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How to Shop for Athletic Uniforms
By: Richard C. Pais

Let's face it, athletic programs are one of the most visible parts of a school. You may have to pay for advertising, but you don’t have to pay for feature articles on your first-place basketball team. And, make no mistake about it—a clean, professional and modern appearance on the field goes a long way in attracting new students and inspiring confidence in the players. So, how can you be sure you are on top of your game? Follow these easy steps, and you will always have the best-dressed squad in the match.

1. Find out what is hot and what is not. 
Sports uniforms have seasons and styles just like other types of clothing. For example, baggy shorts and tank-top style basketball uniforms have been the rage for several years, but, this year, the new “v” neck tops sported by teams like the University of Kentucky have become very popular. Football uniforms have become more “electric” and often have differing colors or strong graphics elements on both pants and shirts. Find and work with a representative who can make your school logo and colors modern.

2. Respect your players.
Styles come and go, but modesty and professionalism are always in style. There is no reason why your athletes should feel exposed on the court, parallel bar or field. Make sure your representative can provide you with free samples. Inspect them with the coaches and parents for performance, style and modesty before you place the order.

3. Understand fabric construction and quality. 
You need to learn a little about what you need. To paraphrase a popular advertisement, “A smart consumer is our best customer.”

Nylon should be your fabric for serious competition in most team sports. Although polyester is also used for jerseys and other types of uniforms, new products like Dupont nylon 6.6 is 20% stronger, 20% lighter, 30% more resistant to surface abrasion, and 50% less stretchy then polyester. And, nylon generally holds dye better, providing true colors without fading or sublimation. New products and grades of nylon are also responsible for producing the popular “dazzle” styles that shimmer and shine when they move. 

Spandex and lycra do an excellent job compressing muscles and reducing fatigue. They often fit tightly, but they can also function well in looser styles. Spandex and lycra help evaporate perspiration from the skin. Uniforms made from these fabrics may be better suited to individual sports.

Technical undergarments are now considered part of many outdoor and indoor uniforms because they extend below the hem of the outer garment. They are worn next to the skin to wick away moisture and keep the athlete warm and dry. These garments are generally made with blended polyester with threads that have a directional orientation. Moisture is lifted from the skin of the athlete to the exterior of the cloth where it evaporates. These garments may require special care in cleaning to retain high-performance qualities.

Denser or higher thread counts (“denier”) are heavier and often warmer than lighter or lower counts in any fabric. The effect of seasonal variations in temperature on athletes participating in outdoor sports can be somewhat reduced by choosing fabrics of the proper density and weight.

Micro-denier fabrics have more filaments per square inch than other fabrics. Micro-denier fabrics are softer and more comfortable, and they wick moisture better than standard fabrics. 

White fabrics are often lighter and cooler than dyed fabrics. 

4. Deal with established and reputable firms.
When you get your uniforms 10 days before the start of the season, there is no time for fixing sizes, colors and quality. Opening day should be the time to show off the new team, not time to dig out the old uniforms because the new ones weren’t the right color or size. Find and work with a firm that has a track record of success. Look for these specific qualities.

References should be readily available.

Firms should have a 10-day turnaround from the time your order is placed.

Your agent should have a 100-percent satisfaction guarantee on workmanship, quality and delivery.

In-plant customer service should be available. This means that you or your agent can talk directly to the guys making your uniforms. This can be very important if there are last-minute changes or delays.

Make sure your representative understands fabric grading. This means that he should be competent to explain and guarantee that the measurements you order are the same as the uniforms you receive. Why? Many high-performance fabrics are shipped to the manufacturer on rolls that are tightly spun. When unwound, many fabrics shrink back to a denser weight. If they are assembled too soon, they will shrink, gather at the seams, and fit more snuggly than what you ordered.

Screen printing should be done in the factory. No one understands fabric quality and uniform appearance better the people who make them. And no one has higher motivation to see it done right. Serious uniform makers do the entire process right from start to finish. Outsourcing of screen printing is just one more opportunity for delay and mistake. 

5. Know where you uniforms are made. 
The world is changing quickly and many large uniform manufactures go overseas in search of cheap labor. As a Christian school, your uniform says something important about what you stand for. Your uniform has your name on it, so finding out where it was produced is important.

Uniform shopping should never be stressful. Follow the steps above, and you can be sure your students, parents and teachers will be proud to cheer loud and long for the best-dressed team.

Richard C. Pais is the owner of 3:16 Athletic Wear, Inc., www.316athleticwear.com.

More Considerations for New Team Uniforms
By Bob Johns

Ordering team uniforms can be difficult and often confusing.

* Will the uniforms look good?
* Will they fit?
* Will they last more than one season?
* Will the athletes, parents, students and fans like them?
* Will we get our money’s worth?

Here are a few things to consider the next time you are faced with decisions about ordering new uniforms.

1. Get help. 
Contact your nearest sporting goods dealer who specializes in team uniforms. These professionals have the experience and expertise to guide your decision-making process. They have many tools available to them, including samples and established relationships with a variety of manufacturers.

2. Go basic.
There are many trends and choices in athletic uniforms; however, basic styles that have been around for awhile are a good choice. Your team’s uniforms send a message about your school to all that view them. They should be a source of pride to students, faculty, parents, fans, and, of course, the athletes. They should reflect the mission and purpose of your school. You want them to look good, but not dominate the moment. Many of the top athletic programs in America wear basic styles of uniforms that enhance the team’s image. 

3. Choose colors wisely.
You probably already have established school colors. If you don’t, or if you are changing school colors, don’t pick unusual colors like teal or light orange. Sourcing uniforms in colors other than standard athletic colors can be difficult and often present a problem. Your team dealer can help you choose readily available colors.

If your school colors are already set, the main thing you want to consider is how to combine these colors on the uniforms so they have the best impact to the fans in the stands. Try to get as much contrast as possible between the main body color and all trim or panels on the uniform. For example, black body with white panels and trim will look much better from a distance than black with red panels and trim.

4. Keep letters and numbers clearly legible.
Be aware that most school athletic associations and governing bodies have specific rules and standards that must be followed when choosing letters and numbers for your uniforms. Rely on your team dealer to avoid problems with these situations.

Choose high-contrast lettering colors and avoid small detail in the lettering design. Fans in the bleachers won’t be able to see it.

Sewn-on lettering is much more expensive than screen-printed lettering and numbers.  Besides being your best value, screen printing offers a clean, durable look that is lightweight. 

5. Make sure it fits. 
If asked, boys typically overestimate the size they need, and girls generally underestimate the size that fits. Be conscious of girls’ uniforms and don’t order a boys’ cut for them; it won’t work well.

Inseam lengths on shorts vary by sport and are a very important consideration. Basketball is probably the most significant in variation. Boys prefer an extra-long short and 9-inch inseams are still by far the most popular and widely accepted. For girls, the 7-inch inseam is standard length.

If you are ordering warm-up pants, consider getting them un-hemmed and adjusting the length based upon each athlete.

A good rule of thumb on size is to guess big rather than small.

6. Think about the fabric.
Consider the following when choosing fabric for your uniforms. Stretch helps the athlete move and makes the garment fit better. Beware that this attribute usually adds significant cost.

Moisture management capabilities keep the athlete cool and dry. They also reduce the time it takes to launder the uniforms.

Lightweight fabrics tend to be more comfortable to wear and improve the athlete’s performance.

Hopefully, some of these recommendations will take some of the mystery out of choosing uniforms that work best for your school and for your athletes. The most important key is to get your team sporting goods dealer involved in the process.

Bob Johns is the president of Dodger Industries, Inc., www.dodgerindustries.com.

Product Roundup

Home Team Sportswear
Home Team Sportswear manufactures cheerleading uniforms and football jerseys used by schools and organizations across the country. Prices are kept low in order to allow more youth to participate in programs sponsored by schools. Uniforms can be customized to meet the needs of individual groups. The cheerleading uniforms are a bit more modest and tailored than most available today, yet still give a sharp look. Home Team also offers poms, briefs, bodysuits, warm-ups, cheer shoes and more. 

EOAthletics, a division of Educational Outfitters, offers top-quality team uniforms, spirit wear and athletic gear. In-house graphics, embroidery and screen printing capabilities allow the company to customize uniforms to a school’s specific needs. Uniforms for most any school sports are available, as well as gear for officials and cheerleaders. The company also offers a wide selection of accessories. EOAthletics apparel is available at any of the many Educational Outfitters stores across the nation, as well as on the Web.

North American Athleticwear
North American Athleticwear manufactures and distributes athletic uniforms for teams at factory-direct prices. One of the most popular items the company offers is a single-ply, reversible jersey that can be used for home and away games. Reversible shorts also are available. All products are made in America. Most products are available in black, white, red, navy, royal blue, Carolina blue, yellow, orange, purple, Kelly green, aqua, gray, maroon, Vegas gold, cardinal red, forest green and brown. Custom colors also are available. North American Athleticwear also can affordably print, number and design logos. 

Cheerleader & DanzTeam
Cheering--the fun and excitement of bringing fans to their feet and the team to victory--is just a part of the total cheerleading experience. It’s also about forging friendships, promoting leadership, teamwork, and community, sharing spirit and instilling pride. Cheerleader & DanzTeam has been providing cheerleading uniforms to schools since 1948. Since then, CDT has offered squads and coaches high-quality, fashion-forward designs, quick and accurate delivery, and good customer service. From pep rallies to the big game, CDT suits a squad’s personal style.

Sporting Goods Express
SportingGoodsExpress.com has uniforms for baseball, basketball, youth football, lacrosse, cheerleading, softball, volleyball and soccer in sizes for men, women, boys and girls. The company also offers major league baseball replica uniforms and caps as well as other gear, including that used by officials. In addition to uniforms, Sporting Goods Express carries more than 1,500 different sports equipment items.

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