How to Capitalize on the Power of Promotional T-shirts
Promotional T-shirts are the core piece of gym looks, boardroom meetings, lazy Sunday loungewear and everything in between. Although the classic T-shirt dates back to the early 1900s, this apparel mainstay is constantly the subject of refreshed looks and updated alterations. To help you stay ahead of the curve, we spoke to Marcia Cumberledge, vice president of merchandising for TSC Apparel, Cincinnati; Vicki Ostrom, trend editor for SanMar, Issaquah, Wash.; and Marcus Davis, manager of product development for Hanesbrands Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C.
Utilize Trending Silhouettes for Promotional T-shirts
These days, end-users love the versatility of T-shirts, which has resulted in more demand for transitional silhouettes. “Women’s T-shirt silhouettes are tending to become longer in length to accommodate our adoption of yoga pants as everyday wear,” said Ostrom. “The longer length covers more of our body, making the look work appropriate and extending the use for our daily activities.”
Ostrom also mentioned that waistlines currently are experiencing an evolution. “Instead of waistlines curving in slightly on a tee, the side seam may go straight down from the underarm through the hem—allowing for tees to be layered with no construction of movement,” she explained. “This is considered a ‘body-kind’ fit instead of ‘body-con’ fit.”
Consider In-demand Textures for Promotional T-shirts
No longer are tees taking a backseat in the wardrobe. Instead, end-users want to plan their outfits around their T-shirts, and every characteristic must make a statement, including texture. “Textures are very important in 2017, as they add a visual interest that is helping to ignite retail purchases,” Davis said. “Whether it’s heathers, slub yarns or nep texture, it all times to visual interest and how to make a garment look unique. Everything is incredibly soft—both visually and to the touch.”
Besides cozy heathers, Cumberledge provided some more specifics. “Poly-rich blends are the largest trend we are experiencing currently,” she said. “The Tultex 65 percent poly/35 percent cotton fabric is doing exceptionally well. Also, the heavyweight 5.5 oz. 100 percent cotton has emerged.”
Choose Promotional Tees in Trending Colors
Marlon Brando and James Dean might have been fans of the classic white T-shirt, but there’s no reason your end-users can’t mix things up. “In terms of colors, muted jewel tones, heathered neons and soft pastels are driving color palettes,” Davis noted. “Neon heathers create a more subtle pop. Heathered jewel tones provide a touch of sophistication.”
Cumberledge agreed that heathers will be big in 2017, and offered other suggestions to tap into. “Colors are still deep and earthy, such as burgundy and army,” she said. “However, we are just starting to see lighter colors emerge, such as light pink, peach, mauve and mint.”
Employ Multi-functional Promotional Tees
Because the T-shirt is now the transition wear staple, end-users want looks that can handle their day-to-day activities; the T-shirt has to be able to keep up with the user, whether it’s in the office or in a yoga studio. “Tees are much more important in our wardrobe now that we are dressing in this more transitional way,” said Ostrom. “We want our outfits to go ‘to and from’ or look like they are ‘coming and going’ meaning to the gym or from the gym—when in fact, we are really going from work directly to other life errands and maybe to the gym.”
To keep up with end-user demand, Davis suggested a few technical fabrications. “Performance and activewear continue to converge into lifestyle apparel, driving down the basic coreT-shirt market,” he said. “Instead, tees that wick or have odor control provide solutions to everyday activities. You have the look of fashion but with performance features.”
Implement Retro Styles
Much like the ’90s are back in style, so are the throwback promotional T-shirt looks. “Vintage and retro styles are very popular, from ringer tees and varsity tees, to baseball tees,” said Davis. “Champion’s Raglan Baseball T-shirt, for example, is now its top-selling tee. While a perennial favorite, this decades-old style has newfound love—and, in 2017, [it] will get new colors as well.”
Draw Inspiration From Retail and Runway
As T-shirts continue to evolve into fashion staples, end-users are looking for trendy streetwear looks. If you’re looking for the next big thing in promotional T-shirts, look no further than runway and retail trends. “At New York Fashion Week in the fall of 2016, T-shirts with vintage band graphics ascended to cutting edge fashion status as they were worn in a ‘high/low’ way with beautifully tailored suits or elegant skirts,” said Ostrom.
Davis agreed that Fashion Week can even inspire decoration techniques, and pointed to retail trends, such as layering and retro looks, as good indicators of impending promotional styles.