The Top 5 Things You Need To Know Before Ordering Custom Hoodies
June 7, 2021
Every year around this time, people get excited because it’s “hoodie season”. Yes, hoodies are so popular in this country that they have their own season. And people get excited about it. I know I do.
There’s something fabulous about wrapping your upper body in a soft, fleece garment– with an attached hood– that will keep you warm and snuggly as the weather gets chilly. But with dozens of brands and hundreds of styles on the market, how do you know which one to get? And when it comes to creating customized hoodies, what do you need to know?
I’m here to answer these questions and give you some tips. In this post, I’m going over the various styles and fabrics, how and where to print on hoodies, how to wear a hoodie, and even the best way to fold them. Plus recommendations.
Let’s get into some soft and stylish custom hoodies.
1. How to choose the right kind of hoodie
Not all hoodies are created equal. If you’re looking for the perfect hoodie to customize, there are few important things to consider before you place an order: the style, the fabric, and the brand. Here’s a quick overview of these things:
There are two main styles of hoodies to customize: one is a pullover, the other is a full-zip.
If you surf around the web you can find quarter-zip hoodies, button-downs, side-zips, or feather fringes with remote-control LED lights, but these are rare and specific to a certain brand or a designer-gone-rogue.
The main distinction between the two main styles is how you put them on, and the names are self-explanatory:
Pros: More fashion-forward, more versatile as far as ways to wear it, and the zipper can be used to control the temperature.
Cons: Printing across the zipper is problematic, zippers can break, and on some brands can become wavy or bend outward.
Pros: Warmer, easy to print across the chest area, and even on the front of the pocket (more on print locations coming up).
Cons: You can’t control your temperature like with the full-zip. You can either keep it on or take it off. Those are your choices.
Similar to t-shirts, hoodies are made out of all kinds of fabric types and blends. There’s the soft, classic favorite 100% cotton. There are moisture-wicking performance and ever-increasing technological advancements of 100% polyester. There are cotton/poly blends, and the best of all three worlds: tri-blends.
So what is the absolute softest, you ask?
Sweatshirt fleece is a type of fabric that can be made from various materials, as described above. Essentially, it has shredded yarn loops on the inside– it’s brushed to make it all frayed, fuzzy, and soft. If you’ve felt the inside of your hoodie, that’s usually fleece. It’s super soft and keeps you warm. You wanna know what’s even softer than fleece? Sponge fleece. I’m not sure exactly what it means, but I have one, and it’s definitely softer. It even sounds softer. And spongier. But not as absorbent as terry.
You know Terry, right? From France? He’s cool, but French terry is another fabric type. With French terry, the yarn loops are kept intact. It’s not as soft as fleece, but while sweatshirt fleece being a heavier weight material keeps you warmer, French terry being a lightweight material can help keep you cooler. Because it’s also highly absorbent and more breathable. That’s why they make towels out of it. And other stuff. So go with fleece in the winter, and terry when it’s warmer out.
Obviously, I can’t go through all the brands, that would be bonkers. So let’s just take a quick look at the main brands that we sell here at RushOrderTees for customizing hoodies, and give you some basic info about the quality and price points:
These are the top three premium brands. They make the best, most well-designed, and fashion-forward styles on the market. If you get hoodies made by one of these three, you know you’re getting quality. American Apparel tends to be a higher price point while Bella+Canvas and District are more competitive and affordable. I’m a big fan of Bella+Canvas myself.
Next up is the mid-range brands. Champion is a classic and the O.G. of this group as they were pioneers of hoodies in the 1930s (more on hoodie history in another post). Next Level is like an affordable American Apparel (minus the made in the USA) but their products are great, one of my favorites. Hanes is the reliable and go-to brand you’re probably familiar with.
Finally, let’s call these our standard brands. They are more affordable, but the quality is still good. You may not find quite as many fashion-forward options, but that is changing as the market gets more competitive. Fruit of the Loom is the trusted brand known for underwear, Jerzees has been a market leader for a while now, and Gildan is our top seller and just massive.
Hoodies RushOrderTees recommends
Here are my recommendations from our catalog, in pullover and full-zip versions. I’ve broken them down into good, better, best. This is based on quality, and price point tends to follow– but not always. So check with a sales rep, or use our online calculator to figure out which one of these is best for you.
Click on the links below to go to their product pages. If the item you chose doesn’t come in the colors you want, we can always find something in our extended catalog that is close to what you’re looking for. Just give us a call or a chat.
Full Zip-Up Hoodies
2. How to print on a hoodie
This versatile garment has a variety of possible print locations and can accommodate various print methods, but it does come with some restrictions and potential issues. Like so many other things, the rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Better still, keep it classy. First let’s looks at the print areas, then get into the methods and issues:
Hoodie print areas
While hoodies offer all the print areas of a T-shirt and then some, there are some restrictions to be aware of. Below is a graphic showing the standard print locations along with a few common alternatives. Remember, this is a general guide. If you have any special requests or crazy ideas, we can most likely make it happen. Try us.
Hoodie printing restrictions
On zipper hoodies, printing across the front is a no-go. There are ways to do it but even if you get it right, there tends to be a gap or a globby ink deposit. No one wants that. The exception to this rule involves:
• Artwork created with a gap in mind for the zipper and measured to be in the center (spaced out letters, for example).
• Hoodie style with something called a “kissing zipper” which has two thin flaps of material that cover the metal.
• A printer that uses a special platen with a small valley built into it for the zipper to sit in and avoid the ink deposit.
On pullover hoodies, the restriction is a limited print height on the front, because of the pocket (if there is a pocket). Typically the maximum size will be 10″ high, but it will be less on smaller-sized hoodies.
The other restriction is if you are printing on the pocket, the print area is a lot smaller than it looks.
Also, we cannot print animated GIFs. Yes, people have asked.
Hoodie print methods
Screen printing is the go-to method for most hoodie printing. This classic method is vibrant, durable, and pretty much everyone’s favorite. Another nice thing is you can print on dark fabrics with no problem. And almost any type of fabric. The trade-off with screen printing is that you pay per color, and set up charges can be high if you’re getting a small run. So keep the print simple. For a breakdown of all the pros and cons of the two top print methods, check out my post Screen Printing vs DTG.
DTG or direct-to-garment is what to use when you’re doing a small run of hoodies, or need to have full color. The print quality is not quite as good as screen printing, and the colors aren’t quite as vibrant, but you can easily do a single piece with rainbows on it, which would be unaffordable using screen printing. Keep in mind you should go with 100% cotton for best results, and be careful about washing with hot water and strong detergents if you want it to last.
Heat transfer is the method to use if you want some shiny metallic foil business, or when you have a full-color design but can’t afford to pay for all the ink colors, and can’t use DTG because you have an odd print location. Keep in mind it creates a thin plastic coating on the surface of the fabric, eliminating breathability, and will eventually crack and chip– if you’re too hard on it or wash it too many times. It’s essentially a pressed sticker.
Dye-sublimation is the method for doing an “all-over print” (almost all over). This is also a good choice for doing a full-color print, like a magical space unicorn design. Everyone has one, right? Dye-sub is similar to a heat transfer but it involves a chemical reaction, skipping the liquid phase when heated, turning into gas that bonds to the fibers. It makes a durable, permanent, brilliant “soft hand” print. Keep in mind that it only works on polyester. So there’s that.
Embroidery is the method to keep it classy or brand your hoodies for retail. Keep in mind that embroidery comes with backing on the opposite side of the fabric that can be bulky on thinner garments or slightly uncomfortable in areas of friction (like on the nips). So as always, keep your embroidery design small and simplified. The left chest is where a typical embroidered logo or design would go, but a couple of creative placement examples are the wrist or the edge of the hood.
3. How to order the right size hoodies
Now that you know what style to get and how you want to customize them, it’s time to figure out what size hoodies you should get. Generally speaking, hoodie sizes will match what you would typically wear in t-shirt sizes.
But as usual, there are exceptions; mostly to do with certain brands, styles, fit, and the differences between men’s and ladies’ cuts. Then you want to consider if personal style will come into play.
For example, some people want oversized hoodies. It’s a whole thing. Others may prefer them tight and form-fitting. This is why it’s important to know your end-user or target market. If you’re doing a group order for a team or your family, just ask around about what people prefer. Easy.
Think of it like this: there’s people’s actual size, and then there’s their preferred size.
When ordering online, the main thing to make sure to do is to check the product specs to see if it matches with standard sizing, or compare styles. Also, take a look at the photos of the product on models, and compare them to other styles and brands. Look for areas that are baggy or tight– you may notice some major differences.
Standard fit vs fashion fit hoodies
Choices used to be limited as far as T-shirts, hoodies, and other custom sportswear. Then along came American Apparel and changed the game with side seams and “fashion fit” cuts. These items fit better and were more flattering.
Needless to say, they were a big hit. Nowadays there are many brands offering fashion fit (also known as retail fit, slim fit, Euro fit, or just fitted). Personally, I can’t wear the baggy standard fit stuff anymore. Ok, maybe at home.
Ladies’ apparel has always been fitted, but now some men’s styles hug the body and offer a slimmer profile for the more fashion-conscious. Oftentimes these styles will also feature thinner, blended fabrics and well-designed details. You also pay a bit more, of course. But it’s worth it for something worn so often.
Read the descriptions carefully: if it doesn’t say fashion fit, retail fit, or slim fit, it’s probably standard.
Men’s and unisex vs women’s hoodies
One of the major decisions to make when buying in bulk is whether to purchase all unisex or to order men’s and women’s styles. Because not all hoodie products come in both men’s and women’s. If they don’t, it’s called unisex.
Unisex is essentially the same thing as men’s. In other words, they didn’t bother to make a ladies’ version of it.
When you do see a style called men’s, they will typically have the women’s cut counterpart or companion style. Got it?
Take a look at the differences in fit (because of the cut) shown in the image above. The biggest difference is that the women’s hoodies are overall more contoured to the female figure. Specifically, it will taper in at the waistline and then start to flare out at the hips. The men’s will tend to have more room around the waist, shoulders, and down the arms.
Keep in mind that if you are buying for a wide range of sizes, the women’s version may not go up to the extra-large sizes, and in general may be too small for plus size ladies. I’ve seen this happen where the fashion fit women’s sizes “run small”. So you may end up with leftover inventory because people some people might need a size or two above what they would normally wear.
And if you’re going for the oversized fashion look I showed you above, go with unisex. If you want to play it safe, skew the order towards the larger sizes. As a wise man in the Sales Department once told me: “Sizes too large can still be worn, sizes too small stay in the box.”
If you need a jumping-off point for choosing a typical spread of sizes, read my post about placing a bulk order.
4. How to wear a hoodie
An easier question would be how not to wear a hoodie. It’s one of the most versatile garments in anyone’s closet.
Previously relegated to gyms, football games, and hip hop videos, the hoodie has become a staple item for all kinds of people, because of its everyday versatility– and increasingly, as a fashion mainstay.
Let’s look at the various ways to wear a hoodie, along with a few ways not to wear them:
Hoodies out on the town
How about a hoodie with a blazer. It might seem like an odd juxtaposition, but somehow it works. It can be grouped with a trend called high-low fashion: the pairing of formal and casual.
The origins of this particular look are uniquely American– because of the hoodie.
Some articles trace it back to sports prep schools that produced legends like LeBron James, who then brought it into the NBA, and of course, it took off from there. I’d go with slacks or jeans– no sweatpants. Trousers? Sure.
Hoodies at work
At some point in the early ’90s, business and casual looks joined forces to become business casual. Or “biz-caj” if you want to make people’s eyes roll. Hawaiian shirt Friday was somehow involved. It seems like it’s been around longer, right? Nope.
It took off around the time that Silicon Valley’s start-up culture spread across the country. With that came the laid-back look of the corporate hoodie. Thanks to Zuckerberg, the hoodie is a billionaire’s look.
If a hoodie and t-shirt are too casual for your office, go with the hoodie and dress shirt combo. That’s me in the middle.
Casual hoodie combos
Layering your hoodie under a jacket is the most popular combo– and for good reason. It’s comfortable, works to keep you warm, and works as a look. Most of the time.
Leather and denim jackets tend to look best with hoodies. Bomber jackets and varsity jackets look also look great, along with rugged work jackets, or even a wool trench coat.
It comes down to personal style and your ability to mix and match layers that make sense. Try some combos in front of a mirror– or ask a trusted (and stylish) friend.
Hoodies at home
At home, it’s a different story. At home, anything goes. And anyone who owns a hoodie already knows this: they make a fantastic pajama top. There’s nothing more comfortable at home than a hoodie with pajama pants.
If you don’t have a hoodie, at least for this, you’re totally missing out. Go with a heavyweight fleece pullover and some flannel PJ’s, and you’ll be the walking definition of comfy.
Add a cup of hot cocoa, Netflix, and some fuzzy socks and you’ll never want to leave the house again.
How not to wear a hoodie
First of all, don’t wear hoodies on special occasions. Hoodies are for comfort, casual situations, and maybe the occasional night out. Avoid them on job interviews, first dates, court appearances, meeting parents, Thanksgiving, holiday work parties, funerals, and definitely don’t wear hoodies to formal occasions.
Didn’t you get enough use out of it on the couch? Put on a shirt with a collar. Sit up. And spit out that gum.
Don’t wear a zipper hoodie without a shirt underneath. At least not out of the house. It’s not comfortable, and the zipper is cold. It’s not sexy, it looks try-hard. A hoodie is meant to go over a shirt. At least a tank top, c’mon. What are you doing?
Don’t wear a sleeveless hoodie. I’m not sure who invented these strange garments, but they make no sense. They’re like the mullet of activewear. A hoodie with shorts? We can let that go. A hoodie with no sleeves? That’s a no-go.
Don’t wear a ridiculous all-over print. These days you can get anything printed all over. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The novelty will wear off on the first wear. Don’t get me wrong, all-over prints can be cool. But not these.
5. How to fold a hoodie
Saving space is all the rage these days, and everyone is looking for ways to manage their drawers and storage space. Hoodies are not the easiest thing to fold, and they end up being awkward and bulky.
My advice is to just hang them in your closet. Easy access, and takes up less space than in a drawer.
That’s how you fold a hoodie: hang it up.
Ok, there are times when you do need to fold it, like packing for a trip or putting away winter clothes. Here’s how to do it.
The neat and tidy way to fold a hoodie
This is not exactly Marie Kondo, but it’s close. And it will spark joy. Zip it up and lay it flat then start by folding along parallel lines on the sides. Fold the arms so they point straight down, then the hood down, then the bottom up, and over. Boom, done.
There are plenty of folding instructions online that want you to wrap the hood around the whole thing at the end– and I have no idea why. Are we making a football out of it? This probably stretches the hood out too. Not recommended.
Folding a hoodie for display
Let’s say you’re selling your custom hoodies at a retail store, or want to display the graphic for some reason. Here’s how to do it. This fold is similar to the one above, but you’re starting on the flip side, and not folding it over again on the final step.
There you have it. My work is done here. Hope you found it useful and mildly entertaining. Time for me to throw on some pajama pants and kick back with my favorite hoodie.
About the Author
Imri (pronounced em-rye), also known as “M”, joined RushOrderTees in the spring of 2015, bringing over 10 years of graphic design and color separations experience in the screen printing industry. Over the next three years, he helped transform the Art Department, improving the overall quality, efficiency, and customer service of the team, while making some beautiful T-shirts along the way. A graduate of the Multimedia program at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, he has explored various creative pursuits, including art and design, marketing, DJing, and even producing comedy shows. He brings his well-rounded skill set and forward-thinking approach to every project he's involved with at Printfly / Rush Order Tees. He is a contributing writer for Impressions Magazine, Printwear Magazine, and ASI Central. He loves roller coasters, music, and fried pickles.