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Let Freedom Ring with Vintage Americana Clothing

In a Nutshell
  • • Retro patriotic styles have an enduring appeal.
  • • Don't limit yourself to Independence Day. There are plenty of opportunities year-round to pitch this trend.

A sea of people in red, white and blue emerge each year to celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks and festivities. But stars and stripes – particularly with a faded, distressed look – have an unflagging, year-round appeal.

Classic Americana "never goes out of style because it's homegrown and therefore touches on the nostalgic aspect of the unique American spirit," according to the Creative Market blog.

Alternative Apparel (asi/34850) recently released its Americana-inspired apparel line that features the classic red, white and blue in vintage style. The company used a "fabric first" approach to ensure soft, simple and eco-friendly apparel.

"Our Americana collection is the perfect apparel for any [Fourth of July] celebration," says Kevin Miles, director of sales operations for Alternative Apparel. "And beyond our favorite star-studded holiday, the vintage look of these styles is classic and timeless. The elevated stars-and-stripes prints create neutral design elements as a backdrop for embellishment."

Alternative Apparel's Americana collection includes baseball tees, ringer T-shirts, sweatshirts and tank tops.

To achieve a Vintage Americana look, designers typically use dusty reds, dirty whites and faded blues. The perfect balance of all three ensures no color overpowers another. Plus, it's more subtle and retro than the bright and vibrant flag motifs typically deployed for the Fourth of July. Think of any design or aesthetic that brings you back to the good old days. Vintage Americana reflects classic cars, 1970s-era John Travolta films and cozy diners from the 1950s.

Vintage Americana has an enduring patriotic feeling, which thrives despite the challenges the U.S. currently faces, according to Lea Robinson, vice president of sales and marketing for Staton Corporate and Casual (asi/89380). "It's a feeling that never goes away, whereas [saturated red, white and blue looks] feel like we are celebrating more in the moment."

The vintage Americana trend has broad appeal across party lines and demographics. After all, "Vintage is ageless," Robinson says.

"It's really the convergence of three well-established trends — the popularity of classic styles like baseball tees and ringer tees, the appeal of the vintage look and feel, and the drive toward authentic brands," Miles says. "It also connects to the idea of sustainability and durability."

Vantage Apparel (asi/93390) has also been capitalizing on the retail trend by applying vintage design to its merchandise. Even the cover page of this year's Vantage Apparel catalog is rendered in red, white and blue.

"Our design team spent a lot of time researching trends and putting together different ideas for this year's merchandise," says Gina Barreca, director of marketing for Vantage. "We decided on something that would show different colors and patterns that would work for various companies. The colors red, white and blue were up there and we saw an opportunity to go beyond the basic idea."

The Vansport Zen Pullover (3450 men's, 3451 women's) from Vantage Apparel

A screen print with a vintage Americana feel by Vantage Apparel.

This Gildan Fleece Hoodie with Custom Color Draw Cord features decoration with a vintage Americana feel.

Vantage Apparel has also explored the idea of adding the stars and stripes pattern within the fill of a logo to give it a patriotic look. Even clients that have strict logo guidelines have options: "Adding the company established date to a logo or using a small flag as a second placement are easy ways to put a heritage spin to apparel," Barreca says.

The company also recommends screen printing with soft-hand inks and distressed art filters to achieve the vintage and nostalgic aspect of the Americana theme. Soft cotton-rib appliqué also fits with the vintage Americana look.

For J. America (asi/62977), vintage styles have been surfacing in the past few years. Steve Zimmerman, vice president of sales, says that vintage designs continue to be a staple of the company's assortment, because "they are timeless." J. America recently introduced vintage Americana to its Top of the World headwear collection, by adding a vintage wash to the fabric.

Vintage Americana evokes a classic, nostalgic and retro feeling in the wearer. Showing off samples in that style will help you get that message across to clients, Miles says. "Create a trend sheet that captures vintage Americana styles from runways to retail displays," he suggests.

Though vintage Americana is a perfect fit for Independence Day, there's no need to retire the style after the fireworks fizzle and the picnics peter out. Opportunities to use the retro motif abound, suppliers say.

"Our country has gotten very patriotic the last couple of decades, not that we hadn't been prior to then," Zimmerman says. "Between our national holidays, sporting events, the agriculture market and what now seems to be endless election campaigning across the country, there are numerous opportunities for distributors and decorators to work with end users on Americana themes year round."

J. America introduced vintage Americana styling to its headwear collection.

Trend Alert: College Football Merch

College football is back, and we’re pumped.



Viewing the new season through a swag lens, here’s a quick look at five product categories of branded merchandise – outside traditional top-sellers like hats, hoodies, polos, and T-Shirts -- that are trending hot with collegiate football fans right now.

ELECTRONICS
We’re in the digital age, so it’s no surprise that schools of all sizes are offering everything from tech accessories to actual technology items. We loved the Oregon Ducks’ tech swag, which included this bamboo iPhone case and Bluetooth speaker.


Oregon Ducks Logo Bamboo iPhone 7 Case




Oregon Ducks Bluetooth Speaker

FOOTWEAR
Logoed footwear is growing in popularity with college football fans – and the collegiate market in general. That’s in line with broader trends in the promotional products marketplace, including rising interest in statement socks and flip flops/sliders. We felt the USC Trojans’ branded footwear collection was full of color, verve and style.


[At left-top] Men's Nike Black/Cardinal USC Trojans Free TR V8 Shoes; [At left-bottom] Men's ISlide White USC Trojans Logo Slide Sandals; [At right] Women's Cardinal USC Trojans Logo Sketch Crew Socks

GOLF GEAR
Golf accessories are a hit with alums and boosters. If you do business in the college market and you’re not selling such products, start doing so now. Your bottom line – and client – will benefit. Divot tools, club head covers, ball markers, and even golf bags are among the desired items.


North Carolina Tar Heels Mascot Headcover. Designed to fit most 460cc drivers.


Kansas Jayhawks Switchfix Divot Tool and Poker Chip Ball Marker Set

AUTO ACCESSORIES
You already know that car magnets and car flags are beloved among the college football faithful. But hitch covers have gained a lot of traction in recent years, too. The Clemson Tigers and Texas Longhorns’ offerings bear testimony to that.


[At left] Texas Longhorns Domed Logo Plastic Hitch Cover; [At right] Clemson Tigers Light Up Hitch Cover

OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT & GAMES
Cornhole, camping chairs – yep, they continue to trend in this category beloved of tailgaters. Interestingly, some colleges are branching out with more backyard/patio items, such as fire pits. We could sure picture celebrating a Penn State win on a cool October evening around the flames of this particular product.


Penn State Nittany Lions Fire Pit

HBO Offers Game of Thrones Back to School Swag

Fans pining for the return of the Starks, Lannisters and Targaryens must wait until 2019 for HBO’s final season of Game of Thrones, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the “Back to School” branded merchandise now available for the hit show. Retailing in the HBO Shop, the collection features everything from a House Stark Stationery Kit to a Night King Black Mug. Here’s a sampling of the wares from Westeros.




The Winter is Coming Stark sigil vacuum bottle features double-wall stainless steel construction, and holds 17oz. of fluid. If the toughest of medieval warriors were to suddenly reanimate and start drinking from travel tumblers, we feel this would be their container of choice. It’s that bada*s-looking.




Of course, we could be wrong about the Stark sigil vacuum bottle. Perhaps the medieval warriors would prefer This Fire and Blood Targaryen sigil 17oz. water bottle, which is equally fierce.




When you see the Night King (here depicted), you know for sure that “Winter is Here.” Good thing, then, that you’ll have this trusty mug to fill with warming tea, coffee or hot cocoa to keep you warm.




You can feel the cold winter winds blowing in over The Wall and withering away the last of the autumn in the starkly beautiful design on this House Stark Stationery Set. It includes much of what you’d need to communicate in the pre-iPhone days of Westeros, including a wax stamp, two wax sticks, envelopes, paperweight, writing paper and display box – all bearing the Stark sigil. Now, all you’ll need is a raven or a rider to carry your message.




Tyrion Lannister’s famous phrase adorns this T-Shirt, which is 100% cotton and printed in California.




Popular character Hodor’s name gets the neon treatment in this new shirt, which is 100% cotton and printed in Michigan.




This hat features the sigil of House Targaryen -- a three-headed dragon. Admittedly, we’re intimidated…




With winter upon Westeros, this 46" x 60" 100% polyester double layer fleece throw blanket featuring character Jon Snow will come in handy. Curl up beneath it and sip from your Night King mug.

Winter is (nearly) Here. Gear up for the final season of GOT!

Starbucks Releases Autumn-Inspired Merch

Starbucks and ban.do teamed up to collaborate on the promotional products collection, which features double-wall travel tumblers, notebooks, a mug and more.

With Labor Day in the rearview, autumn’s pumpkin spice season is officially underway. Starbucks is capitalizing not only with its panoply of pumpkin-spiced goodies, but also with a new fall-inspired branded merchandise collection.


Selections from Starbucks new fall-inspired swag line. Image from Starbucks.

Created in collaboration with lifestyle brand ban.do, Starbucks just released the collection today (Sept. 5). It entails two 24-oz. Starbucks cold cups, two Starbucks double-wall travel tumblers, a ceramic mug, two notebooks and a pencil pouch. The Starbucks-branded swag features images of boots, scarves, umbrellas, flannel shirts, acorns and other items that herald the autumn. Some products also bear a “midnight floral” design.


Image from Starbucks.


The “Midnight Floral” items are available at Target. Image from Starbucks.

Starbucks has previously partnered with ban.do on merch, but the collections were only available in Asia. This time, the swag has come stateside and to Canada. To pick some up, however, you’ll have to go to a Starbucks that’s inside another retailer. The “Midnight Floral” designs are only available at Target.

While the collection was being heralded as cozy and fun by some, others felt the collaboration missed the mark a bit when it came to conveying a true autumn vibe.



Nonetheless, for promotional products pros, the collection is notable on a number of levels. It provides another example of a fast-growing trend – namely, brands collaborating on limited-edition merchandise collections, often at key points in their respective business calendars. (We especially liked the recent Ziploc/BEAMS team-up.) Furthermore, the collection is a creative way to potentially increase foot traffic at Starbucks and partner retail locations. Perhaps more brands in the retail space can take a cue and use limited-edition branded merchandise, available in-store only, to motivate consumers to get out from behind the keyboard and shop brick-and-mortar. At the least, it’s an idea promo pros can consider suggesting to retail clients.


Image from Starbucks.
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