The colour-change t-shirt made from red cabbage

Do you remember the huge trend for colour-changing t-shirts? The t-shirt brand Global Hypercolour was ubiquitous in the late 1980s, producing t-shirts and other clothing that changed hue with changes in temperature. It may be a fad you were happy to say goodbye to, but now something similar has been reimagined for our more eco-concious age.

The Lost Explorer

The 21st century colour-change t-shirt has been created as part of a collaboration between ethical clothing brand The Lost Explorer, and cutting-edge colour alchemists The Unseen. We’ve featured some of The Unseen’s fascinating colour experiments here on The Chromologist before – most recently their hair dye that changes colour as you move –  but this one was just too good to miss. The reason? Unlike something that has to be painstakingly created in a lab, the t-shirts in question are something that you can create yourself – and from the most mundane of materials: red cabbage.



Dye map

Dye map by The Lost Explorer

Red cabbage has the ability to change colour according to the ph levels in the water it comes into contact with. It’s thanks to a chemical it contains called anthocyanin, which changes colour according to levels of acidity. This video shows you not only how to dye your own t-shirt with red cabbage, but also presents the vivid differences in colour produced by water from different areas. While London’s water (ph 7.5) produces a pale violet shade, acid rain (ph 2) creates a pretty pink, and water from the Dead Sea (ph 6) produces a sunny yellow. Squeeze some acid lemon juice over the t-shirt and the results are even more striking! Created for World Oceans Day, the t-shirts are also suggested as a way to measure pollution levels in water around the globe. The Lost Explorer has produced a video of Lauren from The Unseen giving step-by-step instructions on how to dye a t-shirt with red cabbage yourself. Check it out to get started here.



Ros Anderson


Ros Anderson is an interiors journalist and blogger who has worked for The Guardian, Elle Decoration, Ideal Home and many more. In 2009 she co-founded cult interiors blog My Friend's House with Jill Macnair, as a place to write about design in a more honest, spontaneous and humorous way.

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