Jacket Season: When, What, Where & How

Enjoy a great return when you make outerwear one of your specialties.

By Deborah Jones , Contributing Writer

Sleeve placements may be near the shoulder or above the cuff.

August 30, 2022

When the weather is warm, savvy embroiderers turn their thoughts to jackets and gear up to make some masterpieces. Wait… what??

Summer is when distributors introduce their fall jacket line-up, so August is the time to make your jacket marketing plan for the upcoming season. Let’s look at a sample calendar for months of profitable jacket sales.

August (Back to School): While traditional letter jackets aren’t as popular as they once were, spirit apparel is going strong. One of the best things about the spirit market is that it often means group sales.

Check out new jacket styles from a variety of suppliers, paying particular attention to budget-friendly offerings available in school colors. Large, showy embroidery using pre-cut appliques from companies like Dalco Athletic and Stahls’ stitch quickly and provide maximum profit potential.

Jackets aren’t just for the athletes. Seek out clubs like Science Club or Spanish Club and help them design their own signature jackets for repeat sales, year after year.

September/October (Uniforms): Jackets are necessary attire for anyone working outside during the winter months and if you have the goods, you can take advantage of the change of seasons. Service personnel in all kinds of businesses rely on what I call business identity apparel to make their customers comfortable by their professional attire. Embroidered shirts do the job in the warmer months, and jackets take over when temperatures drop. Businesses of all kinds include jackets in their change-of-seasons uniform refresh.

November/December (Holiday-themed client gifts): Jackets have a high perceived value, and that makes them a perennial favorite as client gifts during the holiday season. In addition to being a practical and popular gift for the recipient, embroidered jackets serve as year-round advertising for the giver—a real win-win.

What’s in your jacket sample bag? If you have the only the same old styles you’ve been showing for the last several years, you’ll enjoy freshening your samples with more current styles. Just as shirts and shirt fabrics have been updated to include modern technical fabrics, jackets not only have more fabric types, but they also have upscale features like audio port access.

Jackets available to you at wholesale prices, now include styling features that your customers see in retail stores. Demonstrate your outstanding value by offering jackets with similar features with customization included at comparable pricing to the retail product.

Jackets are available in so many styles and weights that you may benefit from getting a catalog or digital catalog that focuses only on outerwear from your supplier, such as Essential Outerwear from alphabroder.com or the Outerwear Navigator from SanMar.com. These smaller, focused resources can help you identify the right product for your customer. On more expensive blanks like jackets, also be sure to take advantage of your suppliers’ discounted sample program, so your customers can see and feel the product quality and you can test the ease of embroidery.

Deciding where to embellish jackets can be fun because there are a lot of possibilities. In addition to left chest and traditional full back locations, sleeve embroidery is popular. A longtime favorite is the upper sleeve, just below the sleeve seam. A more recent favored application site for smaller logos is just above the cuff or lower sleeve end.

Larger applications, such as web site addresses work well on the upper back, just below the collar. This can be with or without larger embroidery below.

Some jackets have hidden zippers built in to facilitate easy access for hooping. These are normally used for left chest or full back embroidery. Here’s a tip for adding an upscale embroidered personalization: while the zipper is open to allow easier access to the outer shell of the jacket, it also makes it easy to apply an embroidery to the lining. This discreet location may be the only embroidery on a pricier piece, such as a leather jacket given as an award for sales performance or other achievement. Rather than having a company logo blaring from the left chest, a hidden embroidery is an appreciated reminder of the reason for the gift.

Today’s jackets are made from many different fabric types, from fleece-line flannel to high-tech soft shells. That means you may need to brush up on your needle know-how. Most jackets will embroider nicely with a sharp point needle – as opposed to a ballpoint. For example, everything from lightweight windbreakers made of nylon to heavy weatherproof jackets made of Gore-Tex stitch well with a sharp point needle. Increase the blade size for heavier jackets to avoid needle deflection that could cause the needle to strike the needle plate.

There are a few knit fabric jacket shells found in the soft-shell category that may need to be treated as any other knit. In other words, they should be embroidered using a ballpoint needle. The ballpoint needle protects the interlocking structure of the knit from being damaged by cutting one or more of the interlocking yarns.

Many soft shells are made from what are commonly referred to as technical fabrics. They may be waterproof and windproof, or even have heat-retention coatings inside. If you shouldn’t use a sharp needle on these materials, what type of needle will make the smallest footprint and help retain the properties of the fabric?

We’ve already established that a ballpoint will protect the yarns from being cut, and an extra light ballpoint is ideal for soft shells made from fine yarns. In fact, extra light ball points are good for embroidering lightweight garment leather and even many woven materials.

Some popular identifying abbreviations for these needles are RG and ESB. You may also find them with the names STU, STUB and SET RT points. Ask your needle supplier for this wonderfully universal needle type that many savvy embroiderers keep in their machines to avoid frequent changeover from sharps to ballpoints.

If hooping heavy jackets or jackets with seams in inconvenient locations is an issue for your shop, consider some of the ingenious holding fixtures available for most commercial and crossover machines. Interchangeable Tubular Clamping system (ICTCS for short) from Hoop Tech Products in Fairfield, OH, in sizes up to 13-inch wide, are one solution I sometimes use for heavy jackets. These spring-loaded clamps remain mounted on the machine and jackets are loaded there.

Another popular solution, and another that I also have in my studio in several sizes, are Mighty Hoops from Midwest Products in Germantown, Wisconsin. These heavy-duty magnetic hoops have a hooping station that holds the bottom hoop steady and avoids premature connection with the top hoop.

Jackets can be a real money-maker for your shop. When you have the right tools, it’s easy to make some masterpieces that will bring more customers to you.

Deborah Jones has more than 30 years of experience in the computerized embroidery field. She runs myembroiderymentor.com. For more information or to comment on this article, email Deborah at djones@embstore.com.