The purpose of the Uniform 101 Learning Center is to educate uniforms shoppers to make informed decisions. We are not promoting or selling the benefits of Uniforms Express in this section of our website. While we believe we are the best solution in many cases we may not be a fit in all cases.
Buying team uniforms and other decorated apparel is a big responsibility. Players, parents, administrators and others are counting on you to make the right decision. If something goes wrong it can be a nightmare. In a survey of 2,300 high school coaches, 85% complained about service problems related to delivery. Understanding how your uniforms are made or sourced will help you avoid late deliveries and long lead times. For most teams, getting additional uniforms after their initial order is critical. You may add a player or something may get lost or damaged. You need to know your uniforms will be available for rush delivery if needed.
Below we discuss the differences between Team Sporting Good Dealers and Direct Manufacturers. We also discuss the different categories of uniforms; stock, semi-custom, custom and special order. We describe each method of decorating your team uniforms; tackle-twill, screen print, embroidery, sublimation and trims. Knowing the ins and outs of purchasing uniforms will help you better understand pricing, quality and service. Most importantly, you'll be informed to ask the right questions to avoid uniform nightmares.
Ask Before You Buy
Ask the following question to your potential uniform supplier to ensure the best ordering experience and to avoid uniform nightmares.
Do you manufacture or decorate your products in your own facility?
What is your policy if my order is delivered late?
How fast can I get replacements if there is a problem or I just need a few more?
Team Sporting Good Dealers
Dealers who sell team uniforms take many forms; individuals working out of their garage, local mom and pop shops, small and large road rep organizations, internet dealers and some big box retail stores. Team Dealers are middlemen for manufacturers who mostly contract offshore factories to produce your uniforms. Team dealers mostly sell name brand uniforms and well established smaller brands.
Some team dealers can give you a great one-stop shop experience, especially larger dealers who stock a lot of inventory. Dealers who have a store front are a great source for getting team equipment, footwear and other gear the same day you need it. You can typically negotiate the price of your uniforms when you buy everything from one dealer.
Because Team Dealers are middlemen for the manufacturers, they lose control of your order once its placed. They often add cost, delays and mistakes to uniform orders. It's nearly impossible for them to guarantee on-time delivery. They are very limited in their ability to expedite an order when needed. There have been many cases of small dealers taking a deposit for uniforms and going out of business before the uniforms are delivered.
A lot of companies who advertise as direct manufactures actually outsource their manufacturing. Few companies actually own and manage their own factories. Some of these companies use a combination of in-house and outsourced manufacturing.
Direct Manufacturers streamline the ordering and sourcing process to help eliminate cost, delays and mistakes. Direct Manufacturers who own and manage their own factories maintain control of your order from start to finish. They are typically the most reliable with delivery and they have the ability to expedite orders quickly, especially locally based manufacturers. With new, smaller direct manufacturers who manufacture offshore, you may be able to get a very cheap price..
Smaller manufacturers can become quickly overwhelmed with growth, putting them at risk for late deliveries. There have been a lot of small direct manufacturers who have come and gone. There have been many cases where a direct manufacturer takes a deposit and goes out of business before the uniforms are delivered.
Speed of Delivery
How fast a company can deliver is critically important for several reasons. After you place your initial order you may need to get additional items for new players, replace lost products and in some cases you may even need to replace your entire order if mistakes are made. Be sure to ask the following question to your potential supplier.
If I need to get more, how fast can you deliver?
A company must have the ability to expedite your order in less than 1 week if needed. They must be able to give you a date of delivery. Some companies will ask you to buy extras in case of an emergency which adds costs. Again, unless the company you order from owns and manages their own factory or decoration operations, its going to be difficult for them to meet rush orders. If you purchase stock uniforms there may be back orders and the product may not be available for many weeks. See the description of stock uniforms below.
A fully decorated jersey can range between $20 to over $100. There are several factor to consider when looking at prices.
The fabrics used to make a jersey can range from $1.50 per yard to as much as $20 per yard. While durability is a big consideration, so is performance. The least expensive material is typically 100% polyester. Nylon is more expensive than polyester and anything with stretch (spandex) is typically the most expensive. Some fabrics are treated for moisture management, stain release and anti microbial. If you get several quotes and one jersey is substantially less expensive, it’s most likely a lower quality fabric.
Decoration is typically the biggest price driver of most uniforms. There are several types of decoration which are used on uniforms and apparel; tackle-twill (sewn on), screen print, heat press, embroidery and sublimation. The cost of the decoration can cost 4 times as much as the blank jersey.
Tackle-Twill is used in most professional level sports. Tackle-twill is a material which is heat sealed and sewn to the jersey. Tackle-twill decoration gives the team name and player numbers the most contrast or pop. When done right, tackle-twill uniforms can look great for many seasons. Single color twill can be affordable but using multi-color twill can get expensive.
Screen Print is a process where ink is squeezed through a screen and applied on top of the fabric. It's cured with high heat, which may shrink the product. Screen print is a cost effective way to decorate a uniform when multiple colors are being used in the team name or logo. Screen print is a good choice for a single season use as it tends to peel or crack over time.
Heat Press is a vinyl film which is heat sealed to your jersey. It's typically the least expensive way to decorate a jersey. Heat press numbers are often used in combination with screen printed team names and logos. Like screen print, Heat Press may be a good option for teams with a very limited budget who only need them to last one season.
Embroidery is an automated sewing process. Embroidery is typically used in combination with Tackle-Twill to create more detailed team names, logos and patches. Small embroidered team names are common on football uniforms.
Sublimation is a process where ink is printed onto paper and then the ink is transferred to the fabric using high heat. Essentially, anything which can be printed onto paper can be transferred to a garment. Sublimation offers unlimited design options. A uniform can be fully sublimated or you can use sublimation to create unique panels or lettering designs. Sublimation can range from affordable to very expensive.
Stock, Semi-Custom, Custom and Special Order uniforms are each unique in how they are sourced and manufactured. You'll have the least amount of options with stock uniforms and almost unlimited options with special order uniforms. Below we discuss the differences of each type of uniform.
Stock uniforms are typically mass produced offshore in the lowest cost areas of the world. They can range in price significantly but they're designed to be affordable.
Team Dealers can place an order for stock uniforms with the manufacturer and they typically ship the same day or next day to the dealer. If the dealer has in-house decoration capabilities, the uniforms can be made very quickly and affordably.
Stock uniforms have to be ordered by the dealer from the manufacturer and the dealer has to receive them and facilitate the lettering and numbering. The more times a uniform changes hands, the more likely a delay or mistake will happen. Manufacturers are often out of stock and dealers are forced to order back ordered items. When the manufacturer is late with the back order, your order is likely to be late. In some rare cases, back ordered items never come back into stock. Manufacturers change factories from country to country which may create inconsistencies in sizes and colors. Stock uniforms are often made of lower quality fabrics and there are design limitations.
Semi-Custom uniforms are made to order uniforms which can be ordered from Team Dealers and Direct Manufacturers. Semi-Custom uniforms are made from a defined fabric where panels and trims can be made in multiple color combinations. These uniforms can range in price to affordable to very expensive.
Compared to Stock uniforms, Semi-Custom uniforms allow for more customization options and they are typically made from higher quality fabrics.
Manufacturers quote 4-6 weeks for delivery and they can take as long as 8 weeks. If you need more or something goes wrong, it usually takes too long to get replacements. In most cases, dealers and manufacturers will recommend you order extra. Again, most "manufacturers" outsource their manufacturing which can add delays and mistakes to your order.
Custom uniforms are made to order uniforms which can be ordered from Team Dealers and Direct Manufacturers. Several fabrics are available in each style and nearly every team color is available.
Custom uniforms offer more options than stock and semi-stock uniforms. They are made from the highest quality materials.
Most Custom uniforms are expensive and delivery can take as much as 12 weeks. If you need more or something goes wrong, it usually takes too long to get replacements. In most cases, dealers and manufacturers will recommend you order extra. Again, most "manufacturers" outsource their manufacturing which can add delays and mistakes to your order.
If you need more or something goes wrong, it usually takes too long to get replacements. In most cases, dealers and manufacturers will recommend you order extra. Again, most "manufacturers" outsource their manufacturing which can add delays and mistakes to your order.
Special Order Uniforms
Special Order uniforms are typically only available from Direct Manufacturers. Name brand manufacturers offer Special Order uniforms to top colleges and pro teams.
With Special Order uniforms you can create your own unique pattern or design, almost without limits. Direct manufacturers often make Special Order uniforms when a customer asks them to copy a competitors design. Teams can also create their own unique color.
The process of making special order uniforms typically takes 12+ weeks. Direct manufacturers who own their own factory may be able to reduce this time substantially. The cost of special order uniforms is often cost prohibitive. Again, Direct Manufacturers who own their own factory may be able to make Special Order uniforms affordably.If you need more or something goes wrong, it usually takes too long to get replacements. In most cases, dealers and manufacturers will recommend you order extra. Again, most "manufacturers" outsource their manufacturing which can add delays and mistakes to your order.