The Trendy & T-shirted
It felt like spring would never get here, but it's finally time to put those sweaters and heavy jackets away and pull out the tanks and sandals. In the promo industry, we plan months in advance, so selling your clients apparel that is not in-season is common, but you have to make sure you keep them in style too. You may feel more comfortable suggesting basic T-shirts and tanks since they are wardrobe staples, but why not toss some trendy alternatives at your clients to give them some hip exposure?
Brights and pastels have been trending for a few years. However, 2014 may be charcoal's big year as it begins to rival fellow neutrals, mentioned Shelley Foland, CEO of Boxercraft, Mableton, Ga., which added the color to its entire T-shirt line this year. "What we see is our charcoal is such a beautiful color because it has such a richness to it. So when we were out visiting some customers more recently, they just really loved the depth of that color," she said. "So it works really well as a really good common-ground color that everyone can use, as they have done in the past with black or white."
Additionally in terms of fabrication, polyblends and tri-blends are fashionable, Marcia Cumberledge, vice president of merchandising and purchasing for Cincinnati's TSC Apparel, said. "I think it's all about comfortable, soft fabrics, a lot of heather colors, and that's what those blends are all about," she noted, adding that antique colors, which are woven with white instead of black, are gaining popularity as well.
Basic tanks, raglan-sleeve baseball tees and racerback tanks should all be big sellers this year, Cumberledge said.
In terms of fit, tees and tanks are moving away from a short, croppy-types and to a long, fitted looks—with a few exceptions. "Even our Flare Tank, which is not as fitted, gives you an alternate option so that you can layer," Foland said. "So in that case, you still have your fit underneath with a tank top or racerback, but you'll wear the Flare Tank on top so you get that flowy feel. So it looks great together."
And fit is the most important aspect of finding the right tee or tank, as the end-user wants to feel good when he or she puts it on, Foland added. "What [a trendy tee] offers you is something that's different, because if you compare it to a typical T-shirt that one has worn for years and years and years, which is just a boxy, very generic unisex tee, the eye goes to what is the fashion, and if we're on par with where fashion is particularly, like our Flare Tank or our Pom Pom Pullover, which has the trend along with the logo they're looking for, it's a home run," she said.
Tee or Tank?
We asked suppliers when it's best to offer a tee or tank for a client. "I think it almost goes more with the seasonality, and you can just kind of watch it ramp up," Cumberledge said. "Tank tops right now—they're trending very well against last year, but their numbers aren't huge yet. We'll get into huge numbers as far as what we're selling come May, June, July."
However, it's not out of the question to sell tanks during those not-so-warm months as tanks can also easily be layered to fit any kind of weather, giving the option of providing the client a packaged deal. "When people are wearing their tanks, they're typically wearing them underneath of something—whether it be a jacket or a pullover or another T-shirt or even another tank, but it's a layered piece," Foland said.
But there's no reason to believe that T-shirts, which may be more of a stand-alone item, are not versatile as well. A tee can be dressy or casual depending on how it's accessorized. "Throw a T-shirt on with a pair of dressy pants and a nice belt and you look dressed up with a scarf and so forth," Cumberledge said. "Throw that same T-shirt on in two months with a pair of white shorts and flip-flops and you look totally different. I think that's one thing that's so fun in our industry. You can dress things up or totally just slack them down [and] make them as casual as you need to."
Get people to recognize a brand by mesmerizing them with a fashionable tee or tank. "When you're wearing a trendy item, it even makes it more desirable for others to have it or want it and pay attention to it," Foland said. "[A T-shirt is] a very, very hot seller in the promotional market because of somebody repeatedly wearing it and it becoming one of their favorite pieces."
And what is now a trend may someday become an industry staple. "[The tank top] was a trend almost two, three years ago," Cumberledge said. "It's hung on. I wouldn't consider it a trend anymore. It's kind of like they're almost like the fashionable basics. So when you can spot something like that and ride that and capitalize on that season after season, it really makes business fun."