While T-shirts have become one of the most ubiquitous garments worldwide and can be found in almost everyone’s wardrobe, few people may believe that it has not been seventy years before they first rose to popularity in the 1950s. At first, T-shirts were largely worn as an undergarment under a navy uniform or a proper shirt. Marlon Brando made it look so good in the film “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1951 that it inspired imitators like James Dean, who wore it under his signature red Harrington jacket in 1955's film "Rebel Without a Cause." Thus, T-shirts completed the transition from undergarments to general-use casual clothing.
T-shirts constitute a quintessential part of today’s clothing industry. They are available in a broad spectrum of sizes, materials, styles, and prices. According to a market report, the T-shirt market was valued at US$ 185.1 billion in 2016. The market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.0% in the next five years. These statistics evidence the popularity of T-shirts among the consuming public around the world.
As a by-product of personalized consumption, custom T-shirts have become ever-popularizing. Custom T-shirts are more than a piece of clothes that people wear to cover the body or keep warm, but a blank canvas for self-expression in terms of appearance, taste, personality, interests, status, and thinking. It can be slim and fit, or come oversized and loose; it can look simple and concise, or appear provocative and luxurious; it can come from an inexpensive five-pack or a high-end couture collection; it can be aesthetically appealing or ironically expressive. Just as you are what you eat, you are also what you wear.
It Is Time to Walk Away from Ready-mades and Turn to Custom T-shirts
Custom T-shirts have been extensively worn for a variety of purposes under various occasions. Custom T-shirts market is estimated to surpass US$ 10 billion by the year 2025. Apart from the fundamental protective function of clothing by providing a barrier between the skin and the environment, custom T-shirts have also been endowed with many more characteristics and functions to suit them to a wide range of circumstances.
1. Custom T-shirts differentiate yourselves from others
It is a safe bet that you will fail to find another way that is more suitable for making style statements than wearing a custom T-shirt. Everyone, especially young people, can flaunt his fashion quotient by wearing a custom t-shirt that sets one apart from others. Your favorite slogan, the pop star that you fancy, an eye-catching avatar, or the scrawls and doodles you note down occasionally… You can put almost anything you like on a custom T-shirt. More than that, actually, your options for colors, sizes, materials, and designs are also limitless. Everything about a T-shirt can be tailored to best meet your distinctive preferences.
2. Custom T-shirts boost the team spirit of your organization
Companies and organizations adopt custom T-shirts mainly in two ways. One is for making custom T-shirts good uniforms, and the other is for making them unified garments in the case of big events and important occasions. Custom T-shirts serve as a cost-effective option for uniforms that boost your business’ appearance and impress clients and customers with a standardized and established the working style of your organization. Moreover, wearing custom T-shirts as uniforms can also help your employees feel a sense of belonging and team spirit in your company.
3. Custom T-shirts are part of advertising and marketing strategies
Custom T-shirts have long been an indispensable part of the marketing strategies of a lot of companies, institutions, and organizations. Every year, tens of thousands of new companies get started. It becomes challenging for companies to stand out from their rivals and get the attention of their target customers and clients. In order to spread the word about the company and grab the attention, companies have started making use of custom t-shirts. Putting a logo and other relevant information about the brand on custom t-shirts helps businesses in improving brand awareness and visibility. Compared with commercial advertisements or flyers, custom T-shirts communicate the brand message in a more casual and friendly way.
4. Custom T-shirts are excellent items used as souvenirs
An example in point is that the custom T-shirts have been used by many universities and colleges to boost their visibility and credibility, maintain closer ties among their alumni, and improve the educational identity of students and staff.
5. Custom T-shirts can make your political stand known
Custom T-shirts have also been widely used in the political domain. Custom T-shirts have been seen in political campaigns, gatherings, and protests. Printed with a slogan, political propositions, and certain logos and graphics, custom T-shirts can be an ideal way of making your political stand known in a demonstrative and appealing way.
6. The custom t-shirt is a worthwhile idea of starting a profitable business
When it comes to starting a profitable business engaged in custom T-shirts, it can be interpreted in two ways. Be it contracting manufacturers or sellers of T-shirts custom made from other manufacturers, the market of custom T-shirts is big enough to enable players of the upstream and downstream businesses of the industry to gain considerable profits.
Those companies that are financially advantageous and trendily keen can consider establishing a business for contracting to manufacture of custom T-shirts. Custom T-shirts with excellent quality and original designs will never fail to win wearers. Manufacturing of T-shirts has become a highly mature industry, and custom T-shirts are easy and fast to produce. The success lies in only one thing – keeping abreast of the times by introducing new and original designs and concepts. The availability of a wide range of options in design will help your business to gain irreplaceable advantages. On the other hand, small companies that want to deal with custom T-shirts can consider establishing business ties with companies that have strong design and manufacturing capabilities.
What Are You Really Customizing When it Comes to Custom T-shirts
Custom T-shirts come in a variety of printing technologies, styles, designs, and materials. People wear custom T-shirts out of this or that reason, and the industry of custom T-shirts has been mature and developed enough to satisfy all these needs with the broadest possible spectrum of products. The following are some aspects that you can consider customizing when you work on the blueprint of your custom T-shirts.
1. Custom T-shirts Printing Techniques
To pick satisfactory custom T-shirts is not just about deciding what designs you like. Actually, designs are partially impacted by the custom T-shirts’ printing techniques. There exist a lot of printing methods for manufacturing custom T-shirts, and the most commonly adopted are the following four types.
For this method to work, a stencil and a nylon mesh are needed. The stencil is first set up and held by the nylon mesh. Waterproof material will block the space that is supposed to design. Then, some ink is flooded onto the screen, and a squeegee is used to press down and ensure that the ink spreads evenly on the screen. The ink that is not needed will be wiped away. And the screen is finally taken off with the design. Complete the process by curing and drying it.
The screen printing method is suitable for high-quality design printing as it guarantees accurate replication of the design. The screen printing method gives T-shirts a unique, cute and impressive look that customers love.
However, it’s not the best option for every custom T-shirt. This method suits one color per screen. It is not ideal for super complex multi-color designs.
Delivers excellent quality
Suitable for the production of multiple items with a single design
Multiple colors available
Costly for small quantities
Somewhat skillfully demanding
DTG refers to a process that a printer directly applies the ink to the fabric with inkjet technology. This process is similar to printing on paper, except that it’s on a T-shirt. The desired design of the custom T-shirt is printed directly onto the garment with a special printer using water-based inks, which are absorbed by the T-shirts.
The quality of DTG custom T-shirts is excellent although it is not as good as that of screen printing. It works best on white garments. It can also work on a darker T-shirt. Its downside is that the process is pretty challenging and will require some learning curve.
Supports full-color printing
Relatively lower cost per item printing
Soft and professional finish
Slower speed for mass production
High initial costs on the printing machine
Heat press printing incorporates a design printed on a special paper called transfer paper. The T-shirt is pressed on the best heat transfer vinyl, and then heat and pressure are applied. The heat melts the dye on the paper as it gets absorbed by the cloth.
Heat press printing works well if the custom T-shirt has super complex designs. However, it is not an ideal choice for dark fabrics because of its translucent dye.
Suitable for small orders
Easy to use and saves time
Produces high-quality, sophisticated designs
Supports full-color printing
Slower printing speed
Does not suit fabrics with high heat-sensitivity
A T-shirt that has an all-over print on it could be manufactured with dye sublimation printing. Dye sublimation works best when used for all over and oversize printing. It’s capable of transforming the whole custom t-shirt into a canvas.
A special kind of dye which is liquid will be needed. The liquid dries up when it meets the polyester fabric. After it dries well, it solidifies on the fabric. Then you can apply heat and pressure for sublimation to occur.
When exposed to heat and pressure, the solid fabric turns into a gas and the fabric molecules expand. The gas sips between the gaps and appear on the cloth. Eventually, the molecules contracts again when the heat is removed
With the sublimation dye process, one can do a galaxy print and repeat pattern on a custom T-shirt. But you’ll need shirts that are made from 100% polyester.
Produces highly distinctive and all-over designs
Free use of graphics, styles, and colors
Shirts should be made from 100% polyester to be printed on
White parts on the t-shirt not covered will show through the design
Not financially viable for small quantities
2. Custom T-shirts Styles
a. Long-sleeve, short-sleeve and 3/4 sleeve
The length of custom T-shirts is not only about the wearer’s sense of fashion and individual preference, and the weather conditions when the custom T-shirts are worn, but also about the function of the custom T-shirts. Length, along with the materials and technologies adopted, can be a deciding factor of how and what a custom T-shirt is.
Moreover, the length of sleeves has a direct impact on the level of customization of the custom T-shirt as the sleeves can be somewhere customers usually put their desired logos and slogans. Sleeves of different lengths can contain different amounts of information.
Long-sleeve custom T-shirts
Long-sleeve custom T-shirts are undoubtedly suitable for relatively chilly and cold weather. They provide warmer protection on rainy or cold days as they trap the body heat and warm air near your skin. But, they have also been extensively worn on sunny days for the purpose of sun protection. Nowadays, chemicals and dyes that are effective at absorbing ultraviolet light can be added to the fabrics to provide better sun protection. Custom T-shirts of this kind are also made to be dense and tight to minimize the amount of ultraviolet light that can pass through.
The length of long-sleeve T-shirts suits the printing of customized logos, slogans, and graphics. Sleeves, like the front and the back of the T-shirt, can be a blank canvas to bring your design concepts into life and make the T-shirt something with your unique personality.
Short-sleeve custom T-shirts
Short-sleeve custom T-shirts are more worn under hot weather. Covering less surface of your skin, they help to cool down the body temperature and have been a must to survive a sultry summer. However, the difference between the short-sleeve and the long-sleeve is not only the length of the sleeves, but more invisible factors are also behind them. Custom T-shirts worn in summer need to be light, cozy and quick-drying to meet customers’ demand for outdoor events and activities. Today, many custom T-shirts are made of a blend of merino wool and polyester to deliver excellent quick-drying performance as well as coziness and warmth.
When it comes to including customized information on short sleeves, short-sleeve T-shirts are obviously not on a par with long-sleeve T-shirts. However, small-sized logos and graphics remain possible to be printed on the sleeves. On a short-sleeve custom T-shirt, the front and the back are the main battlefields where customized designs strive to win a place.
3/4 sleeve custom T-shirts
3/4 sleeve custom T-shirts have seen a steadily increasing popularity among the consuming public. They strike a balance between the short-sleeve and the long-sleeve and have become a year-round staple in many people’s wardrobe. They offer some breeze in high summer as well as reasonable coverage in the winter. The popularity of 3/4 sleeve T-shirts is also attributed to their addition of fashion to those whose waists fall a bit lower on the torso. This style will emphasize the figure of the wearer since the sleeve ends where the waist narrows. Out of this reason, many designers and manufacturers have shifted their attention to the cuff of sleeves for the creation of distinctive designs along with those on the main body of the custom T-shirt.
b. Crew-cut and V-neck
T-shirts come with two major types of necklines: the crew-cut and the V-neck. Each of them can help the wearer create an attractive dressing style according to the look one is going for, as well as the proportions of the face and body.
The crew-cut style is the most classic option and offers a timeless look. It best suits people who have a slight build and frame, as the collar draws the viewer’s eye out, broadening the neckline and creating the appearance of squarer shoulders. Crew-cut T-shirts are also a good choice for men with longer necks and narrower faces, as it balances and adds proportion to these features.
V-neck style is slightly less formal than the crew-cut and adds a little more visual interest and liveliness. It’s well-suited for shorter person, as it makes one appear less boxy and taller. V-neck is a good choice for wearers with a short neck as they make your neck appear a little longer. It complements men with rounder or wider faces as well because it adds edges and corners to your overall appearance.
Cotton remains the most preferred material to make a custom T-shirt. It boasts softness, coziness, affordability, breathability, and static-resistance. Cotton can be divided into two major types - combed cotton and organic cotton. Combed cotton is softer than organic cotton since it doesn't have any impurities or short protruding threads, and it is stronger than organic cotton because the combing process removes short fibers, which are prone to breakage. After combing, the straightened fibers join together more tightly, leading to less fraying and unraveling.
Linen is not a material that will first come to your mind when you intend to make custom T-shirts. However, linen can help the wearer to create a highly unique and distinctive dressing style. Linen is robust and durable but tends to wrinkle easily. It suits casual and informal occasions and never fails to reveal a strong personality. It gets dry quickly after being wet and can bring exceptional coolness and freshness in hot and humid weather.
Polyester is an inexpensive choice for making custom T-shirts that are quick-drying, breathable, strong, and durable and doesn’t wrinkle easily. These properties enable it to be an ideal material to make T-shirts worn for sports purposes or under moist conditions. Polyester dyes well and is colorfast, making your custom T-shirts with unique designs last long.
Rayon is renowned for its silk-like feel very silky. It provides excellent breathability as cotton. The material is absorbent and dry’s easily. It is an ideal material to create a luxurious look in an inexpensive manner. It can blend well with other types of fabrics to introduce various advantages.
As the name suggests, a tri-blend is a fabric made up of three different materials: cotton, polyester, and rayon, usually 25%, 25%, and 50% respectively. The advantage of a tri-blend is that it can have the advantages of the other fabrics, like the lightweight feel of rayon as well as the softness of cotton. Tri-blend T-shirts can offer a really nice balance between style, comfort, and durability.
What to Look for When Choosing a Custom T-shirts Manufacturer
1. Production Capability
The production capacity can be a vital factor to consider when choosing a custom T-shirt manufacturer, especially when the order is on a tight schedule or large in quantities. A manufacturer with a large turnover, complete equipment, skilled workers and spacious factories should be shortlisted.
2. Quality Control and Assurance
Quality control plays a pivoting part in any manufacturing industry, but it is especially the case when it comes to the clothing industry that touches people’s daily life in a direct manner. Custom T-shirts, be it black or white, large or small, artificially made or automatically woven, should first be safe as they contact the skin. A custom T-shirts manufacturer should boast thorough quality control measures and staff, relevant certifications of the industry as well as satisfactory after-sales service.
3. Keen Attention to Fashion Industry
The graphics and designs of custom T-shirts can be provided by both customers and manufacturers. Although it may sound a little demanding to ask a clothing manufacturer for opinions and suggestions on the custom T-shirts, its insights into the industry sometimes can help you to make your custom T-shirts come better, and their keen attention to details of the manufacturing itself and the industry can bring about unexpected good results. You can also be inspired if a manufacturer has their own catalogs that are updated in a periodical manner.