Behind Every Great Geeky T-Shirt Is a Blank

Karin says…

It’s crazy, really. You don’t think about it as you merrily make your way through life as a consumer, but any decorated tee shirt (that’s the lingo; learn it and use it) is, of course, printed on a blank tee. These are called, surprisingly, blanks.

So it turns out that blanks are like hot young actresses: popping up, catching your eye, then disappearing. And not returning.

What in the world makes blank t-shirts so crazy elusive? Even big names, like Anvil and Hanes, are always messing with us.

Let me back up a little. When we started out learning to print, we had to select a line of blanks. We ordered all kinds of t-shirts so we could see the colors with our own ocular equipment and touch them with our tactile receptors. We wanted good quality, and we had to determine that by ogling and fondling and printing and washing and wearing and washing. For months. Because we want to understand what we sell.

So we find a brand we love, order our first case…and find out that the seller is discontinuing the line. We finally settle on a second candidate, and love everything about the blanks.

Then we decide to outsource our printing (to U.S. companies, yay for keeping jobs onshore!), and find out that the blanks we so painstakingly chose are not available through distributors. This adds a big layer of complexity if we have to order and have printers stock our specially anointed blanks. And most printers don’t have room for cases of our blanks, anyway.

So we find another source of blanks that we’re happy with. Then, suddenly, they discontinue the chocolate for women. Just women. Luckily, we have a little pile of the blank that doesn’t sell through distributors, so we send those to the printer when we get orders for women’s chocolate shirts.

Okay. So then we get all fancy and extend the styles we offer, adding a classic-fit men’s crew neck in heavy cotton (because some guys let us know they aren’t going to wear those fitted, lightweight shirts, because ick) and youth sizes and a v-neck for women. (Because some women let us know that they weren’t going to wear a crew neck, because ick.) No complaints yet from any kid-shaped people.

And lo and behold, before we’ve even had one order for a v-neck, the nice one we chose is discontinued!

You have to laugh.

This is why brand names for blanks have disappeared from our site. We cannot guarantee what brand of blank we’ll be printing on from one day to the next. This means that exact sizing, and size charts, and exact shrinkage varies, and we have to keep up with that.

Picture it like log rolling—we just have to run in place as fast as we can and try not to fall off the log and drown. (Okay, log rolling is not a very good analogy to buying blanks, but the sense of precariousness is what I’m trying to convey. Because I feel like I’m running and running and not getting anywhere!)

Who would have ever guessed that it would be so hard to find a nice blank t-shirt? If you know any secrets in this area, tell me!

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3 Responses to “Behind Every Great Geeky T-Shirt Is a Blank”

  1. dongrgic Says:

    Have you considered going direct to the source, the factory in China or India… where ever they are made and organising your own deals. This way you can get a consistant supply in style, quality and colour thet you require.

    The discontinuations you are getting are probably from importers that choose not to run a particular colour for whatever reason.

  2. spakeblog Says:

    Hi Don–thank you for your input!

    I have to say that the thought of researching HOW to contact factories and then doing all the work to arrange for buying directly gives me the heebie jeebies (do you say that in Australia?).

    Have you done it? Is it easier than it sounds? It sounds like a nightmare to me!

    Here are some of the things I’d wonder about: can we get organic cotton? Can we trust the factories? I read about factories putting out one level of quality for samples, and then a lower level of quality for the big deliveries. What about customs? There’d be so much to know, and how often would shipments get stuck and for how long? Could we accurately predict the cost of importing? How about consistency of fabric, sewing, and dying? And sizing constency–yikes. Also, we now have three body styles, and would one factory be able to do all of them (heavy and light cotton, fitted and non fitted bodies, crew and v-neck)? Dealing with more than one factory ups the complications.

    I suppose there are intermediaries who do this kind of thing…but at this point, I can’t imagine figuring it all out. Heck, we’re fighting with our local network that decides we don’t have permission to open/save/delete files at any moment, to name just one time-eating issue.

    Plus I obviously have too many words that need sharing, as evidenced by this long response! 🙂

    Anyway, if you have any other advice on HOW to do this, I’m listening…but it would probably be awhile before we’d be able to act on it.

    And thanks again for speaking up! By the way, I’m curious how you found our blog…


  3. TeesForYourHead T-Shirt Review - Scientifically Stimulating Says:

    […] When I asked what brand of t-shirts they print on, I got a mixed response. If you look at one of their blog posts, you can see their troubles with honing in on the perfect combination of style, eco-friendliness, […]

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