Thursday, November 13th, 2008

T-Shirt Round Up – What Type of Shirt Should I Use For My Band Merch?

I remember when I first started playing in bands there were two things that “made you official” and they were a demo CD and a t-shirt. Making the CD was easy, we'd get some beers and spend a few nights recording on a 4-track and then another few nights burning them onto CD-Rs on my computer. Throw in a trip to Staples (or just pilfering from whatever office job I had at the time) for some jewel cases and some photocopied jacket covers and we were half way to being a “real” band.

T-shirts were a whole other matter. I didn't know the first thing about making a T-shirt for my band. “How do I make a design?”, “Where do I even go once I have a design?”, and “What type of shirt do I use for printing?” were just a few of the questions that plagued me.

Fortunately, I have covered the guidelines for preparing t-shirts designs for screen printing in my past blog "A 5 Minute Guide To Preparing Your Artwork For Screen Printing". While it won't help you out on the creative side of your design, it'll get you started on making sure your artwork is ready and capable to be printed when the time comes.

I also have an answer for the question of where to go once you have a design. Pardon the shameless plug, but you are reading a blog for BandsOnABudget.com: Your One Stop Merch Shop, so in short – you're already in the right place.

The final question “What kind of shirt do I use for printing” is a much trickier question. While I could go on for hours I've decided to keep things simple and discuss the most popular shirts we print at BandsOnABudget.com . This list is by no means exhaustive and doesn't cover brands such as Alternative Apparel, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, or Jerzees. With that being said – here is our T-Shirt Roundup:

The Gilden G500 100% Heavy Cotton T-Shirt:

This T-shirt is one of the most popular “band” shirts out there. It provides a great blend of affordability with quality and can easily be compared to it's other 100% cotton competitors from Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, and Jerzees. While there are “cheaper” T-Shirts on the market they are often mixes of cotton and other synthetics to produce a lighter and less quality garment. If you've ever had the experience of buying a shirt, washing it a few times, having the colors fade, and the shirt fall apart then this is usually the result of a cheap “throw-away” garment. On the other hand, the Gilden G500 is a great shirt with a great price and will not only hold up to years of washing but retain it's ink for a long time to come.

Link To Price Chart

The American Apparel 2001 Fine Jersey Short Sleeve T-shirt

American Apparel is the Mercedes of the T-Shirt world, minus, of course, the fact that they are produced in the U.S.A. and Mercedes is a product of German engineering. That aside, the American Apparel 2001 is a high quality, extremely durable, and extremely soft garment – in fact according to their marketing it is “The softest, smoothest, best-looking T-shirt available anywhere. “. It holds inks exceptionally well and their cuts are a little more form fitting than a Gilden G500. The downside to all these wonderful amenities is, of course, the price, which is typically several dollars more per piece; but don't let that dissuade you from taking this garment for a test drive. If you've ever bought a shirt from a big “rock-concert” the chance is that it was an American Apparel.

Link To Price Chart

The Tultex Fine Jersey T-Shirt

Tultex is a relatively new T-Shirt manufacturer to the game, in it's current form, anyway. Tultex aims to bridge the gap between the Gilden/Hanes/Fruit of the Loom (and other 100% cotton blends) and higher end brands such as American and Alternative Apparel. It is also priced accordingly and will typically run a little more than a Gilden G500 but a little less than an American Apparel 2001. Quality wise, it is softer than a Gilden G500 yet not as durable as the American Apparel 2001. It does hold it's ink extremely well and comes standard with a convenient “tear away” tag. Tultex has been gaining a lot of popularity with touring bands these days such as Fallout Boy and even Motorhead.

Link To Price Chart

The Anvil Organic 100% Cotton Shirt (OR420)

The last shirt on our roundup, and my personal favorite, is the 100% Organic Cotton T-Shirt from Anvil. First produced in 2007, this shirt was Anvil's solution to creating an affordable, yet non-toxic and sustainable, organic cotton T-Shirt. While a little more expensive than a Gilden G500, it is price much lower than competing organics from Alternative Apparel, American Apparel, & Econscious. I prefer the OR420 not only because is it sustainable, it's affordable. While produced in Honduras, it is guaranteed to have been produce in both environmentally and socially responsible ways - so rest easy that this shirt was NOT produced in a sweatshop.

Link To Price Chart

Bret Morgan is an owner of and web developer for BandsOnABudget.com, SwimMerch.com, ZenMerch.com, and DBLSystems.com. In his free time he enjoys surfing, ashtanga yoga, riding bikes (both motorized and foot powered), and reading. His current beer of choice is Carlsberg. He can be contacted at bret [at] BandsOnABudget.com