Over 75 years ago, people began a love affair with t-shirts, beginning with GIs in WWII and progressing to James Dean, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, and Steve McQueen. They were mostly white shirts with a package of “Lucky Strikes” rolled up in the sleeves back then! Then there was the tie-dyed t-shirts. I knew it wouldn’t last long…. (yes, we still sell tie-dyed shirts!!). Tie dye was the start of the individual shirt that was different and unique to you. Soon personalized t-shirts quickly became the clothing of choice for billions. Yes, billions. In just one year, 3 billion shirts were sold.
My name is Patrick Tzanis, and I founded Excel Sportswear nearly 40 years (1982) ago. I worked for a company in New York, and one of our product lines included t-shirts. They were identical to everyone else’s, with a logo or simple Clip art. Boring! Every shirt was the same; the only difference was who could make the cheapest shirt.
I believed that this “t-shirt fad” would continue, and that perhaps there would be a demand for high-quality shirts with great custom graphics. I thought making t-shirts would be exciting, as it would be a business that offered a personalized product that people would want to wear. Steve McCarroll joined the company in 1984, and we decided that rather than assuming what people wanted, we would ask them and involve clients in the creative process. We hired our first professional artist (Dean Dymerski) and started the process of designing custom t-shirts that are as different as the people who wear them. We now have 14 full-time artists on staff. Dean, by the way, continues to create some of our most original and creative shirts.
We’ve had so many incredible stories over the years, including Mack Trucks sending us a top secret picture of the new Mack Anthem so we could have their shirts ready for the big reveal! We’ve been hired by Honda to do the same for their reveal of the all new Honda Talon. We have so many secret custom designs and we can’t even talk about our most recent project! We were on a roll and at some point we became the “James bond” of the industry with a license to print.
We’ve made shirts for the FBI, Secret Service (which made no sense to us), Navy Seals, Special Forces, and two Presidents, From the military, businesses and organizations to over 12,000 schools and fifty Fortune 500 companies, and how could I ever forget 3 Bears School (where a sweet little first grader told me our art work wasn’t that good?)
The apparel industry is fascinating. In the future, I’ll write about the “used clothing business” and two companies (worth billions) that sell instant collectible clothing. T-shirts for $500 that double in value in a matter of weeks. Bitcoins in the form of t-shirts? A few things to think about.
We’ll write about those vintage shirts, which are pieces of history worth tens of thousands of dollars. If you have a Rolling Stones shirt from the 1960s in your closet in great condition, consider yourself RICH.
We’ll highlight some of our unique markets. Do you understand what Tractor Pulling is? I’m sure you have no idea how much a Heavy Wrecker tow truck is worth. Trucks from Peterbilt as works of art? Hand-drawn Fire Truck designs from all over the world?
You will also be the first to learn about a new Excel Sportswear service. “How to Sell and Distribute YOUR Promotional Apparel,” whether or not you purchased it from us.
“The five steps to getting people to wear your organization’s t-shirt and message. “Building your brand with walking, talking billboards.” We are comparable to Farmers Insurance in that “we know a lot because we have seen a lot.”
If you are interested, please sign up for our occasional newsletter at or visit our website at www.exceltees.com for updates. I’ll post something once a month or so. I’m not a writer, but I’ll do my best. Don’t wait for the book or movie to come out!
So, how about you sell us some Excel vintage t-shirts?
We copyright most of our artwork, and we’d love to have some shirts from our early days returned to us for our Hall of Fame. We’re aware that there are many of our shirts in circulation! Millions, maybe. Give them up, you’ve had them long enough!
Initially, the copyright was “Buyright,” our attempt to be like everyone else and sell cheap t-shirts. Even though it wasn’t fun, those shirts are still cool. We would gladly pay $100 for any “Buyright” garment in good condition with the copyright in place dated before 1989.
We will pay $50 for any shirts purchased prior to 2005. You can have credit applied to your next order if you prefer. We only need a few from each year, so hurry.
Finally, with the country’s economy improving, repurposing your existing garments is a great way to relaunch your business with money already spent. We also have a collection of “We’re Back” designs.
Please let us know if there is anything we can do for you, even if you have never purchased shirts from us.