The 2020 Style Guide: Promotional Apparel for Changing Times

May 20, 2020

Fashion trends and styles are forever changing. What once was popular a few months ago may no longer be in style, or maybe a newer trend has taken over. That’s especially true now, as the world looks a lot different than it did to start the year and changes by the day. But that’s part of what makes promotional apparel so important. It’s inclusive. It’s adaptable. There’s something for everyone and every situation. This year’s Style Guide puts that on full display. There’s a mix of everything—business attire, casual looks, caps, socks, activewear and even accessories. To find out more about what’s trending in these categories, Promo Marketing chatted with Vicki Ostrom, trend editor for SanMar, Issaquah, Wash.; Lisa Denham, marketing director at Executive Apparel, Tosha Everhart, sock boss at Sock101; and John Perez, marketing manager for Tri-Mountain.

Casual Wear

Trend Alert
Since most folks are no longer operating in their usual office settings, casual apparel has become the new normal. For many, that’s an unexpected perk of self-isolation. A good graphic T-shirt to support a favorite restaurant or band, or maybe just a simple, comfortable tee to pair with joggers for walks outside, is essential. Simplicity and minimalist styles and designs are also big. “Minimalism is a trend that seems to be here to stay,” said Ostrom. “Core colors such as black, gray, ivory, bone and cream colors are trending in retail. Interesting textures and a variety of weights, from lightweight performance base layers to soft and cozy midweight layers, are all coming together. They create wardrobes that go from January to December with just a few layers either on or off.”

Younger Consumers
Ostrom said eco-friendly products are near the top of the list for young consumers. “The 100 percent recycled, never re-dyed content and engaging visual storytelling about how the product is created have been a favorite of any company looking to engage with the Gen Z,” she said.

What’s Selling Now
With all the change going on currently, it’s important for distributors to know what kind of orders are happening. Ostrom shared some examples. “Company branded apparel promotes a sense of togetherness and team bonding and has never been more important or more welcome than now,” she said. “With the trend toward working from home, video conference meetings can be a place to share team spirit if everyone is wearing their company branded hoodie, tee or quarter-zip.” Unfortunately, since the COVID-19 outbreak, small businesses have taken big hits. People are now staying home as much as possible, and these businesses aren’t seeing the same traffic or regular customers they’re used to. But many have turned to T-shirts or other branded apparel that customers can buy to still support their favorite places.



Retro Is In

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen retro designs and styles coming back in virtually every product category, but especially in apparel. According to Everhart, it’s even a popular trend in footwear.

Everhart explained that what’s popular in footwear styles has shifted since the beginning of the year. With the majority of people currently working from home, styles have moved in that direction as end-buyers change promotional strategy to accommodate remote staff.

“Currently, best-sellers are fuzzy socks, ankle socks with grips on the bottom and slide sandals. We are seeing tons of these styles for ‘working from home’ kits.”

Decoration Advice
Socks offer a lot of opportunities for variety and creativity. Whether it’s plain white or black socks or ones that have funky designs, the options are almost endless. Everhart’s decoration advice is simple: have fun with it.

Business Attire and Uniforms

2020 Trends

When it comes to business attire, one of the biggest myths is that it’s not comfortable to wear. But Denham explained that comfort is at the top of the list for both men’s and women’s business attire, and even career and school uniforms, too.

“In the women’s career wear market there seems to be a real emphasis on power styles, comfort and a hat tip to feminine flair,” she said. “Television shows and films with powerful female leads drive the look, as well as ready-to-wear designers. Comfort is always the key to menswear, but in recent years there has been a shift to less casual comfort styles.”

As for career and school uniforms, the key to great promotional apparel is a mix of comfort and easy cleaning. 



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