Hypercolor's Back (Sort of), and It's Pointing Out Pollution

Hypercolor's Back (Sort of), and It's Pointing Out Pollution

Julie Leibach
Published: 01/25/2011


Photo courtesy of Dana Hundley/Wikipedia. A hairdryer was used to change the blue to turquoise.

The 90s left much to be sartorially desired, agreed? Flannels, Umbros, and skorts somehow made it into my wardrobe. One item that didn’t: hypercolor shirts, those mysterious jerseys that appeared as one color in “cool” environments, another in “warm” ones (often created by handprints). Looks like the gimmick’s back, but this time with a purpose beyond style.

Two New York University grad students have created prototype sweatshirts that change colors upon exposure to pollution—“anything from car exhaust to second-hand smoke,” reported Abbie Fentress Swanson for WNYC's culture section. One shirt dons a set of lungs, the other a heart. “Veins” running through the organs turn blue when a censor in the fabric detects high carbon monoxide levels, notes Swanson.

The students—Nien Lam and Sue Ngo—designed the shirts for a project they call “Warning Signs,” part of their master’s coursework for NYU Tisch School of the Arts. "Air pollution is kind of one of these things that's all around us," Lam says in Swanson’s piece. "You don't see it, but it exists, and it's invisible—and we wanted to bring that to light." Click on the image below to see Lam's shirt in action.