Wrinkleless in Time
FROM BIRTH ON, it's pretty hard to avoid the uniform. It begins when you're sitting in the standard hospital bassinet next to a few dozen babies dressed exactly like you, and after that, well, it doesn't really end. School? Good chance of uniforms. Your first job? You better believe there's going to be uniforms. Even after you graduate, with a fancy degree and a sense of individuality and entitlement, there's a reasonable chance that you're going to end up right back where you started: wearing a uniform.
This might be bad news for the contrarian rebel or fashion enthusiast, but for the distributor, knowing that there is a market for uniforms at every stage of life is nothing but good news. Especially since, as Scott Thackston, executive vice president for Mauldin, South Carolina-based Aprons, Etc., pointed out, promotional product distributors are becoming more and more competitive with standard uniform wholesalers. "We've seen over the last five to 10 years with the growth in our industry, the ad speciality distributor is very competitive," said Thackston, adding that distributors' ability to act as a one-stop source of other materials an end-buyer might need, apparel or otherwise, were integral to competition.
How and where to compete, of course, are two different things entirely. Answering the latter question, below are a few age demographics where a distributor can look to make a sale.
Reading, writing and really nice uniforms
Discounting the few days a baby spends matching his or her crib neighbors in the hospital, private or parochial schools mark the true beginning of uniformed life. From skirts and jackets to school colors and embroidery, there are a lot of details for distributors to consider, though the most obvious is perhaps also the most important: this apparel is meant for children. Among other things, this means easy-care fabrics are of great import. Donald Singer, president of Philadelphia-based Executive Apparel, was able to touch on a few points concerning what this means for distributors.
"The most ideal fabrics will be washable in cold water and able to be tumble-dried," he said, adding that they should be able to be finished with a light iron. Easy-care features are so important, Executive Apparel is designing a few items around the idea, like blazers that don't require a trip to the dry cleaners to be washed. Singer was careful to caution that though Executive Apparel has had great success with its fabrics, in general, "This type of bulletproof fabric does not always have the most excellent feel or drape."
The UltraClub Youth Classic Wrinkle-Free Long-Sleeve Oxford from Bodek and Rhodes is wrinkle-free, tagless and has a pleat in the center-back with a locker-loop. Light blue or white are options for colors, and sizes range from S to L.
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S&S Activewear's French Toast Short Sleeve Youth Piqué Polo has three white pearlized buttons down its placket, a longer shirt tail, and a flat knit collar and cuffs. The 60/40 cotton/poly blend comes in youth sizes XS to XL.
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Executive Apparel offers 100 percent polyester blazers in both girl's and boy's sizes. The blazers feature top welt and bottom patch pockets and are available in burgundy, hunter green, navy, black, gray and red.
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The uniforms for a teenager's dreaded first job, usually in the retail sector, share a few similarities with the school uniforms of their youth. "Again, in this environment, wear and tear is a big factor," said Singer. "At least in the school industry, parents launder the clothes with some degree of care. Here we are in a different world: Either the clothing never gets laundered or the care is industrial strength. We recommend high levels of polyester for this market to keep maintenance low."
There is more to retail uniforms, however, than just toughened-up apparel. Thackston explained some facets of retail uniforms that are big perks for distributors. "What we're looking at is a pretty high turnover rate," he said, in reference to retail jobs. "In this economy obviously, budgets have been stripped or cut back tremendously, but at the same time, in an entry-level type of a job, there's a good opportunity for constant re-orders for a distributor." Thackston mentioned also that these types of uniforms are usually designed unisex and meant to go across size ranges easily, making orders that much easier to fill.
The Essential Blended Piqué Polo from Outer Banks is a 60/40 cotton-poly blend that resists wrinkles and shrinking, which are both great features for uniforms. It is available in 11 different colors and sizes S to 5XL.
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Davy Manufacturing's Bolero Vest matches the popular uniform style used in such big-box stores as Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowes. Black, royal, maroon, navy, forest and red (shown) are available fabric colors. The vest is made in the USA.
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A barista staple, Sierra Pacific Apparel's FeatherLite 30x24" Full Apron is treated with Dupont Teflon fabric protector, keeping end-users' clothing safe from most spills. The apron also includes an adjustable neck strap, and is colored with reactive dye to maintain color for as long as possible.
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Paging Dr. Logo
Distributors outside the youth and adolescent market need not fret, for there are plenty of instances of uniform use in adult life. A notable example would be the medical fields, where practitioners are going to be required to wear scrubs or lab coats. Thackston described a few trends in medical apparel, like movements toward solid-colored scrubs, softer fabrics, extra pocket configurations and non-unisex fits.
The Unisex Scrub Top from Aprons, Etc. is made from a 4.5 oz. 65/35 poly/cotton poplin blend specifically designed with softness and comfort in mind.
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SanMar's CornerStone Full Length Lab Coat can fit in anywhere from the medical lab to the cosmetics counter. The coat is 5.2 oz. 80/20 poly/cotton blend and has a size range from XS to 5XL.
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