Modern Market of Placket Shirts

Formally Executive Vice President of Capital Mercury Apparel for 18 years, David J. Bebon is CEO of DBEBZ Apparel, a manufacturer of woven and knit sport shirts. He resides in Connecticut with his wife Zoe and four children. Bebon is a frequent speaker and presenter at industry tradeshows and contributing writer for several trade publications.

This past year didn’t end soon enough for many of us. The economic downturn these last 18 months has had a profound effect on the promotional-products industry and especially in the wearable-apparel categories. Program sales were more difficult to find and secure and those programs that were renewable experienced fairly substantial price compression and discounting. But there are many reasons to believe that we have turned the corner on the economy as we begin to see subtle signs of increased demand and new life for apparel sales.

I recently had the pleasure of walking the PPAI show in Las Vegas—yes, every inch of the two floors and every single aisle—and I am happy to report that show traffic was brisk, vendor booths were busy and optimism was high. One pleasant surprise to the “newness” and buzz of this year’s tradeshow circuit kick-off was the collar and placket golf knit category.

New brand entries such as Callaway Golf from Perry Ellis International and an abundance of new styles and colors from brands such as adidas, IZOD, Ash City, Nike, Cutter & Buck and others helped create excitement and give validity that we are in fact entering a new year with new optimism.

Led by new technologies in yarn and fabric development and the overwhelming spell of performance-based features, today’s golf knit shirt story borrows from the past while also pushing into the future.

As true in the retail branded collections, the private label “house brands” are also featuring this performance story in new yarns and fabric treatments, while also playing to today’s price compression by putting inventory on the floor in the basic cotton and cotton blended opening price point styles. The 100 percent cotton three-button polo, available in a wide assortment of solid colors, will always find a place in today’s on-course and off-site golf apparel.

New decade of style

“Over the last several years the direction of golf shirts has changed from the traditional cotton fabrics to one-hundred percent polyester,” Arthur Weiss, Sales and Marketing Manager for Perry Ellis International, Callaway, Cubavera and PGA Tour says. “It’s not the same polyester we’re familiar with growing up, but the new wicking technology to go along with up-to-date stylish designs have transformed these polyester shirts into top sellers.” 

Wicking properties and specialty fabrics that incorporate ClimaCool technology are all over the industry, while some manufacturers turn to more natural performing resources. Speaking to the performance trend in today’s golf apparel, 100 percent Cocona polyester offers UV protection and antimicrobial performance. Taken from the ash of burned coconut shells, Cocona offers a wonderful natural performance story. 

“Performance fabrications continue to be the leader in golf wear,” agrees Bill Kluber, National Accounts Manager for PVH Career Apparel, “whether one-hundred percent polyester with antimicrobial applications or cotton/polyester wicking fabrics, the market wants and understands its value.”

Some of other trends in 2010 include classic piqué polos in bright, vivid color and steep in performance features. Bright color assortments are complementing standards such as black, ivory and navy. And, says Weiss, there’s another trend of cotton/polyester blends making a small comeback. “Most of the top golf shirt companies have diversified their assortments to provide the consumer the direction of the latest trends. A one-hundred-percent cotton shirt, a small variety of cotton/poly blends and the rest one-hundred-percent polyester golf shirts.”

Capitalizing on its huge push in the organic/eco-friendly genre, the industry has taken an extensive look at organic cottons, soybean azlon and rayon blends made with bamboo, recycled polyester and recycled polyester built from post-consumer plastic bottles. These recycled polyester fabrics feature yarns and fabric made from post-consumer products such as soda and plastic water bottles. This recycled polyester can reduce waste in landfills, reduce energy consumption and reduce petroleum output used in virgin polyester production.

Finally, snap-placket fronts, contrast color inserts on shoulders and horizontal pinstripe patterns help reinforce the fashion message with performance technology here, while polyester brings us fashionable jacquard mesh side paneling, contrast color stripes on sleeves, jersey textured mesh knits and solid mesh polos with solid and tipped collars.This contemporary styling in younger silhouettes adds to the true performance story. 

It is important to remember that the true golf knit story is much more varied and fully-assorted than we have ever seen. The “basics” live on in cotton and cotton blends, the new technologies have brought us huge performance payoffs like moisture management, antimicrobial finishes, UV resistance and stain and soil protection. Above it all, the silhouetting and new color palettes help drive home this new age in golf knits. So grab your 2010 catalogs, walk the shows and don’t forget to sample for your next sales call.