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Light-sensitive clothing takes us back to the 'hypercolor' era

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
April 16, 2015
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1991 was a turbulent year -- the internet first arrived to the public, Arnold bid us "Hasta la Vista, baby" and the hypercolor fad swept the nation. Yes, those were the garments that changed hue from body heat, thanks to a combination of so-called leuco dyes and inappropriate touching. Mercifully, the craze died quickly because of insurmountable problems; namely the colors stopped changing after a few trips through the wash and it was just kind of gross. Now a company called The Crated is trying to reincarnate the best part of hypercolor -- the color changing -- with a line of clothing called Photochromia.

The Crated has married clothing and tech before with 3D-printed dresses and shirts that have built-in electronics. It teamed with a company called Print All Over Me to develop the Photochromia garments with inks that change color in UV light. The hidden designs are printed onto the fabrics with a special leuco dye that remains clear until it's hit by UV light -- the more the light, the darker the ink gets. The graphics themselves have a delightfully nerdy STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) theme featuring ASCII prints, vector art and Schrodinger's cat designs, to name a few.

Unlike past leuco-dyed garments, Photochromia clothing can stand up to wear and tear and won't highlight your pit stains -- it's only sensitive to light, not heat. The group is trying to raise money for it on Kickstarter with caps, shirts, sweatpants and backpacks starting at $25. It's trying to raise $12,000 to create a "reliable, ethical and functional supply chain," and is about halfway there -- if you're interested, you can ante up here.

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