new things you are grateful for each day into a blank word document or into the free app I Journal. Research shows this will significantly improve your optimism even 6 months later, and raises your success rates significantly.

2. Write for 2 minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours. This is a strategy to help transform you from a task-based thinker, to a meaning based thinker who scans the world for meaning instead of endless to-dos. This dramatically increases work happiness.

3. Exercise for 10 minutes a day. This trains your brain to believe your behavior matters, which causes a cascade of success throughout the rest of the day.

4. Meditate for 2 minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out. This will help you undo the negative effects of multitasking. Research shows you get multiple tasks done faster if you do them one at a time. It also decreases stress and raises happiness.

5. Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team. This significantly increases your feeling of social support, which in my study at Harvard was the largest predictor of happiness for the students. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-happiness-advantage/201108/5-ways-turn-happiness-advantage)

At Comfort Colors, we are all about happiness – it is a fundamental aspect of comfort. These five habits seem like good ones to practice. Let’s do this happiness-at-work thing!

 

 

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Celestial Matters: Equinox, Eclipse, Freaky Friday, and T-shirt Design

moonToday is the first day of spring and things are looking up. Way up. To the heavens, in fact. Today is not only the Vernal Equinox (the First Day of Spring), it is also the occasion of the Super Moon and a Solar Eclipse. In astrological terms, today is the big Kahuna. In astronomical terms “This is the Earth’s first — and only — total solar eclipse of the year and the first one since November 2013, NASA reports. The next total solar eclipse in the USA will be in August 2017.”
(http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/03/18/solar-eclipse/24970217/)

A Super Moon, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon T-shirt design comes to mind, occurs “when a full or new moon coincides with perigee — the moon’s closest point to Earth in its orbit. Basically, the moon will appear a bit bigger and brighter than usual in the night sky.” A Solar Eclipse “occurs when the moon’s orbit of Earth positions it directly in between us and the sun, causing the moon to temporarily block out some of the sun’s light.” (Read the whole article and see a cool illustrative video here.) The Vernal Equinox happens once a year (if we are lucky).

The coincidence of these three celestial events is rare indeed! This celestial line up happens once in a blue moon. Well, the blue moon is a totally different story that is much more common. The Wall Street Journal calls today’s line up  extremely rare and goes on to explain the three phenomena this way:

“Solar eclipses are rare. The illusion of a supermoon can be witnessed several times a year, when the moon flies closest to the Earth and therefore appears larger than usual. The spring equinox occurs every year, and marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere.…A solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely blocks the view from Earth of the sun’s disk, turning day into night. Though total solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth every 18 months on average, they recur at any given place just once every 360 to 410 years. The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun but 400 times closer, so it appears the same size in the sky and virtually covers all of the sun during a solar eclipse.”

Some observers are calling it Freaky Friday, other Fierce Friday. We’re just calling it a gift. While T-shirt design is usually a little more down-to-earth, we’d love to see something commemorating this great day. Oh and it is the weekend. Happy Friday!

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The First Day of Spring is Nigh

crocusAccording to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, spring, or the Vernal Equinox arrives on March 20 at 6:45pm EDT. The Vernal Equinox is the day when “day and night are each approximately 12 hours long (with the actual time of equal day and night, in the Northern Hemisphere, occurring a few days before the vernal equinox). The Sun crosses the celestial equator going northward; it rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west.” (http://www.almanac.com/content/first-day-seasons).

We are not so sure about the parenthetical bit about the actual time of equal day and night. True, the days are getting longer. And we are enjoying the increased daylight – maybe more this Spring than historically – but here in the Northeast (our T-shirt company has two primary locations: one in Vermont and one in Massachusetts) we are in a bit of limbo. Some call is Stick Season. Some call it Mud Season. Both names are quite accurate.

And so Stuck in the Mud, as it were, we are very keen for signs of spring. For us, spring isn’t just another season; it’s a chance to begin again. Here are a few signs that came to mind:

  • Seeds for sale in local stores
  • Daylight Savings Time
  • The beginning of Maple Sugaring season
  • The return of the red-winged black birds
  • Ice out (this is when the ice on frozen lakes and rivers gives way)
  • Snow drops, crocuses, daffodils
  • The smell of damp earth
  • Temperatures above freezing
  • Nesting birds
  • The beginning of baseball season
  • Trout season
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What it means to have your roots in Vermont

If you are in Vermont and it is still below zero when you read this blog post, you might think you are either completely nuts, part timber wolf, or the most hardy of souls. To remain here in the northern tundra of New England during such a winter is a true testament to your depth of character.

We have had a good old fashioned cold snap here in Vermont this winter. If you are the rugged, salt-of-the-earth type, you are relishing your resilience right about now. We Vermonters tend to think of ourselves as befitting the stereotype. We are resourceful, determined, unflappable, indomitable, optimistic, independent, witty, tough, and above all entrepreneurial.

We have our roots here in Vermont. These New England proverbs hold a ring of truth for us:
“Wishing isn’t doing.”
“The world is your cow. But you have to do the milking.”
“The hardest work is to do nothing.”
“The quickest way to do many things is to do one thing at a time.”

pieWe take particular pride in what we make and what we do. We strive to be the very best. You might think of it as Yankee ingenuity on steroids, but really it is more of a stubborn kind of survival instinct. We quash cabin fever with creativity.

Here are two great examples of what we’re talking about, both happen to have their origins in Greensboro, the current epicenter of awesome, about an hour’s drive from Northfield, the home of Comfort Colors. The Vermont cheesemaker, Jasper Hill, recently won a “best in the world” award at the annual World Cheese Awards in London. Its Bayley Hazen Blue sweeping the other 2,600 entries in the competition. Jasper Hill also won two “super gold awards for its sheep’s milk cheeses.” And for those of us who cannot live on cheese alone, Hill Farmstead Brewery makes the world’s best beer. This award was given by by RateBeer, a beer peer review site – the world’s largest and most popular. (Source: http://www.wcax.com)

Like our neighbors, we take great pride and comfort in our roots. And like them, we also try to keep a little bit of a sense of humor about it.

To the European, a Yankee is an American.
To an American, a Yankee is a New Englander.
To a New Englander, a Yankee is a Vermonter.
To a Vermonter, a Yankee is someone who eats apple pie for breakfast.
And to a Vermonter who eats apple pie for breakfast
a Yankee is someone who eats it with a knife.
~An old Yankee joke

(http://www.theheartofnewengland.com/Quotes.html)

 

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Is it T-shirt weather yet?

Spring will come some day. We are almost sure of it!

Spring will come some day. We are almost sure of it!

All along the East Coast and New England, residents are breaking out the bad language. First they were stoic, then humorous, but now they are just downright angry. These normally pleasant people have had enough of winter. Especially in Boston where record-low temperatures conspire with record-high snowfall – even the New York Times calls this winter “Boston’s Winter From Hell.” (You can read the article here.)

Many of us heretofore considered Hell a little bit warmer. But now we know better. Which brings us to this important perennial question: “Is it T-shirt weather  yet?” Depending on how hardy a soul you are, T-shirt weather might be 65 degrees. Our Southern friends might not consider baring arms until the temperatures reach the upper 70’s.

With the Vernal Equinox, the official start of Spring, less than a month away, we thought we’d take a look at some regional forecasts for shirtsleeves season, T-shirt weather.

Let’s say that for the average T-shirt lover, 70 is warm enough to go out there in just a T. Given this 70 degree benchmark we took a look at average high temperatures in some of our nation’s larger cities.

T-shirt season comes to these cities in April:
Atlanta
Charlotte
Houston
Memphis

T-shirt season comes to these cities in May:
Baltimore
Chicago
Cincinnati
Denver
Hartford
Kansas City

T-shirt season does not come to these cities until JUNE!
Boston
Buffalo
Milwaukee
Minneapolis

We are so sorry, Boston! Being a Vermont company, we are in the same, chilly seasonal boat. Can we recommend something in nice long-sleeve t-shirt or maybe a nice warm sweatshirt?

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T-shirts and High Fashion Firsts

As a T-shirt company, we think we are the very pinnacle of fashion (or maybe anti-fashion). We love t-shirt culture and feel it is superior (at least in comfort) to the excessive primping and preparations of high fashion that in the end only detract from who we really are.

We have been known to eschew the paragons of high fashion, but this week’s New York Fashion Week has opened our eyes. Some of the designs on the catwalk this week have been breath-taking – some for their great beauty, others for their you’ve-got-to-be-kidding factor.

fashion_modelBut the greatest eye-opener of the event has been its inclusiveness (not a word often associated with haute couture). New York Fashion Week has blown the doors off our preconceptions of beauty and style with a number of firsts: a model with Vitiligo (a skin condition characterized by the loss of pigment in patterns), a model with Down syndrome, a male amputee model, a paralyzed teenage model, and a 5-year-old designer (no kidding).

Fashion has a way of reflecting reality and by exposure making it more acceptable. We hope that like other fashion statements that made their way into the mainstream these first from New York are just the beginning.

Fashion Week is an international show hosted by Mercedes-Benz and presented in places like Miami, Berlin, Tokyo, Mumbai, and Istanbul. We look forward to other statements and firsts.

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Comfort Colors Fashion Report: Color of the Month White with Shades of Grey

While up here in Vermont and New England, the color of the month is white with shades of grey (and not the steamy kind of shades of grey, but those slushy ones cast by snowplows),  the Pantone Fashion Report for the Fall of 2015 is out and full of color! And just in time for New York Fashion Week – February 12-19.

As a T-shirt company we are interested in fashion. Because we feel that the beloved cotton T-shirt is everyone’s perennial favorite fashion statement, you might say that we are interested in the edges of fashion, maybe even the outskirts of fashion.

We love Pantone’s color of the year. Marsala is such a delicious color, we were thrilled to see Pantone’s top ten for 2015 Fall. Here they are:

Chromatography_1841_FieldDried Herb
Desert Sage
Stormy Weather
Oak Bluff
Marsala
Biscay Bay
Reflecting Pond
Cadmium Orange
Cashmere Rose
Amethyst Orchid

We love them all! They have the hue and delectable, chewy feel of our favorite garment dyed Ts. We love the names as well. Each name describes its color quite well – except for maybe Reflecting Pond. This color could easily be a silvery grey or some kind of aqua marine blue, but for Pantone it is a deep blue-purple with brown overtones. It might sound like mud or a bruise, but it is indeed a velvety, sensual color. “Conveying a message of credibility, Reflecting Pond is a serious shade that speaks to the need for stability and security.”

Pantone’s executive director Leatrice Eiseman describes the palette this way: Juxtaposition of color from opposite sides of the spectrum emphasizes poise and confidence on the runway. The Fall 2015 palette is rooted in multi-faceted, androgynous colors that can be worn to portray effortless sophistication across men’s and women’s fashion; it is the first time we are seeing a truly unisex color palette.(http://www.pantone.com/pages/fcr/?season=fall&year=2015&pid=11)

The colors are wonderful, but greatest thing about the Pantone colors this year is gender freedom (gender neutrality?). 2015 is the first year Pantone will not issue different palettes for men and women. “A grand shift towards an evolving color palette that is not reliant on color distinctions typically assigned to each gender. This Fall, designers look to sartorial styling and fabrics to define both a masculine and feminine interpretation of hues and color combinations.”

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