A Guide to Spring Team Uniforms

Matching decoration techniques to elevate performance, style, and durability.

Spring sports bring the arrival of warmer weather, and athletes eagerly anticipate their new uniforms for a wide variety of outdoor sports and activities. Often overlooked with sports uniforms is the decoration technique used on the different fabrics. Selecting the correct choice of decoration can play a pivotal role in not only enhancing the appearance of the apparel, but also the functional and durability over the long season.

When heading down the path of custom team uniforms, it’s very important to determine the best decoration style for your team. Lacrosse jerseys require durable and visually striking decorations that can withstand the physical demands of the sport. On the flip side, soccer uniforms should be lightweight, breathable, and allow for ease of movement. In other words, the lighter the better.

As decorators, our value is determined by the expertise by which we can creatively embellish blanks. We don’t always have a say in how or what our garments are made from. It’s up to us to provide the best options for our clients and customers to bring their team logos to life while keeping the integrity of the garment.

Nearly all uniforms are created with performance poly or fabrics with wicking properties. Some add spandex or Lyrca to give them additional stretch or flexibility. So, what this really means is that all dealers are using some form of the same uniforms across the country. You can differentiate yourself from your competitors by demonstrating the knowledge that you have to help make their jersey the most visually spectacular while still maintaining its durability and functionality.

The decoration options can vary depending on the sport, budget, and desired aesthetic. I will walk you through the various ways to decorate uniforms for teams and clubs this spring.

Baseball and softball jerseys

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Applique on split-front Fastpitch jerseys. Twill logos with satin stitching.

Baseball and softball jerseys demand robust decorations capable of enduring the swift and physical dynamics inherent to these sports, similar to the challenges faced in football and lacrosse. Games unfold on dirt and grass fields, subjecting uniforms to the trials of diving, running, sliding, and intense perspiration. Screen printing, embroidery, and sublimation each offer distinct advantages for adorning jerseys on the diamond, providing viable options to meet the demands of these rigorous activities.

Embroidered twill stands out as a favored option for premium jerseys, known for its durability and professional aesthetics. Rather than opting for an extensive 60,000-stitch logo, many choose the timeless charm of a classic baseball applique. The stitched designs, whether in the form of twill applique logos with zigzag and satin stitching, possess the resilience to endure the rigors of gameplay while retaining their quality over time.

Crafted by cutting shapes or letters from twill fabric and applying them to the jersey using heat after stitching, twill appliques offer a textured, raised look that enhances the visual appeal for ball players. This classic aesthetic evokes the nostalgia of bygone baseball eras. While applique can produce stunning results, it’s essential to consider that adding full twill applique to a lightweight performance jersey might create an awkward combination. This technique finds its ideal match in heavier fabrics designed to withstand the demands of a prolonged summer season.

Sublimation proves to be an excellent choice for baseball and softball jerseys, delivering vibrant, seamless prints that are durable against cracking, fading, or peeling. The trend of utilizing sublimation for team jerseys, particularly among travel teams, has gained significant traction. This surge in popularity can be attributed to the remarkable affordability and limitless decorative possibilities, prompting many teams to opt for two or three customized jerseys per season.

While twill applique excels with heavy-duty fabrics, sublimation is the perfect match for lightweight materials. The integration of sublimated designs directly into the fabric ensures resistance to cracking, fading, or peeling, enhancing their on-field visual appeal. Additionally, these jerseys offer breathability, making them particularly comfortable during hot spring weekends.

Utilizing screen printing for distinctive designs or team logos on baseball and softball uniforms is a cost-effective option known for its durability. However, it may lack the breathability found in alternative methods. Caution should be exercised to avoid imprinting an overly rigid logo, as it can compromise the comfort of the apparel for athletes. Similar to lacrosse, prolonged wear, frequent laundering, and extended exposure to the elements can lead to cracking or fading of the prints.

If I can offer an anticipatory tip: use a combination of both printing and heat-press while offering printed jerseys. Screen print the fronts and heat apply thermal film or full color direct-to-film (DTF) for the names and numbers. It’s quick and cost-effective. I don’t care what anyone says … no one likes screen printing numbers.

Soccer uniforms

Soccer uniforms should prioritize lightness, breathability, and flexibility to facilitate easy movement. The preference is for lighter options. Decorating soccer jerseys becomes effortlessly achievable through methods such as sublimation, screen printing, or heat-applied graphics.

Sublimation is a common choice for soccer uniforms as it provides vibrant, all-over prints without adding extra weight or stiffness to the fabric. When you spend your time on the field running from end to end you want a decoration that maintains its breathability while still enhancing the visual effect of the garment.

Screen printing proves ideal for soccer uniforms, particularly for sizable logos or numbers, offering a cost-effective solution with bold and enduring prints. However, if you prefer a lighter, more breathable fabric, it is advisable to refrain from screen printing extensive designs on thinner soccer jerseys. Instead, consider opting for small left-chest logos or petite crests on the front. Not only will this approach maintain an appealing appearance, but it also confines the design to a smaller area on the jersey.

As spring arrives, heat-applied graphics emerge as the ideal choice for soccer teams and clubs. Traditionally, club logos boast multiple colors, which may appear overly dense when printed on thinner, breathable jerseys. Instead, consider opting for heat-applied emblems or DTF options strategically placed on the left chest or as specialty digital decals. This approach is equally effective for incorporating names and numbers on both the front and back of jerseys.

Depending on the available time and budget, thermal film for team/player names and numbers can also yield excellent results. To achieve a professional kit appearance at the local level, explore the option of custom heat-applied emblems, whether they be PVC or matted, embossed emblems. These choices will undoubtedly contribute exceptional value to your uniform.

Lacrosse jerseys

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Full-sublimation jerseys allow for the use of multiple colors while not altering the breathability and weight of the apparel.

Lacrosse, a physically demanding sport much like football, necessitates uniforms with robust decorations capable of withstanding the rigors of the game. Common techniques for customization include screen printing, digital decals, or sublimation. Screen printing stands out as a cost-effective decoration method, facilitating the printing of large, bold designs or team names. While offering a variety of color options and durability, challenges may arise when printing two or three-color numbers along with a bold logo. The excess ink on the jersey’s surface can lead to cracking over time due to seasonal wear, rough handling, and laundering. To mitigate this, a shift to silicone-based ink is recommended, enabling flexibility and stretch across the garment.

Digital decals present another effective means of customizing lacrosse jerseys for the season. Incorporating printable vinyl or DTF decals onto stock jerseys can significantly enhance customization. Utilizing a heat press and decals provides the opportunity to set your team apart with multiple decoration locations at minimal expense.

For the most efficient and customizable decoration of lacrosse jerseys, sublimation emerges as the preferred choice. This technique allows vibrant, all-over prints with exceptional color and durability. While many shops may not have the in-house capability for production-level sublimation, numerous third-party vendors can assist with all sublimation needs. However, the downside lies in the high level of customization, potentially leading to a trend trap that might be disliked after a single season. This aspect can be a challenge for schools on tight budgets, making it necessary to consider the balance between trends and financial constraints.

Track apparel

When it comes to track apparel, prioritizing lightweight, moisture-wicking, and breathable features is crucial. Typically emphasizing comfort and functionality, screen printing and sublimation emerge as the top choices for track teams. Unlike many team jerseys, track uniforms usually keep customization minimal, often featuring only the team’s name on the front.

Sublimation proves to be an excellent method for track apparel, seamlessly integrating lightweight and breathable designs directly into the fabrics. Teams with a premium focus are likely to prefer the custom sublimated option, considering its advantages. In track, similar to cross country, careful attention is paid to the weight and comfort of the jerseys worn by runners, recognizing the significance of every ounce.

Screen printing becomes a viable choice for track uniforms, enabling bold designs or team logos. While it offers cost-effectiveness and durability, it may not match the breathability of other options. Optimal results are achieved with silicone or low-cure poly ink, ensuring flexibility. It’s crucial to avoid printing overly stiff logos, as this can compromise the athlete’s comfort instantly.

Tennis and golf outfits

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Split-front jerseys being decorated using the Tajima embroidery machine.

Tennis and golf uniforms should prioritize ease of movement, breathability, and a polished appearance. In this sport, the clothing options vary widely, with a growing trend toward simple performance polos for men’s and women’s tennis/golf and performance T-shirts for men’s tennis.

Screen printing emerges as a flexible and budget-friendly method of decoration. It is recommended to maintain modest and understated logos, leaning toward subtle designs that exude a country club aesthetic. Employing petite left chest logos for both women’s and men’s apparel is a popular strategy. Opting for a straightforward, one-color team name across the front is also encouraged, minimizing ink usage on the wicking material. Preferred inks for screen printing in this context are low-cure or silicone inks.

Embroidery has the potential to impart a high-end aesthetic to tennis and golf uniforms through the intricate stitching of team logos or player names. Nevertheless, its application may be less prevalent due to apprehensions regarding weight and breathability. If the team logo entails a substantial 40,000-stitch design for the left chest, it is prudent to refrain from embroidering it on a lightweight 3.4-oz poly polo, as this may lead to stiffness. The principle of “less is more” holds sway, suggesting a preference for a modest left chest logo with a country club ambiance. In instances where a larger, distinctive logo is necessary, a digital decal can serve as a suitable alternative.

Digital decals are also an excellent option for smaller left chest logos, allowing for full-color options. Utilizing a sublimation-specific heat transfer vinyl with a printer/cutter or considering DTF can provide optimal results for these logos.

Customizing team uniforms requires careful consideration of the specific needs of each sport. Whether it’s the durability required for lacrosse jerseys, the breathability and flexibility essential for soccer uniforms, or the emphasis on minimal customization for track and tennis outfits, the decoration style plays a crucial role. Embroidery, sublimation, and screen printing each offer unique advantages tailored to meet the demands of different sports.

In the competitive landscape of team sports, uniforms often share similar performance fabrics, standing out becomes an art form. It’s our responsibility as decorators to provide the best options that bring team logos to life while maintaining the integrity of the garments. With each stitch, print, or decal, we contribute to the narrative of the game, ensuring that athletes not only look good but perform at their best. So as we embark on the spring sports season, let’s continue to elevate the visual appeal, functionality, and durability of team uniforms, making each one a symbol of pride and accomplishment on the field.

Adam McCauley

Adam McCauley

Adam McCauley is the co-owner of Sandlot Sports, a custom screen printing, embroidery, and promotional company that specializes in spiritwear, team uniforms, corporate workwear, and event T-shirts.

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