There really was nothing quite like 90’s fashion. 

Bomber Jackets. Surf Shorts. Timberlands. Fanny Packs. Looking back, it certainly was a perplexing time for the industry. And yet, there are those of us who look back to the days of JNCO jeans and boat shoes with an overwhelming sense of longing. 

Hey, I’ll be the first to admit that platform sandals and slip dresses were more than a little odd. However, they made a lot more sense than the upside-down sunglasses and leather watermelon bags that have shown up as part of this newly birthed decade. 

One of the more fun fashion trends to come out of the days of Smash Mouth and Super Nintendo were HyperColor shirts. Arriving at retailers in 1991, this unique line of garments used leuco dyes that allowed them to change color with alterations in temperature. 

Let’s take a look back at this early ’90s fashion phenomenon!

The History Of HyperColor Shirts

New For ’91

Arriving at stores across the globe in February of 1991, HyperColor clothes were manufactured by Seattle-based distributor Generra Sportswear.

Setting themselves apart from everything else available on the market at the time, each piece contained a thermochromic pigment that allowed the clothes to change between two different colors – one when cold, and the other when warm. Think of it as a mood ring for your body. 

Unsurprisingly, HyperColor tees took the market by storm. People just couldn’t get enough of this futuristic fabric, and the cry for all things HyperColor soon became so fast and furious that Generra Sportswear found themselves unable to keep up with public demand. In fact, $50-Million worth of HyperColor products were sold in the first three months alone!

The concept behind HyperColor clothes was just too cool to pass up! Thanks to the patented Metamorphic Color System, orange shirts could turn yellow, blue could become green and purple could change to red – all with something as simple as the touch of a hand!

Radical, right?

Throw one of these bad boys on with some acid wash jeans and a pair of Air Jordans and you were guaranteed to get some notice at the arcade or food court!

And, what a bargain HyperColor shirts offered consumers! Not only did they temporarily change color, but it was almost like you were getting two shirts for the price of one! 

Okay, maybe not. But, we all certainly seemed to think so. At least for a little while.

However, as the saying goes: ‘Not All That Glitters Is Gold!”

The HyperColor Crash

Despite the overwhelming popularity of the product, it soon became evident that the concept behind HyperColor clothes was not all that it was cracked up to be. 

For one thing, wearing a t-shirt with color-changing capabilities seemed to give everyone the right to put their hands all over you. Whether you wanted it, or not. Heck, I had a friend in public school who loved nothing more than blasting his hot breath all over me whenever I dared venture out of the house in my navy blue HyperColor. Needless to say, that got old really fast! And yeah, we don’t talk much these days as a result.

Shadow Shifter Color Changing Adult Short Sleeve Blue to White T-Shirts for Men and Women - Heat Reactive like 90s Hypercolor (Blue to White tshirt, S)
  • Innovative Heat Reactive Technology:** These Shadow Shifter shirts change color from blue to white with a simple touch of the hand or heat in your environment.
  • 100% High Quality Ring Spun Cotton** Our *blue to white t-shirts* are made from premium 100% cotton, ensuring maximum softness, breathability, and durability for all-day wear.

Kidding, of course!

Additionally, keep in mind that this was a line of shirts that changed color with heat – all kinds of heat. Including the heat generated from your body. Sure, HyperColor was cool, but start sweating it out on the track during gym and your classmates would soon take notice!

Picture gross puddles of yellow puddling up under your armpits.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the color change effects on the garments could be permanently damaged if washed in hotter than recommended water. This feature could also be ruined if the clothes were bleached, ironed, or tumble-dried. 

Again, they were cool. But, they were also pretty high maintenance as well. 

The HyperColor craze soon went the way of Beanie Babies and bleached tips, with demand finally flatlining in 1992. Generra Sportswear would sadly be forced to lay off a quarter of their workforce before filing for bankruptcy soon after.

Don’t Call It A Comeback!

After Generra Sportswear folded, the HyperColor business for the United States was sold to The Seattle T-Shirt Company in 1993. Two years later, Generra Sportswear, who ended up retaining the HyperColor rights for the International market, would emerge once more – this time as a licensing business. 

The thermochromatic properties of HyperColor dye

That said, at least for a time, the HyperColor craze was done. The world had quickly fallen out of love with this unique line of chameleon clothing. And, can you blame them? It’s kind of hard to impress girls when your stylish purple color-changing shirt is pockmarked by patches of pink following a rather intense game of three-on-three with your pals. 

Also, you’ve got to admit, anyone who wore one best not mind having their personal space invaded by anyone with hands. Or, hot breath. Or, a blow dryer. Oy!

Seriously, what were they thinking?

And yet, it wouldn’t be long before the concept was revived once more!

The Return Of HyperColor

Fashion trends may fall off of the public’s radar over time. Yet, it is not uncommon to see certain cuts and styles revived before too long. And the concept of color-changing clothes was no exception to the rule! 

After the Generra name was acquired by Public Clothing Co. in 2002, the popular color-changing technique was brought back by a number of apparel brands.

Companies like Del Sol now offer a wide range of products – ranging from clothes to accessories, that will change color with sunlight. A concept first pioneered by their founders in 1994.

The trend ramped up once more in 2020, with online retailers like Sea’Sons offering shoppers everything from chameleon hoodies to the world’s first-ever color-changing swim trunks! Yes, what goes around truly does come back around.

Shadow Shifter Color Changing Adult Short Sleeve Green to Yellow T-Shirts for Men and Women - Heat Reactive like 90s Hypercolor (Green to Yellow tshirt, S)
  • Innovative Heat Reactive Technology:** These Shadow Shifter shirts change color from green to yellow with a simple touch of the hand or heat in your environment.
  • 100% High Quality Ring Spun Cotton** Our *green to yellow t-shirts* are made from premium 100% cotton, ensuring maximum softness, breathability, and durability for all-day wear.

HyperColor Shirts Were An Idea Ahead Of Its Time

Like I said earlier in this piece, the nineties was a truly odd time for the fashion industry. And yet, amidst the oddness that was flannel suits and light-up sneakers, the HyperColor brand gave us something simple and fun.

Yes, the concept was not without flaws. However, instead of being looked at as a failure, perhaps we should instead look back upon the whole HyperColor craze as an idea that was simply a little too ahead of its time. 

Yes, the concept behind HyperColor clothes was really neat. And yet, when it came down to it, the fad was quickly outweighed by rampant personal space invasion and psychedelic sweat stains. 

That said, while I am by no means a slave to fashion, I can’t help but wax nostalgic when it comes to that magical time back in 1991 when color-changing clothes were all the rage. At least until we hit the gym, or found ourselves stuck in a boiling Buick station wagon while en route to the mall on a steamy summer afternoon. 

Ah, HyperColor. We hardly knew ye!

Last update on 2024-07-18 at 22:29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API