What Kind of T-Shirts Should I Buy? (Part I)

by john amato

One of the most challenging aspects of starting out in a t-shirt business is figuring out which shirts to print on. There are so many choices and it’s hard to figure out which ones are best. It’s something I had to learn by trial and error.

To add to the difficulty, most screen printers don’t base their decisions on consumer preference – they buy based on price. At the price level, all shirts are a commodity. They have the same fiber content, fit, and feel. These are the shirts we all grew up with: Jerzees, Fruit of the Loom, Bella, Anvil, or Gildan.

If you’re looking for the best price and a sturdy t-shirt, these are the brands to go with. Most schools, teams, and businesses print on one of these brands. They produce consistent quality shirts that are great for silk screening. They are available in 50/50 or 100% cotton in a wide range of colors. If you’re looking for the most cost effective method of producing shirts, these brands are your best bet.

Some of these companies allow you to buy their shirts directly from them. However, in order to get the best price, you often need to buy in larger quantities. Prices are staggered based on piece, dozen, and case quantity. So the more you buy, the better price you get. Therefore, buying directly from the manufacturer is not always going to get you the best price if you are not printing a huge amount.

What I recommend is buying through a distributor or letting the screen printer buy for you. They will be able to get you better prices since they are buying larger quantities on a consistent basis. Most printers will supply the shirts for you, but if for some reason they don’t, there are several distributors you can work through. Two options I’ve worked with in the past are: Broder Brothers and TSC Apparel. I’m sure there are plenty more out there that are just as helpful.

I believe in establishing a direct relationship early with the manufacturer or distributor. At some point they will be able to provide you with the best price. If you do enough business, only they will be able to provide you with discounts on case pricing or free shipping.

This should cover basic t-shirts for now. Have any other ideas? Recommend any other t-shirt manufacturers? Let me know.

Broder // TSC Apparel // Fruit of the Loom // Bella // Anvil // Gildan // Jerzees


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