January 17, 2023
Surveying the overall apparel landscape for 2023, the woven and placket sectors look strong, even in a market that continues changing rapidly as trends evolve. At the end of the day, despite recent challenges, wovens and plackets are proving more than capable of maintaining a place of prominence as their classic look and feel continue to be in consistent demand among consumers.
True, a number of roadblocks have been thrown in the way of the wovens and placket market of late, but none have caused permanent or lasting effects. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, most certainly changed the mindset of a workforce largely comprised of early risers who were dressed appropriately for the office and out the door at 7 a.m. The work-from-home or “working remotely” trend undoubtedly affected the sales of plackets and wovens, but not necessarily in a lasting way.
The District Women’s Perfect Tri-Fleece sweatshirt and matching shorts represent a combination of comfort and good looks. Photo courtesy of SanMar
“We fell out of love with wovens for about a year when a good share of the workforce had the opportunity—albeit forced—to work from home,” says Vicki Ostrom, trend editor at Sanmar. “Knits of all kinds were suddenly sanctioned substitutes for what ‘dressed up’ could be. This meant we were showing up in everything from T-shirts and polos to sweatshirts and hoodies, not just on ‘casual Friday’ but as a rule. When work-from-home became the norm and comfortwear became officewear, we were ready for it.”
Eric J. Rubin, president of Blue Generation, agrees, noting that with more people working remotely the last few years, the need for plackets and woven shirts may have been affected, with T-shirts becoming a stand-in for the woven option. In the end, though, he says, when it comes to working in an office environment, wovens take precedence.
“As we see more and more people returning to the office, we’ve already seen an increase in demand for wovens and plackets,” he says. “The markets for T-shirts and for plackets and wovens are distinctly different. T-shirts generally appeal to a casual audience, as compared to a more formal environment for the wovens and plackets.”
Similarly, bolstering this trend, Ostrom says knits of every type have become elevated as basics over the last 10 years, as they are increasingly made out of elegant technical fabrics conveniently sold in a range of lifestyle colors that fit into any professional setting.
“As work situations have become largely hybrid in nature, when we do venture out, getting dressed seems like an occasion worth celebrating,” she says. “Putting on a woven shirt almost makes us feel giddy with excitement because we are ‘dressed up’ again. It feels like a thing we want to do, not a thing we have to do. Putting on a polo is equally pleasing, because not only is it comfortable, it also is very on-trend.”
Trends to Watch
Complementing the way in which apparel trends have been weaving their way in and out of the office is the way these same trends have been expanding into the areas of eveningwear and weekend apparel.
“Shirt jackets, also known as ‘shackets,’ have really been growing in popularity over the last couple of years, so that now you can find them in department stores everywhere,” says Andi Goeing, content strategy specialist for S&S Activewear. “Because they combine the comfort and warmth of a jacket with the styling of a woven shirt, shackets are extremely versatile and work great as an added layering piece to your outfit. You’ll find these in flannel, wool and even quilted materials now.”
These tried and true gingham checks are a proven fashion statement. Photo courtesy of Blue Generation
Goeing goes on to say an especially nice quality of the shacket is that it can be worn inside or outside of the office, making it great for a wide range of markets in the decorated apparel industry: from corporate gifting and uniforms to band merchandise and lifestyle collections. With this in mind, Goeing says, S&S Activewear made a point of adding a quilted flannel hooded jacket, a quilted jersey shirt jacket and a Great Hart Mountain shirt jacket to its collection, and that it will continue to offer these styles in 2023.
While on the topic of newer trends, another popular look that will continue to be a factor in 2023 is the “untucked” plackets/woven shirt–which is proving popular both for those going out on the town and in the corporate space as well.
“The untucked collections are still extremely popular and growing,” Rubin says. “The look brought new vitality to a staid market. Blue Generation offers the silhouette in something as casual as a men’s and ladies’ denim shirt, or a higher-end plaid and gingham. We specially design the shirt so that it can be worn tucked or untucked for extra versatility.”
In the wake of the stay-at-home days of the pandemic, Rubin says consumers remain focused on being comfortable in the clothes they wear in the workforce. They want contemporary styling with the upscale look of a woven and the stretchy comfort of knit. In addition, although polyester blends will remain popular with plackets and wovens, especially given the popularity of the athleisure trend, other fabrics may make an appearance in 2023 as well.
Along these same lines Ostrom says consumers have become accustomed to the comfort of stretch and a bit of extra ease built into the fit of everything, and that those features will never be sacrificed. This includes in the button-up preppy look she sees making a resurgence.
“Of course, we are in 2023, not 1980, when The Official Preppy Handbook was published,” Ostrom says. “So, although there will once again be an increased demand for polos, traditional cotton and technical blends are equally important in today’s climate. Rugbies and oxford shirts in soft pastels and regal hues alike play a role. Today’s versions also probably have stretch worked into the fabrications.”
More generally, Ostrom says, “Woven shirts in plaids that transport the wearer to the lush green lawns and ivy-covered walls of esteemed East Coast universities will be in style for the foreseeable future, as we seek grounding in the best of what preppy represents. It’s the perfect combination of iconic fashion and an instantly ‘tidy,’ yet comfortable, dressed-up style.”
Think of these functional styles as “wardrobe workhorses,” she says, citing the durable cotton knit of a rugby as a classic example of the type. “Another boost…is the growing popularity of court sports…Tennis has never gone out of style, but it is gaining even more audience with the meteoric rise of once-niche games, such as ping pong and pickleball. The inclusive nature of the latter two games is fueling this growth since everyone of any age and ability can play. These games are of choice for a public seeking more community and more joy in their everyday lives.”
Ostrom adds that no matter what the exact type, details and finishing are key when it comes to smart-looking shirts in classic colors and plaid patterns. With that in mind, in 2023 and beyond, look for shirting made of cellulosic fibers, such as rayon or Tencel Lyocell, which provide a natural approach to technical properties.
Similarly, she says, while solid color shirts will still account for most sales, colorful plaids, ginghams and stripes will add a fashion twist that is appealing to the corporate market. Classic styles, like a button front, button down shirt and pique polos with knit collars that can be “popped” continue as mainstays.
Bottom line: although the workwear trend is alive and well, due to the casualization of office norms, true jackets or blazers may no longer be a required part of a “tailored” look. This gives shirting a celebrity status in terms of today’s daily business look. In 2023, a distinct pressure will exist for shirts or blouses that create the professional, cohesive vibe once accomplished by a suit.
“Branding is all about image,” Blue Generation’s Rubin says. “The impression the customer experiences will linger. Since T-shirts are a casual look, plackets and wovens are more upscale and will help identify that with the brand.”
Jennifer Morrell is an award-winning writer who has written for a number of national consumer and trade publications. For more information or to comment on this article, email Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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