More than two years of co-operation between JCPenney's product development team, buying team and the company's major shirt suppliers has paid off this month with the launch of what is described as "the first affordable 100 per cent cotton wrinkle-free men's shirt." 

The new Stafford Executive brand shirt is making its debut in 600 JCPenney department stores.

"A wrinkle-free cotton shirt has been the holy grail for manufacturers and retailers since we began working with this technology more than 10 years ago," says Nancy Harper, men's product development director for JCPenney.

"The wrinkle-free treatment tends to weaken the fabric. The heavier fabric used in pants is able to hold up well, but producing a wrinkle-free shirt from lighter-weight cotton that can stand up to normal washing and wearing was a major hurdle."

"Until now, we've had to use blended cotton-polyester yarns in the shirts to provide the necessary strength," says Margit Machacek, PhD, manager of research & development at the JCPenney lab.

"But working with our suppliers, we developed the treatment technique to the point where we can deliver a cotton dress shirt that sheds wrinkles and stands up to everyday wear and care. It was not easy to do. We went through round after round of testing to reach the product we have today."

JCPenney today claims to sell more wrinkle-free pants than any other retailer, including styles from Dockers, Haggar, and St John's Bay. The Stafford brand cotton-polyester wrinkle-free shirt, first offered in 1993, is America's best-selling dress shirt.