Where do you get high-quality wholesale fitted shirts?
It's funny, as soon as we decided to get out of the hand-printed t-shirt game we got a flood of questions as to how we were doing it. I keep thinking maybe they shouldn't take advice from the guys closing up shop, right? I kid, I kid. We did learn a ton in our short time doing this and thought it might be helpful if I wrote all this down somewhere on the internets.
What we'll be tackling today is the question we were asked most: "Where did you get your shirts?"
That's a great question. If you're not part of that world and trying to break in it's tough to know where to start.
But let's start at the beginning. First of all, if you're going to be printing and selling your own shirts that means you should be buying said shirts at cost. Not retail. Don't go to Walmart and buy a pack of Hanes, guys. Get a re-seller tax ID and buy those suckers wholesale. I know that's pretty basic, but you'd be surprised how many people are buying their shirts from their screen printer who bought them at cost and then marking them up to sell to you. Which you then have to mark up again, and you won't be making as much.
So yeah, do the business thing and get setup to buy stuff wholesale. Now that we've got that out of the way I'll talk about the 2 main things you want to look for in a good piece of apparel. Then we'll look at a couple of great wholesalers to try out.
T-Shirt Fit & Style
Personally I'm super picky about my t-shirt fit and comfort. And if I'm selling shirts to someone else I'm going to make sure they meet my standards. That means finding a bunch of places and getting a bunch of samples. Yep, it costs money. And that can be hard when you're just starting out, but don't you want your shirt to be one that people really love? I know I have shirts that are cool or have a great design, but if they aren't comfortable or don't fit right I just don't wear them. It's as simple as that.
And an un-worn shirt won't get you any more business. So invest the time and cost up front to get product that you are proud to sell.
There is nothing more frustrating that finding the perfect shirt only to have it be backordered or unavailable in the quantities and sizes you need. I'm not sure what to tell you here - it actually happened to us quite a bit and really made us question this whole crazy shirt business.
In hindsight we probably did it to ourselves. See, we never wanted to get run-of-the-mill shirts from a huge company like Hanes or a morally questionable one like American Apparel. We wanted unique, well made shirts from companies with sustainable practices. Shirts that we loved for not only their fit, but what they stood for.
Those ideals sometimes lend themselves to less than stellar supply chains, though. But anyway - I guess what I'm saying is you're going to have to buy a few runs from a wholesaler to get a sense of how reliable they're going to be. Don't buy one run and think you've found "the one." Wouldn't hurt to diversify, either just in case.
Shops to check out
Just to be up front - we don't endorse American Apparel. They do have a very wide selection and a strong supply chain, but I don't think their product fits well and I especially don't like their sexually suggestive advertising techniques. Not to mention all the sexual harassment claims from employees. Lots of people love them, though so I'd be remiss if I didn't mention them. But I know some are looking for alternatives. Speaking of alternatives, after much trial and error here are a few shirt companies we think you should check out.
Aptly named, Alternative is the perfect foil to the more mainstream suppliers out there. Their product is very high quality, well-designed and eco-friendly. Did I mention they're comfortable? Because they are super comfortable, too. And if you're into that sort of thing - lots of celebrities wear their stuff when they're knocking around town so they're pretty fashionable.
They are not cheap, though. If you sell their stuff your t-shirts are going to cost more than the other guy's. It's good stuff, though.
Next Level Apparel
Next Level isn't nearly as "design-y" as Alternative, but if you're looking for a really solid, comfortable shirt at a good price check them out. I've had multiple people tell me their tri-blend tee is the most comfortable shirt they own. And they do have some unique styles for women. We're using their Dolman for our Mother the Motherless shirt, and Ashley wears hers all the time. Great fit and super soft.
Like I said, prices are very reasonable - the only downside is they don't have a way to take credit cards online. I wasn't super comfortable emailing my CC info to them. Hopefully they'll get that fixed in the near future.
Bella + Canvas
We found this company looking for kids shirts when we did our surfboard line and really liked them. They're thinner than the others on the list, but that could be a good thing if you're going for that worn-in feel. I think these were the least expensive shirts we looked at, and their tri-blends are really comfortable as well.
Like Alternative, once you're setup with a wholesale account it's very easy to order securely online from them.
Wrapping it Up
So there you go! We sincerely hope this helps you if you're just getting started and trying to figure out where in the world to get a great shirt to print on. Good luck!
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