Love it or hate it, the athleisure movement is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. With research touting the positive results on productivity, numerous companies are relaxing their dress codes. Many offices have shifted from professional attire to business casual, and from business casual to jeans and leggings. 

The focus on comfort and function may also be fueled by mobile technology, which allows workers more flexible hours and telecommuting, plus, the entrepreneurial spirit and “you do you” vibe that Millennials bring to the table. Eric Ruben, president of supplier Blue Generation  (PPAI 174655), says his team closely tracks the strong influence of Millennials on apparel. “Our fashion t-shirt line has grown exponentially in the last few years, influenced by a more accepted casual lifestyle, even in the workplace. The movement of athletic clothing into mainstream streetwear has also given rise to this category.”

Throughout this year’s fall fashion weeks, designers introduced ensembles that were interchangeable, with pieces that work for the office, the gym, a night on the town and a lazy weekend afternoon. Denim featured prominently. Naturally, the simplicity of the t-shirt is a perfect fit, so to speak, with the popularity of the casual look. 

Steve Pinzon, marketing director at supplier AKWA Apparel (PPAI 205981), says they are closely following the trend, with shirts that work in a variety of environments. “We address the higher end of the t-shirt market, with our slub terry tees being a prime example. They are designed to look both fashionable with a pair of jeans and appropriate under a sportscoat,” he explains.

For 2018, VOGUE magazine even introduced a new wardrobe category: glam leisure, for those adventurous enough to pair the two paradoxical styles when transitioning from day to night.

While informal dress is not exactly groundbreaking to American culture, the fact that global designers are embracing it is the real news here. After all, ever since James Dean popularized the classic white t-shirt as outerwear in Rebel Without a Cause, the t-shirt has been a beloved necessity for Americans. Now international consumers are appreciating the simplicity and versatility of the classic tee. 

Long story short, the t-shirt continues to be an essential wardrobe staple, with sales projected to be strong. This is great news for promotional products suppliers and distributors, since t-shirts are high-demand, low-cost and effective repeat marketing tools. 

What’s Hot For 2018

Lay It Out In Lavender
Although there will always be a place for neutrals like white and black, runways this year were teaming with two divergent color schemes: bold colors like orange, and softer pastel hues, such as lavender. Retail is also experimenting with traditionally opposing-color combinations such as red and hot pink, as well as standing by the monochromatic look. Either way, the desire for individuality while still being on-trend is sure to spark a demand for diverse colors in all palettes.

“Emerging colors for 2018 are trending toward softer, organic colors like olive and army greens, sands and stone-greys, pale peaches and mauves,” says Andrea Routzahn, senior vice president, portfolio and supplier management at supplier alphabroder (PPAI 156993). “We see continued popularity in washed, coastal colors. Heathers in all colors have never been stronger as well.”

On-The-Ball Designs
Sports and sports celebrities continue to have a significant impact on fashion—particularly in athletic and leisure wear. In fact, more and more sports celebrities are rolling out their own fashion lines, including David Beckham, LeBron James, Maria Sharapova and Shaun White.

Vicki Ostrom, trend editor for supplier SanMar (PPAI 110788), says she actively follows social media platforms to stay abreast of the latest popular culture influences on consumers. As an example, she explains, “It’s worth taking note that Instagram’s teen audience has a strong interest in sports-related feeds. According to their own reporting, 30 percent of their top 100 accounts followed by teens are sports related. With that kind of opportunity, retail brands are smart to tap into the key visual elements of sport styling.”

Routzhan agrees that vintage athletic styling will continue to be successful. She adds, “Ladies fashion fit trends continue to be strong in layered, festival-inspired looks with a boho/retro feel which also ties into what’s happening in active lifestyles. High-neck halter tanks, muscle tees and tanks, and cropped tops will be popular new silhouettes for 2018.” For men, she says, “fits continue to be body conscious and elegant, with heavier-weight jersey emerging and longer lengths inspired by the athleisure trend and men’s embrace of slim, jogger-styled bottoms.”

Cut From A Different Cloth
Enthusiasm for new fabrics is at an all-time high, with continual innovation in fabrications and textures, including enhanced softness, moisture wicking and insect repellent capabilities, eco-friendly manufacturing and more. Routzahn says that with retail trends entering our industry in real time, t-shirt fabric beyond the basic 30 singles cottons and triblends will be highly sought after. “Fabric treatments, garment dyes and washes are strong and creating some exciting new looks and feels. Customers will need to touch these new fabrics to really understand and appreciate their qualities, so samples will be more important than ever,” she explains.

Brad Moxley, corporate business development manager at supplier Cutter & Buck (PPAI 196156), says the company is utilizing new Spin technology that provides superior color in an eco-friendly process. “This new technology allows the color to become one with the fiber. Rather than dyeing yarn or fabric in a solution of water and dye chemicals, the pigment is melted and mixed with clear polyester solution prior to spinning/extruding it into yarn. This results in excellent colorfastness that withstands sunlight, laundry detergent and abrasion. It also results in excellent color consistency between batches.” 

Moxley explains, “If you cut a standard poly yarn, you will see a white core surrounded by color, as the dye sits on the outside of the fiber. If you cut a Spin yarn, you will see solid color all the way through the fiber.” As a bonus, he says, the Spin process results in 85 percent less water consumption, 70 percent less chemical consumption, a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption and a 30 percent reduction in carbon imprint.


Transforming Your Tee
Take advantage of the innate versatility of the t-shirt to wear it in both relaxed and more formal settings. These inexpensive suggestions will instantly update your tee with a modern edge.

1. Tie on a scarf for instant color and style

2. Combine it with pants of the same color for a monochromatic look

3. Ditch the blouse or dress shirt and wear it with a suit or professional jacket

4. Tuck it in to high-waisted pants or a skirt

5. Add sophistication with a statement necklace


Directions  In Decorating

Stahls’ (PPAI 189660) began as a family business in 1932, specializing in letter, screen printing, chenille and apparel decorating. Today, it is respected throughout the sportswear, custom apparel and promotional products industries for high-quality equipment, materials and service. PPB asked Courtney Kubitza, manager of educational content at Stahls’, to weigh in on what’s new in the ever-changing apparel market. She outlined the following design trends that will influence t-shirt decorating in 2018.

Textures And Tonal Prints
Streetwear’s influence on t-shirt decoration has led to sleek, modern t-shirts that are edgy. Popular texturized fabrics create a perfect canvas for tone-on-tone prints. The textures within these t-shirts give the illusion of blurred motion, a popular design style among top sportswear retailers today. Create a minimalist look pairing a dark textured shirt with a like color heat transfer. Using different textures in the same color such as foil with a flock heat transfer adds a level of dimension to the artwork. Matte, translucent heat transfers also create a tonal effect.

Split Design Effects
Splitting text is a popular typography style that will continue into 2018. This design style creates designs from simple text artwork by splitting the text with colors, or horizontal or diagonal lines to form a unique design element. Going forward, this design style will be elevated by splitting the text with different colors and finishes. Pairing together multiple finishes such as foil, glitter, flock and matte effects will  bring t-shirt designs to life.

Customizable Patterns
New patterns in blank garment and decoration will be on trend in the new year. An increased desire for t-shirt enthusiasts to be unique and fashionable leads to more customization of patterns. This is evidenced by the rise in custom full-color blank apparel manufacturing with all over sublimation. New customizable heat transfer vinyl pattern generators allow decorators new ways to create custom patterns to fit their customer. 

For individual products and case studies, please see our flipbook.

Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.