Forever Tees

T-shirts earned their name because they form the shape of a capital ‘T’ when laid flat, but these personal billboards could also be described with the letter ‘I’ due to their usefulness for expressing one’s individuality. People wear t-shirts to indicate they went somewhere, saw something or feel somehow connected to a group or idea. Sometimes, t-shirts help wearers exercise freedom of speech by expressing emotions or thoughts they may not want to speak out loud. But after all these feelings or moments pass, t-shirts serve as tangible memories of what once was, and are often kept for years. As a promotions professional, you’re tasked with creating memorable, long-lasting tees with which people can create personal connections. Read on for advice on selecting, decorating and styling fabulous, forever tees.

Choose The Right T-shirt

Before it can become someone’s absolute favorite, a t-shirt must be well made and suitable for its purpose. The most important factors for analyzing t-shirt quality are the performance, feel, weight and fiber content of the fabric, says Elson Yeung, director of private label design and merchandising for Richmond Hill, Ontario-based supplier alphabroder/Ash City (UPIC: ash0001). He suggests distributors use the following guide when evaluating the industry’s t-shirt options.

Good t-shirts are made of 100-percent preshrunk cotton and sewn with durability in mind.
Better t-shirts have lighter, softer weights and may be made of blended fabrics offering performance features.
Best t-shirts are constructed of fine yarns, blend multiple fibers (i.e., tri-blends) and incorporate fashion trends, such as prints or textures, for added appeal.

Perfect The Fit And Style

Women want flattering shirts shaped with side seaming. Millennials need retail-inspired looks. And everyone wants soft, wearable options. “Consumers are looking for lightweight, breathable fabrics they can layer when necessary,” says Rachel Newman, director of marketing and sales for Winston Salem, North Carolina-based supplier Hanes Branded Printwear (UPIC: HBIINC). “Fabrication is all about blends right now, which tend to have low shrinkage, be easy care and have a great hand.” Newman says retro-style shirts in modern fabrics are also in demand, along with vintage colors in muted bright shades, instead of the muted earth tones of previous seasons. “In our Hanes ‘nano’ collection of tees and fleece, we use a unique vintage color-dyeing process that gives the look and feel of garment-dyed fabric while maintaining color-consistency and color-fastness, which is huge for decorators,” she adds.

Use Classic Decorating Techniques

Buyers are largely seeking a back-to-basics approach to t-shirt imprinting, says Tom Davenport, president of McClellan, California-based supplier Motion Textile (UPIC: MotionCo). “We’re seeing more demand for fashion-forward printing—soft inks like discharge and waterbase, oversized prints, custom placements—combined with complementary fabrics like tri-blend, model and burnout,” he says. “Whether it’s design work we’re doing ourselves or it comes from an agency, the demand is for better artwork, creative placement and even basic spot-color printing done properly.” Davenport adds that the demand for high-quality photorealistic printing continues to grow, too.

Ensure End Users Love It

Solid-colored tees make outfit building easier, says Suze Solari, a fashion writer, personal stylist and author of The T-shirt & Jeans Handbook: Stylish Upgrades for Your Daily Uniform. “You also get more mileage from these,” she adds, “as you can change the look quickly by adding different accessories and layering garments.” Solari lists white cap-sleeved V-necks, black long-sleeved scoop-necks and gray scoop-neck tanks as her top-three tees in terms of style and wearability. She also considers comfort, proportion and cleaning ease when selecting tees; and, she ranks 100-percent cotton, cotton-Lycra blends and silk blends as her go-to fabrics.

To achieve a perfect fit, she recommends choosing the right t-shirt shapes for end buyers’ bodies. For full-figured women, this means V-necks long enough to hit just below the hip. For small-busted women, crew-neck shirts are most flattering, but V-necks look nice, too.

>>Click through to see our picks for the perfect tee.

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