What’s the deal with vintage fashion? Why are we drawn to styles that look worn, or in many cases, have been worn? When it comes to clothing, the phrase, “Out with the old and in with the new” need not apply—which is why retro apparel could be an effective option to getting your brand noticed and becoming as timeless as the clothing on which your logo is printed.

Vintage wear evokes personality, is forever chic and it covers every base of the style spectrum, from haute couture to grunge and everyday wear—and many of us probably have a piece or two hiding in our own closets. Remember that tee you snagged at a Pink Floyd concert? Vintage. Or, what about that bomber jacket you can’t stop wearing? Even if it’s new, the look was inspired by clothing worn by military pilots during World War I. The design wasn’t intended for its looks, but to keep pilots warm, since most planes didn’t have enclosed cockpits at the time. Surely, many of us own a raglan shirt, a three-quarter length top with a colored collar and sleeves. This look dates to the 1800s, when it was first worn by a British Army officer, known as Lord Raglan.

Vintage clothing carries a fragment of history, each piece telling its own story. There are differing opinions as to what is considered vintage, but the rule of thumb are items at least 20 years old. But you can certainly recreate the look, as many companies do, to evoke a similar feel. (“Retro” is a subtype of vintage that refers to clothing that isn’t actually old, but made to look old.) Promotional products companies can use this storytelling quality to add yet another layer—literally—and tell a story about their brands.

Vintage Trends To Consider For Your Brand

  • Graphic tees
  • Oversized sweaters
  • Crop tops
  • Knee socks
  • Head scarfs
  • Fanny packs
  • Oversized hair scrunchies
  • Mirrored and/
or oversized sunglasses
  • Off-the-shoulder blouses
  • High-waisted swimsuit bottoms
  • Logoed tees and handbags

The Story Behind Some Of Your Favorite Vintage Looks

Old-fashioned overalls. Overalls, also known as dungarees, marked the early days of denim, serving as the first “jeans” ever created. Overalls entered the retail market in the 1890s, although there is evidence of the style dating back to the late 1700s. The first mass producer of overalls was Levi Strauss & Co., and in its early days it was advertised as protective clothing for laborers such as miners, loggers, farmers and railroad workers. In the late 1960s, OshKosh B’gosh started producing bib overalls for children. Today, overalls can be considered high fashion, with high-end department stores, like Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, selling styles for upwards of $300.

Stunner shades. Sunglasses date back to prehistoric times, when the Inuit people from the Canadian Arctic, also known as Eskimos, wore “sunglasses” made from flattened walrus ivory, which allowed them to peer through narrow slits to avoid the sun’s harmful rays. In 1913, Crookes lenses were introduced to market, which were sunglasses made using cerium, a chemical element that blocks UV rays. Shortly after, in the 1920s, movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor popularized the accessory.

Fanny packs. Sure, it’s a look that’s received some amusing commentary over the years, but this helpful invention has deep roots in history. The earliest known “fanny packs” were buffalo pouches used by Native Americans some 5,000 years ago. Another version was used by Europeans during medieval times as a precursor to clothing pockets, like the Scottish sporran, which remains in use due to the lack of pockets in a traditional kilt. The accessory became popular in the United States during the 1980s and the 1990s, when they were featured in Vogue. Now, high-end brands have reinvented the item by referring to it as a “belted satchel,” “waist bag” or “hands-free bag.” Designers like Alexander Wang and Gucci sell some of their “fanny packs” for upwards of $650.


Evoke a ’60s feel for your brand, starting from the top down. The Crosby Corduroy Hat is 100
percent cotton, featuring a six-panel, structured fit and an adjustable, plastic snapback for comfort
that doesn’t compromise style. The flat-brim style assures the cap won’t bend or curve, maintaining
a crisp look. Select from one of three patch styles and sizes to imprint your logo, front and center.
Available in black or navy (shown).

Origaudio  /  PPAI 421483  /  www.origaudiopromo.com


You can never have too much corduroy. It is the velour version of denim, after all. Add a touch of
retro to your brand with the appropriately named Corduroy Cap. The velvety-soft hat features a
six-panel, unstructured fit with a fabric strap and an antique brass sliding buckle for easy adjustment.
With a range of customizable options for the logo plate, this low-profile cap is available in navy, black
and rust (shown).

Cap America, Inc.  /  PPAI 111597  /  www.capamerica.com


With this cool cap, you’ll never have to worry about it fading from sun exposure—because like all
vintage looks, it’ll only look better with time and wear. This American Needle Raglan Bones twill cap
is made from 100 percent cotton, boasting comfort, with a soft mesh back and a pigment wash, for a
touch of charm. The visor is pre-curved for convenience, with a snap-buckle closure and low-profile
structure. Available in five colors, including black, green, navy, steel blue and gray (shown).  

Kati Sportcap & Bag  /  PPAI 113758  www.katisportcap.com


Denim isn’t just for pants anymore. The Mega Cap Washed Denim hat is made from 100 percent
cotton and includes a fabric strap with a flip-buckle closure for easy adjustments. Its unstructured,
low-profile look is hip, while its six-panel construction and pre-curved 
visor add unique elements to
the structure. Adorn the cap with your company’s
logo or motto—or create custom looks to promote
an event. Available in light blue denim and navy denim (shown).

Kati Sportcap & Bag   /   PPAI 113758  /   www.katisportcap.com


No vintage wardrobe is ever truly complete without a bomber jacket. This Ladies Flight Bomber
, inspired by the workwear of military pilots in the early 1900s, carries a historical feel that is
both stylish and versatile. The jacket features a micro-cord woven, polyester fabric, giving it a ribbed
texture, while shielding the wearer from the elements with a quilted storm flap and an inner taffeta
lining. Additional details include an antique gold zipper and pulls, an inside zippered pocket and a
rib-knit collar, cuffs and bottom. Available in sizes XS-3XL in three supercool shades of navy, black
and army green (shown).

Augusta Sportswear Brands   /   PPAI 187246  /  www.augustasportswear.com


Whether you’re prepping for a team-building outing or offering clients the perfect accessory to
spreadthe word about their brand, the Augusta Baseball Jersey 2.0 is the ideal companion for
work and play. Its cotton jersey/polyester blend offers a super-soft hand feel, while a new, slimmer
fit and a wider, crew neck is designed to ensure all-day comfort. The 3/4-inch raglan sleeves are
offered in bold, contrasting colors, as is the collar, for customization to fit your clients’ needs. And
even better—no matter how many times it’s worn, it’s guaranteed not to shrink or fade. (That’s
years’ and years’ worth of exposure for brands.) Available in S-4XL, multi-sex, in 16 colors; shown
in red.

Augusta Sportswear Brands   /   PPAI 187246   /   www.augustasportswear.com


Stay hip, think cool, be chic—even on the go. This Travel Bundle, shown in denim, is a classy,
practical way for your brand to receive some interstate (or international) exposure. This compact
bundle includes (from top, left) the Hitchcock passport holder, which includes “The Small Book of
Awesome” for jotting memos, the Ruckman Roll, a roll-up organizer for tech gadgets, cords or
jewelry, designed to prevent tangling, the Fort Point Dopp for storing toiletries and small tech
gadgets and a matching merchant tag for your luggage. Personalize any or all of the items.

Origaudio   /   PPAI 421483   /   www.origaudiopromo.com


You can’t go wrong with a staple like this Men’s Burnout Tee that features an ultra-soft hand and
vintage blind-stitching on the sleeve and bottom hems, adding to the retro vibe. And with superior
printability, you can add charm to your brand, while offering clients a timeless piece they’ll enjoy
for years to come. Available in sizes S-3XL in midnight, nautical blue, dark olive, anthracite
(shown) and chili pepper (shown).

Cotton Heritage   /   PPAI 254025    /    www.cottonheritage.com


Combine old-school style with new-school flair with the Slapshot Vintage Jersey T-Shirt.
Combining elements of the traditional hockey jersey with modern color-blocking, your client will be
rocking a retro twist—and so will your brand. With a fabric combination of 50 percent cotton and 50
percent polyester for super softness, coupled with a tear-away tag, comfort is at the forefront of this
trendy tee, which is manufactured using American-made fabrics. Available in sizes S-2XL in five color
combinations, shown in blue sky-white-navy.

S&S Activewear   /   PPAI 256121 www.ssactivewear.com


You can’t go wrong when style meets comfort—and when you look good wearing it. The
ComfortWash Garment Dyed Short Sleeve Tee is made using 100 percent ring-spun, American-
grown cotton from domestic farms, which creates a vintage, lived-in look. With an emphasis on
quality, proprietary dye processes are used to ensure a long-lasting print. The no-shrink tee is
available in sizes S-3XL in 21 colors, shown in Spanish moss.

S&S Activewear   /   PPAI 256121  /  www.ssactivewear.com


For a look that keeps on keeping on, the Champion Premium Fashion Baseball T-Shirt, made
with 100 percent, ring-spun cotton, is a solid selection for brands. The raglan sleeves and collar
can be customized depending on a favorite sports team, or designed for a casual, trendy look.
The left sleeve features the signature Champion® logo, while new, vibrant colors—like bright sage
and chalk white—call fresh attention to the fresh tee. Available in sizes S-3XL in five color
combinations, shown in chalk-white-bright.

S&S Activewear   /   PPAI 256121   /   www.ssactivewear.com


No wardrobe is complete without an acid washed piece—or two, or three—and it’s a great
option for drawing attention to a logoed shirt, with added charm. The Ladies Zen Thermal
Long-Sleeve Tee
offers a 60-40 combination of 60 percent cotton and 40 percent polyester
thermal burnout fabric, with an acid wash and silicone finish. Details include rib cuffs, collar
and wrists, with a front pouch pocket. Available in sizes XS-2XL, the blouse is available in
cement, dark smoke, ocean berry, wild berry and very berry (shown). Also shown is the
Vintage Long-Sleeve Thermal Tee, a casual, yet clean look made using the same fabric
combination as the women’s blouse, and featuring ribbed cuffs, wrists and collar. Additional
details include a contoured, bottom waist hem and contrast flatlock stitching. Available in
sizes S-3XL in army, black, brown, simply red, vintage navy, vintage white and charcoal
heather (shown).

America / PPAI 351669   /   www.jamericablanks.com


Add an old-style feel to your brand with a traditional track jacket. Place your logo front and
center on the Vintage Poly Fleece Track Jacket, as shown; a look that’s further
complemented by the white applique sleeve stripes and poly fleece side gussets. Front pouch
pockets are available for storing small items, like house keys or a cell phone. Available in sizes
S-3XL in black, graphite, Kelly, navy and red (shown).

America /  PPAI 351669  / www.jamericablanks.com


Give your clients the look of a vintage piece that could have been found in their parents’
closet or retired at a thrift store after years’ worth of wear. Whether it’s game day, a holiday,
a company recognition lunch or a special event, there’s no better accessory than a custom-
designed promotional product to call attention to your brand—and serve as a memento, years
after the occasion passes. This Gildan 5000 Adult Heavy Cotton T-Shirt is hand-decorated
in Montana using 100 percent cotton and ornamented royal fiber-reactive dyes that are designed
not to bleed or fade. The decorator-friendly tee boasts a designated area on the front and back
of the shirt for customization. (And just like Montana snowflakes, no two shirts are alike, so clients
can enjoy a one-of-a-kind treasure.) Available in infant, toddler, youth and adult sizes up to 5XL.

Kerr’s Cotton Creations, Inc.   /  PPAI 313486   /   www.kerrscotton.com


This cool, striped backpack offers front-and-center real estate for your brand, complemented by
clean lines for a fresh look. This Champion Striped Backpack includes padded, adjustable
shoulder straps and a padded back for added comfort, as well as a jacquard top carry handle.
The main zippered compartment, which includes a laptop sleeve, fits most 15-inch laptops for
easy travel. For additional storage, the backpack includes an interior zip pocket and mesh pockets,
and a front, zippered pocket with an organizational compartment. Available in three styles: blue
surf the web and navy, black and heather navy and red (shown).

Kati Sportcap & Bag    /   PPAI 113758   /   www.katisportcap.com


Danielle Renda is the associate editor of PPB.


Apparel Decorating: How To Create A Vintage Look

by  Debra Romalia        Photos provided by Stahls’

Vintage looks are trending in retail for fashion, sports uniforms and spirit wear. This nostalgic look is favored by fashion-conscious consumers and even suits corporate campaigns designed to celebrate anniversaries or sports teams interested in a throwback style for uniforms and fan wear.

Materials like twill, flock and felt lend themselves to recreating vintage looks for sweatshirts, jackets and even tees, because they’ve long been used in apparel decoration. The key is to take the look and give it a modern twist by experimenting with color, font, patterns or even distressing.

Here are a few tips to help recreate a vintage look on apparel.


Appliqué Materials


Felt appliqué is great for hoodies and jackets to resemble the traditional American college student’s attire. Felt is available in wool or acrylic and can be laser-cut or cut on a vinyl cutter using a heat transfer mask backing and the correct specialty blade. The felt is then layered and sewn for a dimensional and matte finish. This process works best with simple, thick designs—usually large block letters and numbers in typefaces like Pro Block, Varsity, Team US, Highway and Cooper.

This logo was created using felt with
the traditional satin stitch used for conventional
appliqué. The fuzzy felt will soften more with
each wash to give the design a vintage look
along with the use of the familiar drop tail.





Twill is another appliqué option for a designer vintage look. It comes in a variety of finishes and materials from polyester to cotton with shiny or matte options. It’s a great selection for sports uniforms in addition to jackets and hoodies. It’s more expensive than felt, but it provides a professional, high-quality finish.

Twill is best used for larger, stitched designs on heavier fabrics like those used for hoodies and jackets. These materials offer a more cost-effective option than large, direct-embroidered designs, saving both stitches and weight on garments for a better fit.

T-Shirt Jersey

T-shirt jersey material is a popular choice in retail for appliqué because it has a light hand, which many customers prefer for their apparel. The jersey gets a unique, distressed look as it’s washed and dried.


Finishing Options

A popular technique used to make a design look vintage is distressing. Most appliqué is sewn with zigzag or satin stitches around the outline. To create a distressed look, the edges of the appliqué fabric are left unsewn using a running or bean stitch. With repeated washings, the edges fray.

Felt and twill fabric will fray with unraveled fibers and t-shirt jersey will unravel less but rolls up for a more wrinkled appearance. For a retro look, the best fabrics for fraying are felt or cotton twill, and t-shirt jersey is best for a unique distressed look.

A vintage look without a distressed or frayed finish requires a stitch to seal the edges of the fabric. The zigzag stitch is most common for appliqué because it’s a classic, easy finish with a low stitch count. Satin stitches add more dimension to your design and have a more distinct border, but they do require more stitches on the embroidery machine.

In this example, felt has been outlined with
a bean stitch to create this two-color appliqué.
By using a retro typeface and material, you can
communicate a vintage feel of old-time collegiate wear.




Heat-Applied Materials


Flock material is a no-sew option with a great textured, vintage appeal that’s regaining popularity on sweatshirts for spirit wear and more. Heat-transfer flock is created by placing very small natural or synthetic fiber particles onto a heat-transfer adhesive-backed surface. This creates a dimensional, soft, velvet-like surface that works well on thicker materials, including bathrobes and towels.

An easy way to create a vintage look with
a heat-applied graphics vinyl is by using
flock. It comes in a wide range of colors,
and it can be purchased on rolls for use
with a vinyl cutter or purchased as precut
letters and numbers, which only need to be
positioned and heat sealed.


Pre-Cut Options

When you’re short on time, equipment, or manpower, turning the cutting over to a reliable partner is ideal. This allows you to use design elements to create these vintage-inspired looks without creating them from scratch.

To save cutting time, many letters and numbers can be found pre-cut and ready for heat application. These are available in a variety of typefaces, materials and levels of distressing to create the look you’re trying to achieve. Letters and numbers can be layered with different colors, are available in sew and no-sew options and can also be ordered pre-aligned on a carrier to save layout time. Custom cutting of logos or designs is another way to get the job done.

Because the decorated apparel market is competitive, it’s important to stay on top of trends and creative techniques to set your work apart. By offering vintage options you are giving customers the looks they want to wear. Give it a try, experiment and explore the looks you can create with felt and twill.

Precut distressed letters come
presewn and are applied with a
heat press. They are available in
one or two-color combinations.




Debra Romalia is vice president of GroupeSTAHL Content Marketing in Sterling Heights, Michigan.