We at Promo Marketing understand that summer living isn’t always easy for our readers—particularly for those trying to fulfill the hot-weather wardrobe demands of fickle clients. Sure, a basic crew-neck tee will never go out of style, but what happens when your customer wants to outshine the competition with something bold and fresh? We’ve got expert insights into the T-shirts and tanks that will make your apparel programs sizzle.
According to Margaret Crow, director of marketing for S&S Activewear, Bolingbrook, Ill., shades of jade, mint and teal are performing well. “With that core color is a family of beach-inspired blues, yellows and corals,” she added.
Margo Scavone, director of marketing for Philadelphia-based Bodek and Rhodes, agreed, and also noted the steady popularity of classic white. “A great-fitting, super-soft white tee never goes out of style for men or women,” she said.
As for decoration, a few looks are trending. Jeff Scult, owner of Golden Goods USA, San Francisco, pointed to tonal prints with pop color accents, smooth glossy prints and rayon-based fabrications.
Crow said new relaxed, draped fits are currently in demand. In addition, tees and tanks are moving toward longer silhouettes in response to the growing popularity of leggings.
Scavone stressed the importance of showing tees with men’s and women’s coordinating styles when outfitting a group. “Younger customers look for more of a bodycon fit,” she noted. “For women, flow styles with dolman sleeves in feminine silhouettes can be paired with a great pair of jeans or skirts of all lengths.”
Other fit and cut preferences include V-necks, ringer and baseball tees, and for men, tees with contrasting pockets, Scavone added.
T-shirts and tanks aren’t just for warm months. Layering, a longtime popular trend where a tee or tank is worn with a button-down or outwear piece, keeps tees and tanks saleable even when cooler temps prevail. “A comfortable tee or tank is an essential layering piece no matter what time of year it is,” Scavone explained.
Scult expanded on this point. “[Trendy tees and tanks] are becoming staples, year-round, layering pieces under high-fashion blazers,” he observed. “Items and silhouettes that were typically workout or sleepwear are now becoming fashionable to wear on the street. “And just like in interior design or architecture, the juxtaposition of mixed materials, or in this case, fashion top with high-fashion bottom or layering, is hotter than hot,” he continued.
All it takes is a little bit of imagination. Pairing a fitted club cotton tank with a pair of dress slacks is a great example. In doing so, users get a mix of the “smart casual” and high-end feel that Scult described above. “It works when one might perceive it wouldn’t,” Scult said.
The Retail Effect
Whether it’s the runway or Beyoncé’s video, fashion inspiration can be found in multiple places. Your best bet, however, might be to check out the racks at Macy’s and other retailers. “The line between the promotional apparel industry and retail continues to blur,” Crow said. “Promotional apparel customers want T-shirts that they will wear in ‘real life.’ Consumers have gotten used to the super-soft T-shirts at retail, and they want the T-shirts that they wear for corporate events or that they buy as souvenirs to be soft and flattering, too.”
Scavone echoed this sentiment. “We all want quality details and great-feeling fabrics with style options that are current,” she remarked. “The influx of a variety of silhouettes, necklines, textures and stitching are a direct influence from what is happening in retail.”
A stylish, great-fitting tee or tank is likely to be the go-to item in a user’s closet, which means your client’s marketing message will be seen on a regular basis. “The cost per impression becomes minuscule,” Crow said.
“It is interesting to ask the opposite question: How does having a crappy promo tee or tank diminish the brand association?” Scult added. “Is there brand awareness if it doesn’t get worn? Isn’t the point to have it worn, beloved, presented in such a way that the brand is fresh, relevant, current and beloved? A celebration of a brand with honor, worn as a badge of honor? That’s our approach.”
With so many different style trends, complex sizing demands and new cuts, selling beyond the standard tee can be intimidating for the uninitiated. Crow recommended sharing samples with your clients. “People love options. They don’t know what is available in this market—it’s up to you to show them,” she said. “When you have an arsenal of printed samples on display or in your case, you will spark your client’s imagination. That makes it all more fun and creative, ultimately increasing sales and brand awareness.”
Scult prefers a consultative approach. “We view every client project as a blank canvas, taking a consultancy approach to ensure it feels on-brand, from the colors, to the fits, to the graphics, whether we are manipulating existing graphics, or developing new custom ones,” he stated.
He offered one final tip. “To change the game, you must change the conversation—and the new conversation is: It’s only ‘branding’ if it’s ‘on brand,’” he concluded. “Focus on closet favorites, which elevates brands and cuts through the clutter.”