Editorial: Ye Olde Village Apparel Decorator

The 'human' side of the decorated apparel business is a big part of what makes it such a special industry

By Adam Cort, Content Director

Like the small-town blacksmiths of old, today’s apparel decorator have a close relationship with many of their customers. Photo by William –

November 21, 2023

Time was pretty much every village or town had a blacksmith. There was also, more likely than not, a cobbler, a tailor, a butcher, a baker, maybe even a candlestick maker or two, i.e., the world was largely composed of independent businesspeople who were all very much a part of the community they served. This in turn provided a tangible sense of connection.

Today, not so much. Everything from where you get your oil changed to the place you go to get a snack is, in many cases, an extension of a much larger business entity, possibly a multinational. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. However, there’s no denying the fact it often makes for a much less “human” feeling world than it was in decades past.

Not so with custom decorating. Granted there are some very big shops out there. However, there is also a vast and varied archipelago, so to speak, of smaller shops to choose from, as is evident at events like each year’s three Impressions Expos.

Case in point: the other day while checking out a nearby antique shop, what should I see lurking in the back room, but a well-worn four-station manual screen press? Same thing at the end of a recent family vacation to Yellowstone Park where the custom T-shirt and souvenir shop outside the park entrance had both a manual press and not one, but two brand-new heat presses. Other examples include the custom printing shop across the street from my wife’s favorite coffee shop and the company that prints and sells merch on my kid’s college campus—both local businesses owned and operated by some of the finest people you could ever hope to meet as they carry on the proud tradition of the blacksmiths and other local professionals of old. Yet another reason why the decorated apparel business is such a special one!

This article was updated on May 1, 2024