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The Fine Print: Let's talk about tees!

Why We Love T-Shirts (And You Should, Too!)

In the past hour, there have been 1,369 tweets with the word “t-shirt” in it.  What is it about t-shirts that gives us the warm and fuzzies? T-shirts allow us to express our opinions, proclaim our love for brands, and our affiliation with social organizations.

Customized t-shirts have defined generations. In the 60’s, one of the biggest t-shirt fads was of course do it yourself tie-dye. Ethnic patterns made it to the mainstream and paisleys were blooming everywhere. Anti-war sentiment hung thick in the air and the phrase “make love not war” became one of the most iconic slogans of the era.

The 70’s saw a t-shirt graphical explosion of rainbows, unicorns, stars, and monster trucks. Iron-on tranfers were a popular form of personalization for anyone with a blank t-shirt and a hot iron. Who doesn't remember a “Foxy Lady” or the hauntingly elegant, “Classy Lady?”

The 80’s showed us how to “Relax” and reminded us to “Save Ferris” amidst blinding neon colors and ultra wide boat necks (better to bare one shoulder with my dear.) Can anyone say Flashdance?

Besides “Living La Vida Loca” in the 90’s, t-shirts seemed to be all about the brand. The skate culture was taking over the suburbs and the streets were clogged with Stussy, Billabong, Mossimo and Quicksilver tees. The smiley face tee however took on an epic stature and became such an annoyance that people of the opposing faction customized theirs with a bullet hole. 

We made it to the new millennium without the sky falling and Y2K was thankfully not the disaster scaremongers talked it up to be. This was the decade of scaling back, diversifying and chilling out. CEO’s were wearing jeans and “Free [Insert Name Here]” shirts were all the rage. But the decade’s most iconic t-shirt had to be “Vote for Pedro” of Napoleon Dynamite fame.

The 2nd decade of the new millennium is shaping up to be a lively one with t-shirt trends like “Keep Calm and Carry On” and the Endless t-shirt. Share your comments on t-shirt trends, predictions and design ideas in the comment section below. We’d love to hear your take on it and why you love t-shirts!

5 Quick Tips For Ordering Custom T-Shirts Online

We know it can be scary to place a big order for custom t-shirts online. You may worry about choosing the right sizes, the right product, the right output process, (screen print or digital print) and the final product. We have printed millions of custom t-shirts for customers all over the U.S.A. and we have experts to guide you through every phase of the process. Here are some pro tips that will make the ordering process seamless.

1.       Start with the right product

What purpose will your custom t-shirt order serve? Are you buying jerseys for the team or mementos for a bachelorette party? Hanes is always a popular choice for quality, durability and color choices plus you can choose from a variety of styles like Cool Dri specifically designed to keep the wearer cool and protected from UV rays. Junior styles are favored by women looking for a snug, feminine fit. Is your event taking place in the summer? Tank tops and sleeveless tees provide an excellent summer-friendly choice. Different products impact the cost per unit. The weight can range from light to heavy and color choices can range from a few to all the colors under the rainbow.

2.       Choose the right sizes

Sizing can vary dramatically by product. Some product lines are designed for a certain body type in mind. An XXL in one product might fit more like a Large in another. Pay attention to specific notes in our product catalog to see if sizes run small or large. The manufacturer will often provide specific measurements for chest, waist and hips so to ensure you choose the right sizes, consider gathering measurements from your group.

3.       Screen Printing VS. Digital Printing

The best method of printing depends on many factors. Cost per unit typically has a big influence on the choice. Screen printing is by far the less expensive method but does require a minimum order of six shirts. With screen printing, oftentimes the colors can be more vibrant, the ink will be thicker and more durable plus specialty inks can be used such as glitter and neon. Digital printing is the default choice for small and highly detailed orders. Digital printing is quite similar to printing from an office printer. This is best if your art is intricate and requires diverse colors. An example of screen printed and digitally printed art can be seen here.

4.       The Design

You can choose to personalize one of our pre-made design templates with your organization or event name and colors or you can upload your own custom artwork in our design studio. You can even design a hybrid. The most important thing when using your own custom artwork is the quality of the uploaded art. The old saying goes garbage in, garbage out. While our in-house graphic artists examine every order set to go to print, high resolution artwork will ensure a clean print. Carefully examine your proof before signing off on the print. We make every effort to print exactly what the proof reflects. If you still have concerns we can provide a sample print to ensure your total satisfaction.

5.       Art to Product Size Ratio

One last tip when ordering custom t-shirts online is to think about the design size to product size ratio. If we receive an order with a range of different sizes, we will scale the design to fit the smallest shirt size and use the same screen to print the rest of the order. This may have a prominent impact if your sizes range from youth extra small to XXXL. If this is concerning, you may order two sizes of art for an extra charge to maintain and approximate ratio across sizes. If your design is on the small size initially, this extra step may not be needed at all. 

T-Shirt Mods – From Drab to Fab

In the 80’s, Madonna’s “Lucky Star” video shocked the world as she twirled her crop top exposed bare midriff into super stardom and started a modification frenzy. The 90’s saw much of the same as nary an intact t-shirt was to be found on the grunge gods of old. T-shirt modification is now mainstream, and depending on your bank account, you can buy a ridiculous looking “distressed” designer t-shirt that looks like something the Salvation Army would reject or you make a your own super stylish modified t-shirt for a fraction of the price.


Salina Siu is a present day YouTube star with a staggering 96,922 followers and over 12 million views. One of her claims to fame is DIY tutorials on cut up t-shirts and other clothing modifications. Her tutorials are very simple and the best thing of all is you don’t need to know how to sew, just how to use scissors.

One of our favorite designs is featured in one of her oldest videos. Start by cutting the neck of the t-shirt into a boat neck, and then fold the t-shirt loosely in half but leave a little gap so you don’t accidentally cut the front half too. If you have a design on the front, which of course you do because you used our design studio to create an awesome custom tee, leave the design on the inside of the fold.

Decide how wide you want the top of the V to be by placing the ruler at an angle as you make the slits. Leaving the ruler on the t-shirt as you make the slits will also ensure that the slits are even. How much space you leave between slits will determine the overall look but for this video, Salina suggest about the width of your pinky. 

After you've made all of your slits, open the t-shirt up and pull each string taught individually. This will causes the edges to roll and produce a slinky look. Weaving the strings together is a bit more complicated but Salina shares a tutorial here.

The final product is a one of a kind modification that fits your one of a kind custom t-shirt design from DesignAShirt.com. Special thanks to Salina Siu for creating awesome tutorials on how to stylize t-shirts and keeping t-shirt mods alive and well. Be sure to check out all of her customization tutorials on her YouTube channel.

 

T-Shirts in Popular Culture

Clothing has historically been a way to define status, gender, and align beliefs. In general, we use clothing as a means of identity.

Trends in clothing define social progression in many forms. A person’s manner of dress can reveal their attitudes towards society, moral proclivity, wealth, and political affiliations. Through generations, we see fashions that were once viewed as socially unacceptable or even as underwear have become common and even conventional in professional situations.

The T-Shirt is one such trend that has evolved in cultural perceptions.  It was once simply the result of a modification to the one piece undergarment called the “union suit.” Adopted by miners to cover their skin in hot and dirty environments, it was later popularized by the U.S. Navy as a garment that would protect uniforms.

The humble t-shirt made its Hollywood debut on the magnificent torso of a young Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. Since then, the t-shirt has matured into a fashion statement acceptable at all levels from haute couture designers to the boardrooms of startup companies in Silicon Valley.

Belgian designer, Maison Martin Margiela offers a plain cotton, short sleeve t-shirt without embellishments that will put you back almost $300. The Hérmes Croc T-shirt will set you back $91,500 but at least that one is made of crocodile leather.

Extravagant fashion statements aside, the t-shirt has never been more popular or accepted even in the work place. Generation Y will soon make up the biggest segment of the U.S. workforce and this generation demands flexibility in the dress code.

Many technology companies advertise a casual dress code as one of the perks of working for them. Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are seen sporting t-shirts more often than not even at public speaking engagements.   The t-shirt has become the expectation not the exception in the hi-tech corridors of America.

Screen and digital printing provides an additional avenue to personalize the t-shirt experience. It is a means of expression that can be employed by persons of any social or economic standing. People often use messages or images to cause emotional reactions, or as a means of claiming membership to a certain group, organization or idea.

No longer does the garment proclaim the wealth or status of the wearer as it did throughout history. Today you can find a fast food worker in a Gucci t-shirt and a well-known celebrity sporting the very latest trend, their own ironic selfie picture.

A 3 Step Guide To Understanding T-Shirt Quality

A T-Shirt is a T-Shirt, right? Wrong. Tees can range from $5 to $50 with slight differences that can make a shirt “meh” or magnificent. Want to know what to look for? Follow this 3 step guide.

1)      Fabric and Fibers. When most people think of a t-shirt, they think of 100% cotton. While this is usually the case, not all cottons are created equal. If the cotton type is not specified, it isn’t special, but if it is noted as Pima, Organic, or Egyptian cotton, you can count on getting a super soft feel.

However, even regular cotton can be soft if it is treated the right way. When cotton is spun into fabric, it is generally “open ended” meaning the cotton fibers are going every which way when woven. The t-shirt will hold up just fine, but it might feel rough to the touch. A more expensive tee would have ring-spun or combed cotton.

Lower Quality, Open-Ended


High Quality, Ring Spun

Ring-spun cotton takes the same original fibers, but twists them into little ropes. The more times it is spun/twisted, the yarn becomes skinnier, softer, and stronger. These pieces of yarn are measured by their diameter and then are woven together to create the fabric. If your yarn is fatter, you don’t need as many of them to create the fabric, but if your yarn is super-spun and skinny, you may need double to create the fabric.  An inexpensive tee may be made with 16-18 singles, whereas a very fine knit tee would be made with 36 or more.

Beyond cotton, there are many other fabric blends that can make a fabulous shirt. Viscose will add a flowy and almost shiny finish to a tee, Spandex offers a comfortable stretchy rebound, polyester will keep bright colors bright (think neon!) and a bamboo tee will be as soft as a baby koala bear.

2)      Stitching and Seams. T-shirt makers can be confusing in the way they market the stitching of a shirt. Very basic t-shirts may be described as having “double needle” stitching on the collar and hem, which may make it seem like there is double the work and double the strength, but that isn't totally true.

A double needle stitch shows two lines of dotted threads, which are sewn at the same time with twin needles. While this is a durable way of stitching, it can sometimes lead to puckering of fabric, which would be especially unfavorable on an expensive dress shirt.

Single needle stitching is much more sleek, and although it is just one line of thread, the machine goes over and back, which takes longer to ensure a durable stitch.

Seams are another way to determine the quality of a t-shirt, specifically a side seam.  A shirt without side seams is called “tubular” because it is a tube of fabric. These are inexpensive to produce, and sometimes lead to a poor fit or twisting of the tee. Shirts with side seams have a much more tailored fit that will wash and wear better for the life of the shirt.

3)      Special-Tee Effects. Sometimes it isn't the t-shirt itself that creates a high price tag, but the finishing or printing effects the manufacturer uses to make it unique and more costly to produce.

Traditionally, t-shirts are decorated using screen printing and plastisol inks, which have a layer of ink you can feel on top of the fabric. More expensive prints may be done with discharge printing, which bleaches out the dye of the shirt, and sometimes a second layer of water-based inks.

Water-based inks are very thin and seep into the fibers of the shirt, creating a vintage faded look which is soft to the touch.

Another special touch may be a tagless tag, where the sizing and washing information is printed inside the shirt for added comfort.