How Fabric Displays Work

T-Shirt Television

T-Shirt TV A model wears a T-Shirt TV display at a sporting event.
T-Shirt TV A model wears a T-Shirt TV display at a sporting event.
Photo courtesy T-Shirt TV

In 2004, Brand Marketers introduced Adver-Wear, shirts with built-in 11-inch television screens and a four-speaker sound system. Adam Hollander designed and produced the first Adver-Wear shirts -- also known as T-Shirt TV -- because he felt that static advertisements don't reach younger consumers. In interviews, Hollander said that young people had become so used to television that marketers needed to find new ways to incorporate video and animation in advertising strategies or risk losing customers.

The shirts weigh about six and a half pounds. Because they use flat panel television screens, the shirts are a little bulky. Hollander created the shirts specifically for advertising, with no intention of offering them to the public, so comfort and practicality weren't of much concern in the design process. The components are also too expensive to sell T-Shirt TV clothing to the consumer market.

In addition to the screen and speaker system, the shirts need a portable power source -- usually in the form of a lithium-ion battery. It also needs a video source: a custom-built computer that can store and play digital media efficiently. Brand Marketers can incorporate the system into most types of clothes as well as include interactive features like a handheld touch-screen if clients request it. Currently, the systems can play any length of audio or video files separately or in a loop. Future versions of the shirt will include Bluetooth and WiFi capability, adding more interactive features to the clothing.

The marketing firm Adwalker offers a similar product: A portable, wearable computer system. A padded harness acts as the frame for the system, which includes a portable PC, computer monitor, a handheld touch screen and a printer. Clients can send Adwalker videos, software, logos and other computer files and Adwalker incorporates them into eye-catching presentations. An Adwalker employee wears the harness and interacts with the general public. Using this system, the Adwalker employee can:

  • Display graphics like company logos or screenshots of Web pages on the computer monitor
  • Play video and audio
  • Run interactive computer software, including games, which members of the public can access using the handheld touch-screen
  • Print tickets, coupons or brochures for customers
  • Capture customer data using spreadsheet or database software
  • Interact with the public and answer questions about the advertised product
A model wearing an AdWalker display interacts with the public. A model wearing an AdWalker display interacts with the public.
A model wearing an AdWalker display interacts with the public.
Photo courtesy AdWalker

The system is bulkier than Adver-Wear, but it's even more interactive and has more functions than T-Shirt TV.

As advertising companies continue to search for new ways to grab our attention, we'll likely see more applications of fabric displays. We may even see applications where entire outfits act like a television screen, with images wrapping around from front to back.

To learn more about fabric displays and related topics, follow the links below.

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More Great Links


  • Adwalker
  • T-Shirt TV
  • Guglielmi, Michel and Johannesen, Hanne-Louise. "Thermochromic Ink applied to wearables." IPSI - New York. 2006.
  • "Philips illuminates IFA 2006 with production-ready Lumalive textile garments." Philips Press Release. August 24, 2006.
  • "What is EL Wire?"
  • "The Science of Static Electricity." The Bakken Library and Museum.
  • "Fabric display." United States Patent Application # 20070076407. April 5, 2007.
  • Lacasse, K. and Baumann, W. "Textile Chemicals: Environmental Data and Facts." Springer. 2004.
  • Cambridge Display Technology.
  • Collins, Clayton. "'Billboards' That Walk, Talk, And Even Flirt a Little." The Christian Science Monitor. July 8, 2004.