Team Apparel

So over the years, we’ve had small talks about getting jackets for apparels, but have never executed the plan (either because of money, timing, etc). Those teams out there that have multiple types of apparel, (whether it’s t-shirts, collared, jackets, hoodies, etc) where do you get them done, and about how much do you pay?

All our supporter gear (T-shirts and hoodies) are done by Custom Ink. iirc, we run a custom ink campaign, so each student can order their own. Shirts cost about $20 and hoodies are $40. I do know that Spreadshirt offers a good price for bulk shirt orders, but I haven’t looked at their other apparel

I have always ordered custom printed clothing type items from local vendors, whether for FRC, church, or (back when I was leading that) science fiction clubs and cons. Ask teams (not just robotics) and other organizations about their experiences; in my area, most are great to work with, but there are a few to avoid.

Have a good idea how many of an item you will want before you go talk to them because different processes scale differently; silk screen is much more expensive at small scales (say a dozen) than at larger scales (say six dozen), while embroidery and photoprint are a lot closer to linear after the charge of creating the image in the first place, so also ask about “what if we want one or two or twelve later?”. If you do silk screen, order some spares, because it’ll be less expensive than going back for a half dozen later when someone wants a second shirt or someone new joins the team (think mentors/parents, not just students!)

Oh, if you do silk screen, keep your artwork down to four colors (on each side) unless you’re going to go full photographic process. If you’ve ever seen silk screening done, you know why; if not, let’s just say that the screening table is square, leaving room for four screens to fold over it.

When doing shirts and such in silk screen numbers, I’ve normally found a cost of about $12 to $15 for a [Gildan, Hanes beefy T, or similar quality] shirt and about twice that for hoodies per piece.

The easiest thing to do, as GeeToo suggested, is look around your local area and find a company that can do either silk screening, embroidery, or iron-on transfer of designs for you. Perhaps they’ll even sponsor you by giving you the product at a discount or better.

For very small scales, and simple designs, you might consider doing it yourself. You can buy iron-on fabric transfers that you can print on with an inkjet printer, or you could get a vinyl cutter like a Cricut or Silhouette. Think of them like a cross between a plotter and a CNC machine. (And if you buy one of these, you can also cut adhesive vinyl for your robot’s sponsor board, or iron on numbers for your bumpers.) The machines themselves cost about $300, and you can buy rolls of iron-on or adhesive vinyl in multiple colors. You would want to stick to relatively simple designs as they become time consuming to “weed out” more complex logos or layer up different colors. But, you could make your own branded T-shirts, hats, pants, backpacks, etc. Anything you can iron a logo onto. And anything you can stick a sticker onto. You can make team-branded clipboards, storage bins, USB sticks, laptops, etc.

For smaller runs you can also look at VistaPrint.com. They often have good discounts like 40-50% off so never buy anything without first checking the site for promo codes. VistaPrint can do one-off’s or small quantities of items like pens, or jackets, or backpacks, and they’ve got an arm that will do larger quantities of products as well. Some products, you can just have them brand one or two. Others, you need to buy 50 or 100.

I also use 4imprint.com for larger quantities of things like pens, water bottles, hats (not just for my robotics team but also for a charity I volunteer with). 4imprint does something called a “Daily Deal” where every day they’ll feature a smaller quantity of a particular product at a discount:

https://promotions.4imprint.com/dealoftheday/

This is a bit of a crapshoot, but if you put a little time into visiting the site each day, you can get lucky. For example I picked up a box of 500 custom branded pens for $99.