All the Better

This statistic opens our expansive T-shirt cover story, but it bears repeating. There were three billion T-shirts sold in the U.S. last year – which means an American citizen on average bought nine tees in 2014. Even for those of us familiar with the T-shirt's multi-decade run as this industry's top item, the number is still staggering.

Unfortunately, there is a tremendous disparity in quality which must be reconciled. A lot of T-shirts are exceptionally comfortable and creatively printed – dynamic billboards that people proudly wear every day. But there are also far too many uncomfortable, unimaginative, poorly printed tees – ones that, in the words of the decorators I've spoken with, "you wouldn't even use to wash your car." I would call it the industry's dirty little secret, except it's not a secret, and it's certainly not little.

Why is this the case? It's largely tied to the T-shirt's affordable appeal, which some distributors, decorators and end-users take as license to exercise creative malpractice. To them, the T-shirt is the no-thought-needed option. It fills their sales quotas and satisfies the requirement to give something away, all  without exerting any extra effort.

Of course, we know where that leads: Unsatisfied customers, disposable promotions and lots of wasted branding potential. It props up the damaging perceptions (SWAG, trinkets and trash, etc.) that undermine our industry. It has to stop.

As we embarked on this month's package about the T-shirt, we knew what the message needed to be. We as an industry need to treat the T-shirt better. Better fabric, better printing, better branding. Not just some of the time. Not just some companies. All the time. Every company.

In "Building A Better T-Shirt," we give you the tools and knowledge to become a T-shirt guru, not a mindless cog in the machine. Our slate of articles include:

  • Adopting a creative mindset and brand vision
  • A step-by-step guide for creating a striking-yet-simple print.
  • The merit of standing your ground on price when customers want to negotiate
  • A showcase of excellent printed tees.
  • The art of the T-shirt self-promo.
  • Primers on all the key T-shirt fabrics.

This is important, because T-shirts matter. Everyone, me included, has a favorite T-shirt (or five) that we wear all the time. As a society, we're obsessively attached to the tee. Its  ability to spread a message or even foment change is supreme.

What's more, it's a canvas for the boldest of designs – incredible graphics that you are more likely to hang on your wall than see on any other type of apparel.

We all know how great the T-shirt can be. Everyone just has to do his part. Thanks for reading,

What's In My Closet?

Each issue, we ask our readers a simple question: What is your favorite branded apparel item in your closet? Send in a photo of you and your favorite garment, and tell us in a paragraph why you love it. We run one submission each issue, and that lucky winner receives a $25 Visa Gift Card.

This issue, our submission comes from John Infantino, president of Brand Vessel (asi/145158): "My 'go-to' branded garment has to be the hoodie I designed for our client GoPro a few years ago and still produce today. It's an Independent Trading Co. poly-tech fleece (EXP80PTZ). It's lightweight, breathable and has a removable hood (which is rare, but very useful). The thumbholes make it a great choice for the gym, mountain biking, even snowboarding. When our friends at GoPro reached out to us to source an innovative hoodie for their employees, we knew just the one to show them. It's great to work with companies who are open to creative logo placements and unique garments. On more than one occasion I've been asked 'Do you work for GoPro?' while I'm wearing the hoodie. Of course I tell them 'no', but let them know we work with GoPro and actually make these hoodies for them! You can imagine their response: 'Cool, how can I get one?'"