January 18, 2022
With so many apparel trends that seem to turn on a dime, the woven and placket markets appear to have been strongly adopted by the marketplace. In fact, like the tried-and-true T-shirt, plackets and wovens may be a product category that never will really suffer from a lack of popularity with wearers.
“In the past, I wouldn’t have been able to rate the popularity of woven shirts, polos and T-shirts on the same scale,” says Vicki Ostrom, senior apparel designer, SanMar. “Each item had specific uses, and there were trends within each category. Today, we can look at all three through a similar lens because brands are responding to consumer demand for elevated basics, such as polos and wovens, which are here to stay.”
Ostrom says this translates broadly to clothing that is comfortable to wear and transitions through all the activities of a given day. Versatile polos and tees can be worn in a corporate setting or on a Sunday for a casual brunch with friends. Woven shirts work well in office settings, incorporating stretch or consisting entirely of knit fabrications. These are styled to look exactly like a traditional button-down shirt.
Elevated basics, Ostrom says, are exactly that: tried-and-true core styles that are a little bit more special in some way and, therefore, have an expanded scope of use within a wardrobe.
John Perez, marketing manager, Tri-Mountain, asserts that placket shirts tend to communicate a higher level of quality. “At a nice restaurant or hotel, employees will wear placket shirts,” he says. “For a nice golf tournament promo, you may want to include a quality moisture-wicking polo vs. a T-shirt.”
The Remote Effect
The COVID-19 pandemic’s residual impacts on our collective way of life have been widespread, including the nationwide surge in remote workers. Some companies that had to allow their employees to work from home saw benefits and cost savings, never moving them back into an office.
How has the work-from-home trend affected placket and woven sales?
The answer may surprise you.
The way purchases will be vetted in 2022 looks much different from the past, Ostrom says. Questions surrounding a fabric’s softness or hand; a garment’s comfort; and even a purchase’s necessity all have to be addressed before a purchase is made.
“Even though it seems like with all of these requirements, sales would be down, the opposite is true,” Ostrom says. “Consumers are investing in themselves and making smart, no-regret purchases of items that help them feel good every day. Polos and wovens designed with this in mind and are both comfortable and useful. They are selling well because they are answering the needs consumers have to make their lives work in 2022.”
Taraynn Lloyd, vice president of marketing, Edwards Garment, says her company is experiencing a strong demand for woven shirts, and sales have been strong since the second quarter of 2021. For now, she expects “back-to-work” employees will need their uniform apparel replenished, and that includes woven shirts and blouses.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, all woven shirts were sitting on the sidelines,” she says “People were working from home, so demand for woven shirts — especially in uniform programs — had diminished. Once restaurants, hotels, theme parks and offices began opening up, the demand for woven shirts started to trend upward.”
Woven trends in the corporate space range from the untucked look to a demand for functional fabrics and the incorporation of interesting patterns.
“We’ve seen [wearing these shirts] untucked as a trend, especially with the work-from-home transition we saw during pandemic,” Perez says. “Now, we see those same styles carrying themselves into the office setting. Tucked or untucked, either way is acceptable, depending on the office culture.”
Stretch fabrics aren’t going anywhere, even for uniform apparel, says Lloyd, adding that stretch is a necessity for dress shirts and blouses.
“Fabrics with stretch allow designers to create tailored silhouettes with enhanced details — from mitered cuffs, contrasting stitching, buttons as a design feature and shorter collar points,” Lloyd says. “And what [drives] trends at retail drives uniform apparel styles as well.”
Perez says subtle, tonal patterns are trending. Regarding promotional apparel, patterns or color blocking should emphasize an end-user embellishment, not take away from it, he says.
Niches for Plackets & Wovens
Plackets and wovens are ideal for the corporate market, but the fabrics allow the sustainability box to be checked as well, which is important for many of today’s consumers.
“Wovens that have a sustainable component to the fabric will be extremely popular [in 2022],” Lloyd says. “People everywhere want to make sure that what they wear not only looks good, but is safe for the environment.”
She adds that Edwards Garment has made a commitment to developing sustainable solutions for uniform garments, recently introducing the company’s Ultra-Stretch sustainable dress shirt and blouse. Both garments feature a lot of what consumers want, Lloyd says, including defining silhouettes, comfort stretch and ease of decoration, if desired. Most importantly, the fabric is made with 47% recycled polyester — a sustainable-apparel solution many buyers require.
Perez says specific types of restaurants, as well as the hospitality industry — where an organization’s ambience or culture may require employees to dress a bit more formally — are strong niches for plackets and wovens. Consumers fueling the renaissance of polos and woven shirts include the Gen-Z and Millennial generations, according to Ostrom.
“Design trends pushed by this younger demographic in both categories are transforming these items, resulting in products that satisfy this new, younger consumer, while also pleasing [the] Gen-X and Boomer generations,” she says. “Overall styling of both polos and wovens is becoming more generous, allowing for an easier fit for most consumers.”
Ostrom also says oversized polos are a key trend in junior brands, in particular. Color is a factor expanding use-case examples for polo and woven styles, as younger consumers of both genders are embracing a fluid palette of calming core colors. An easy-to-wear range of colors — those that are grounded in nature and earth minerals — provide the tone many buyers want to set. These colors also include foundational white; gray and black; and soft,
“wellness-based” colors, such as lavender, rose, maize and terracotta clay.
These shifts are expanding polos and wovens from golf-course and corporate use to everyday lifestyle use for multiple generations and end users.
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 email@example.com.
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