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Plackets & Wovens Pushing Ahead

February 8, 2016

They may not be the obvious choice for casual wear that T-shirts are, but plackets and wovens are rapidly gaining ground on the apparel king.

Part of the appeal is that these wearables can be worn in multiple environments, from a business-casual meeting or golf course, to an evening out on the town. The versatility is as much a part of the garment’s allure as the classy, refined look.

“Apparel decorators should be sure to show plackets and wovens to their customers as another option to T-shirts,” says Margaret Crow, director of marketing, S&S Activewear. “It’s a category of apparel that can really make a group stand out.”

Indeed, while plackets and wovens are no longer worn simply for dress-up occasions, they certainly add something that a T-shirt simply cannot achieve for wearers.

Polo-style plackets, in particular, have found a strong and expanding role in the “athleisure” trend, and offer comfort and class for wearers who participate in certain sports and athletic events.

“There’s a lot of buzz with polo plackets,” says Vicki Ostrom, senior designer, SanMar. “With the heavy emphasis in sport-luxe looks with the athleisure trend, polos are a natural item getting a makeover.”

In fact, men’s polo shirts are getting sportier overall — even those that are worn in office or business settings.

“Men’s polo plackets, in general, are shorter and narrower,” Ostrom says. “The visual difference is not dramatic but on a placket, you don’t have to make much of a change to have it make a significant difference to the overall look. Everything gets a little bit trimmer looking and more sporty overall.”

Athletes — especially male professional golfers — have helped push this sportier trend, though their real effect on the apparel category is in the athleisure polos.

As for fabrics, polyester is king in performance plackets, thanks to its light feel, flexibility and wicking properties. “Blends that provide some give and stretch are popular,” says John Perez, marketing associate, Tri-Mountain, in reference to polyester, spandex and nylon.

Cotton is ideal for decoration, so manufacturers have begun producing polyester material that maintains the fabric’s beneficial performance properties, but feels like cotton, Crow says. But non-athletic plackets still are immensely popular, and blends with other fabrics are common.

While polyester is essential for plackets designed for athletic use, wovens and business-casual plackets have much more leeway. Typically, wovens are worn as casualwear, so there is more room for 100% cotton and cotton/poly blends.

Many new, unique, stylish designs and colors pushed consumer demand for plackets and wovens in 2015.

“Weatherproof introduced their vintage line of plaids to the market and Burnside introduced more flannels in solids and plaids,” Crow says. “The cut of both of these wovens is more fitted with many details in the pockets, stitching and buttons. These looks are corporate, but with a stylish edge perfect for elevating your customer’s brand message. We have lots of stylish options in plaids, flannels, corduroy, denim and chambray, in men’s and women’s silhouettes. Decorators can elevate their customer’s brand by offering unique styles.”

Ostrom has noted different, but equally important trends at SanMar.

“Framing is big with woven tops,” she says. “Things like piping placed on the edges of the collar, placket, pocket or sleeve cuff in a color that contrasts with the garment highlights these features and frames the overall silhouette of the body. SanMar features this framed idea in a knit polo, the Sport-Tek Micropique sport-wick piped polo. We also have a new Port Authority textured camp shirt that features piping to frame the ladies’ center front placket and the top pocket edge on the men’s style.”

As for popular colors, the brighter they are, the better for plackets. For wovens, there’s a different strategy.

“For placket shirts, bright colors such as lime green, safety yellow, bright fuchsia, ocean and sky blue [currently are popular],” Crow says. “For wovens, plaids in every color are trending, and then for solid wovens, it’s still the neutral colors that sell the best.”

Perez agrees that it’s best to keep things simple with woven colors.

“Basics like white, black, navy, gray, are always popular because they match up well with end users’ programs,” he says.

There are numerous different groups primed to consume decorated plackets and wovens. Retailers, golf and tennis teams and clubs, corporate clients, landscapers, bars, casual restaurants and even car dealerships are obvious places to start, Crow says.

She adds that selling techniques include displaying samples for potential customers to show how impactful the garments can be. For example, show a plaid with an allover print on the back of the shirt.

“[The shirt] becomes a dynamic message vehicle rather than just the standard, serious button-up,” she says.

Crow cites an example of PGA Tour golfers who wear bright placket shirts with printed designs and logos, and says decorators should show pictures of this to clients to bring to life the power of decoration.

As customers become more adventurous and open-minded toward decorating plackets and wovens, trends should continue to evolve and strengthen for decorators bold enough to offer the garments.

“The trends of 2015 were so powerful that they will be carried forward and strengthened in 2016,” Crow says. “I think the woven category will continue to grow and decorators will explore more placement options.”