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The Softer Side of T-shirts

With a push for 100 percent cotton shirts and longer-lasting heat transfers, the promotional products industry is ushering in a soft, decorated and affordable view of T-shirt sales for 2012

February 2012 By Colleen McKenna
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The United States is in the midst of economy-spurred protests, what is projected to be the most negative U.S. presidential campaign in history and somewhat founded (but largely hyperbolic) claims of impending apocalypse. In unsettling or at least new-frontier times like these, it's nice to look to classic, unchanged parts of society. For promotional wears, that means the T-shirt. Suppliers have not revamped the look of T-shirts or drastically changed their styles. Rather, they have built on the classic style and worked to improve the comfort and imprint-holding abilities of tees so they can remain the perennial favorite of promotional apparel, and possibly hold slogans and logos for the many more protests, elections and apocalyptic messages to come.

THE 100 PERCENT
This year, tees are not ushering in any grand changes or visual reworkings. Instead, suppliers and manufacturers are working to increase the value of T-shirts by making the fabric longer-lasting and more comfortable. Bill Pellegrini, eastern regional sales manager for Alstyle Apparel, Anaheim, Calif., mentioned a move toward softer T-shirts. "There has been a gradual movement over the past few years to finer gauge cloth using combed/ring-spun cotton. These shirts have a softer hand and drape well on the wearer," he said. According to Cindy J. Sims, PR and promotions manager at Heritage Sportswear Inc., Hebron, Ohio, this focus on 100 percent combed and ring-spun cotton shirts was inspired by a Bella + Canvas campaign to move away from carded, open end shirts. "You will see Bella + Canvas promoting their tees with a new logo—NO C.O.E. (carded, open end)—so expect other mills to follow suit and do more promoting of their soft tees," she said. Sims noted these non-C.O.E. shirts boast benefits like holding screen prints, heat transfers and embroidery better and for longer.

FINDING FASHION IN COTTON
If you want to add more modernity to your new, softer imprinted tees, try exaggerated lengths and necklines. "Several mills are adding a little length to their tees—a trend that continues into 2012. And you'll see more drapey, flowy tees for a more retail look," said Sims. The retail, fashion look can add value to the tees for your clients. "More companies are looking for perceived value to promote their brand," said Pellegrini. "Fashion can be achieved through the use of better fabrics, silhouettes and the final decoration," he added. To complete the fashion look, Sims suggested wide necks, deep V-necks in front and back, scoops, boat necks and slit V-necks.

 
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