The good news for distributors is that style trends in this market are still relatively easy to follow. “The hoody, the hooded sweatshirt is number one,” explained Reed. “It’s a basic item, but hoods are everywhere.” Though colors have been branching out in recent years, the style has not. According to Reed, the most significant change in collegiate apparel is a “big push” for items contoured to females. “It used to be that collegiate was very unisex,” he said. Though the female items are still variations of the basic styles, women are “getting their own set of things and it’s a little more fashion-forward,” he concluded.
Retro looks and stylings are also popular on college campuses, noted Reed. These include vintage cuts and worn, faded colors. Beyond that, he suggests distributors watch for the most popular thematic elements in a given year. He said movies often influence style and pointed out the success of shirts with pirate-themed decorations, such as a skull and cross bones. Reed said not all college buyers will be interested in such edgy imprints, though. “Usually, you can tell as soon as you walk into a place,” he said. A school’s willingness to try fashion “depends on the size of the school,” he continued. “If they’re a small bookstore and they don’t have a huge run-through of kids,” then they tend to be more conservative.
Neve also said, generally, private schools tend to more conservative than public schools.
If selling to a big school doesn’t work out, Reed offered encouraging words. “There’s always the Greek organizations,” he said. “It takes a little bit of digging sometimes, but they’re all there.” Fraternities and sororities are great sales opportunities because they have their own events and logos and this has “nothing to do with the school,” said Reed. The organizations “take care of themselves,” and have treasurers who coordinate the purchasing of apparel and don’t have to worry about licensing and bureaucracy. Reed said this market is largely “untapped.”