Part 2 - Sourcing Your Shirt Materials 

There are a lot of blank shirt brands out there.

One of the most common questions I get is “Which shirt should I be printing on?” and the honest answer is, I don’t know.

Not because I really don’t know but because every brand has its own type of shirt.

What this means is, your brand will have its own character to it; including your shirt quality and build as these characteristics play a major part in the identity of your brand.

For example, Diamond, the world’s highest grossing streetwear brand, prints many their shirts on Gildan Heavy Cotton shirts, which are stiff, heavy and hard (no pun intended).

Their entire brand identity is based on a skateboarding, street fashion culture.

It would not make sense for them to print on ultra-soft Peruvian pima cotton shirts as it’s safe to say their target market customers are not purchasing a Diamond shirt for the feel but rather the brand itself.

When we first began looking for the right shirt for ENTRPRNR, we spent a few hundred dollars on boxes of blank shirts that we had read somewhere online were the best shirts to print on.

Turns out, the shirts felt and looked like shit.

We then found ourselves with a few hundred dollars of our startup capital tied up on useless shirts.

The best advice I can give you when it comes to finding the right shirts for you to print on is to acquire SAMPLES.

Get samples of every single shirt possible. You must FEEL the shirts for yourself and see how they FIT. These should be the two most important aspects of your new blank shirts.

What works for us might not work for you and vice versa.

Now, not all blank shirt brands are the same quality.

There are several types of materials shirts can be made from.

Contrary to popular belief, not every piece of clothing is made from cotton. Although it may seem and feel like it, there are multiple types of materials shirts are made of.

It is the type of material and build that determines the feel and comfort of the shirt.

The most common shirt builds are:

-Cotton
-Polyester
-50/50 Blends
-Tri-Blends

Different shirt manufacturers are known for different types of shirts produced.

For example, Gildan is known for producing more of a “promotional”, “tough” or “streetwear” type of cotton shirt while American Apparel is known for producing more vibrant, softer and higher quality ring spun cotton shirts.

The quality difference can be felt immediately.

Some common blank shirt manufacturers and brands include:

-Gildan
-Alstyle
-Hanes
-Fruit of the Loom
-Anvil
-American Apparel
-Alternative Apparel

Do not be lazy and compromise the quality and name of your brand because you refused to invest in a few blank shirts to see what you think is best for your brand to be printed on.

The blank shirt sourcing process is crucial to the future of your brand. This is your PRODUCT we are talking about here. Take it seriously.

Depending on your brand image and what kind of look and feel you are going for, there are a few factors that should be looked for no matter what your brand image is.

These factors are:

-Does the shirt wash well? As in, throw it in the washer and dryer and wash it as per the conditions specified on the shirt.
-Does it shrink?
-How does it feel after a few washes?
-Is it falling apart?
-Does it hold together nicely?

These are all factors to consider so be sure to do some of this testing on your own.

The purpose behind the testing is so you yourself can be ensured that what you are producing and delivering to your customers is quality.

You don’t want to be delivering trash or something that falls apart after one wash.

Another great place to source cheap blank shirts and samples is Alibaba.

It is worthy to note that a little bit of time spent researching overseas manufacturers could possibly result in you having sourced the right blank shirt for your brand, and in some cases, your own custom shirt made and imported for a much cheaper price than some of the most common blank shirts.

Some important notes to keep when dealing with Alibaba:

BE SPECIFIC IN YOUR SEARCH INQUIRY:

Instead of searching “Men’s Shirt” Consider searching exactly what it is you are looking for. A good example of a detailed search is “Men’s tri-blend crew neck shirt”. The details in your search inquiry will return detailed listings.

ALWAYS CHECK THE FOLLOWING CHECK BOXES:

TRADE ASSURANCE – This box ensures on-time shipment pre-shipment product quality checks.

GOLD SUPPLIER – This box only displays listings from Gold Suppliers, or pre-qualified suppliers)The purpose of checking these two boxes is to weed out the inexperienced, careless and rather new suppliers. You want to deal with experienced manufacturers who know what they doing. This will save you a great deal of headaches.

BE AS SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE:

This means being as specific about what you are looking for as possible. It is important to remember you are dealing with overseas foreign manufacturers. Most of these manufacturers are Chinese; their English is not perfect, so use basic language as you would when speaking to a fifth grader. Avoid using big words or intellectually advanced grammar. This is NOT meant to be offensive, it is meant to make you considerate about speaking with someone whose mother language is not your main language. Chances are, they do not hold a PHD in your language.

NEVER PAY VIA WIRE TRANSFERS:

At least for your initial transactions, I would urge you avoid paying via wire transactions, as these types of transactions have no buyer protection whatsoever. I would recommend you pay via PayPal for all your samples, until you have formed a trustful relationship with your manufacturer. It isn’t until you have received your samples, checked product quality and decided whether you will move forward with the vendor that you can safely pay via Wire Transfers as you know what you are receiving. Also, any vendor that tells you they do not accept or deal with PayPal should be avoided. This is because any MAJOR manufacturer will always have multiple forms of payment systems available.

WHAT YOU SEE MAY NOT BE WHAT YOU RECEIVE:

A lot of manufacturers or trade companies use stock images that were taken years ago. This is because they place a bigger emphasis on the product-building phase with customers as opposed to selling stock products. If you expect to show a manufacturer a picture of what you are looking for and expect an exact copy, be prepared to receive something completely different. You will have to go back to the drawing board and ask for what you want in a more detailed manner, you are better off doing it right the first time. Do your research and don’t be lazy.

MAKE YOURSELF SEEM BIGGER THAN YOU ARE:

What I mean by this is refrain from speaking in first person dialect. A lot of the manufacturers you reach out to are executing major orders for larger brands or maybe even corporations. This means they will usually be more inclined to dealing with you if you seem like you are a bigger company than you really are. Use words like “we” instead of “me/I” and “our” instead of “my”. If you would like to see the difference in these key words, consider reading the following:
“Our company is ready to move forward with production, however is it essential that we have samples on hand.”
And
“I am ready to move forward with production, however it is essential that I have some samples on hand.”
Which do you think sounds more professional to you?

ALWAYS AGREE ON SHIPPING CHARGES AND EXPENSES:

It is not a common occurrence, but a lot of manufactures will give you a $2 quote for a shirt to reel you in and then slam you with a phony $300 shipping cost. Do your research; always take shipping costs into account for your final shirt cost. If your shirt cost $3 and the shipping is $3 from China, the total cost of your blank shirt is actually $6. This is the easiest way to think about it.

Once you have successfully created your first designs and sources, tested and elected a candidate as your blank shirt, you can now move onto the printing phase, which we’ll cover tomorrow!

Homework:

Take a look at some of your favorite t-shirts and inspect the tags to see what kinds of shirts they are. This will give you a great baseline for finding blanks. If the info is not on the tag, it should be on the product page which you can find online.

– Andres

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