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The Essential Choice

Are t-shirts simply a commodity item, a basic necessity or is a t-shirt an essential choice with consumers?

Consider this, $400,000 was the price tag of the world's most expensive T-shirt. The 100% organic tee was studded with more than 9 carats worth of black and white diamonds. Yikes!

Our client base might have some that would consider rhinestones on a tee - but diamonds? Make that introduction, please! Since 80% of consumers own a promotional tee, which creates 3,400 impressions over the lifetime of a tee, the popularity of a T-shirt as a promotion is the undeniable winner with both consumers and advertisers. Which tee is best for your campaign?

One of the many reasons we stock a showroom with products is for comparison. In December we started a project for some company tees, that are part of a team-building theme and the logo has challenges; lots of color. Whenever you have a lot of color in a tee design it impacts the decoration choices both for cost and feel. A soft tee with traditional layers of plastisol silkscreen ink is going to yield a thick, bulky, and hot feel against the skin- working against the popularity of a soft tee.

What are some considerations to explore when you visit the showroom?

  • Combed and ring-spun cotton tees offer a slight increase in price over basic cotton but deliver a softer hand feel. The cotton fibers are spun and combed to remove impurities which enhance the feel of the fabric.

  • Eco tees- giving back to environmental issues or made with apple peels or scraps of material

  • Performance shirts are typically made with polyester threads, and often have SPF and other technical features added. The words most associated with performance fabrics would be moisture-wicking, making these popular for athletes and companies with employees working out in the field, as these fabrics dye rapidly. There can be odors trapped in the fabric or rashes that develop from the wet fabric irritating the skin, so ask about fabrics that solve those challenges when comparing your options.

  • The most requested fabric is a Tri-blend, regardless of the name of the brand, it's a combination of 3 fabrics- cotton, polyester, and rayon. I like to say it's the addition of rayon that makes you say, oooh, when you touch the fabric. The fabric can be more challenging for printing- the "plum line" or fold line on the tee usually has to be pressed after the shirts arrive to square up on the plate, some of our decorators like to steam them first so the ink adheres better and migrates less and care needs to be taken with the types of inks used. For example, when these shirts first flooded the market it was not uncommon for a shirt printed with white ink to have the ink turn slightly pink in about 24 hours of printing.

What types of methods are popular on tees for printing?

  • Traditional silkscreen, which requires a different screen for each color and often limits the colors to a 6 or 8 maximum.

  • Digital printing, often called DST, prints your design directly onto the shirt.

  • Sublimation is super popular on a tri-blend shirt because the consumer can't feel the image when wearing the shirt, plus it's permanently infused with the shirt making it a durable decoration choice.

  • Everything's better with butter- a soft hand decoration process on a standard tee, creating a tri-blend feel, private labeling your brand, and offering tons of color in the design work.

  • Garment dyed shirts enhance the look of a vintage or distressed print tee.

  • Transfers offer the ease of one set up fee for unlimited color, the ability to easily match colors, and close registration of colors or blended halftones and shading- no problem with a transfer method for decoration.

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