The most important thing to keep in mind when printing shirts, is your customer. That’s why it’s become more and more important recently to print on higher quality t-shirts. Today buyers are making their decisions based on the quality of the garment more than any other factor.
When I refer to high quality t-shirts, I am referring to the fit and feel. These t-shirts are usually a fine jersey cotton or 50/50 blend. They are more form fitting. Two styles that are especially popular with the kids right now are your vintage triblend shirts and burn out tees.
Finding these higher quality t-shirts takes a little more work than your standard shirts. In my experience, many t-shirt distributors do not sell these brands and most screen printers have very little experience with them. When I first decided I want to print on a nicer shirt, I had to contact the companies directly. And that was the first problem: I didn’t know any companies that sold higher quality shirts at wholesale prices.
So I did what anyone would do, I started searching online for help. My search led me to t-shirtforums.com which had a few threads on higher quality shirt manufacturers. American Apparel, Royal Apparel, Pima Apparel, Alternative Apparel, Next Level, and Tultex were the most popular.
American Apparel is the popular choice right now. They provide high quality, consistent American made t-shirts. Their shirts are very soft and they have the largest range of colors and styles of any of these companies. Royal Apparel provides a similar catalog and comparable quality of American made shirts. Pima Apparel is most well known for ladies tees. Their shirts are made in China and, consequently, are less expensive than American made shirts. Most of my shirts are printed on these three brands.
Next Level also manufactures overseas. I really like their shirts but have concerns about their size scale. I wear a large in every other brand, but an XL in Next Level. I’m hoping they work it out soon as I hope to print some of my new shirts on Next Level. Alternative Apparel specializes in organic and eco-friendly garments. Their shirts are the most expensive as a result.
For companies that want the “American Apparel” look or feel but don’t want to pay the higher price, Tultex and Anvil provide a lower cost option for a high quality form fitting shirt.
As mentioned, these brands are more expensive than most people are accustomed to ($4.00 – $7.00 for the shirt alone). However, the difference in price is worth it for most. The fit and feel outweighs the price. You can set up a wholesale account directly with each company or find a distributor that will sell them to you. Once again, I believe establishing a direct relationship with the manufacturer leads to better results in the long run. Prices fluctuate based on the size of the order. After establishing a long term relationship with these companies, I get case pricing on my orders.
Another thing to keep in mind is the location of each manufacturer. Most manufacturers are located in California or Florida (a 3-5 day ship point to Ohio). A shirt distributor may be able to get you shirts faster is they are located in the same state. However, sometimes if the distributor doesn’t have your full order in stock at one location, they may ship from two different points and your shirts will not arrive on the same day.
Have any experience with these companies? Recommend any others? Let me know.