Hoodies and T-shirts are the bedrock of the streetwear game. Not only are they universally worn garments, but for aspiring designers, they are some of the lowest barrier-to-entry products out there. See, to start a T-shirt and hoodie brand, it’s not like you have to literally make each hoodie and T-shirt yourself the way you would when it comes to, say, a pair of jeans. Thankfully for aspiring young design gods, there are companies out there specialize in making blank tees and hoodies that can be purchased at wholesale, printed on, and sold to customers.
Now, this isn’t some kind of secret — every company from Supreme to a kid who just signed up for Big Cartel goes to companies who are known for their T-shirts and hoodies, even if it's just a jumping off point (the big boys usually end up creating custom products using the company’s access to fabric and factories). And though we all know about Champion and Gildan, we want to explore what other companies out there are turning out hoodies good enough to wear sans adornments.
Here we break down four companies whose blank hoodies and t-shirts are worth knowing about right now.
New Workwear: Darryl Brown
Location: Toledo, Ohio
Known for: Wear-everyday workwear, think work shirts, hoodies, and heavy-cotton T-shirts
Designed by a former railroad engineer turned Kanye West stylist, Darryl Brown is presenting a new take on workwear. Based in Toledo, Ohio, the eponymous brand is inspired by the everyday clothes of the Midwest — and from both his and his father’s work history. “Workwear was becoming a trend and I felt like it was something that was so true to me — so I wanted to offer my take on it.
“I worked in different blue collar, 9 to 5 industrial jobs. Pretty much like the DNA of the Midwest,” Brown explains. “90% of my collection’s inspiration comes from my father. This is literally how my father dressed ever since I could even imagine him dressing.”
While not designed to be blanks, minimal branding is a core component of Brown’s designs, so it's the perfect brand to make your own. Designed in Ohio, and made in Los Angeles, the label is rooted in American American workwear history, taking inspiration from workwear uniforms of the 50s, 60s, and 70s and combining with Brown’s own experience to give his pieces a “modern vintage twist.” On the fabric side of things, Brown favors heavy cotton and twills so all of the garments are made to last. One of the label’s signature styles is a 6.5-ounce cotton T-shirt designed for any occasion, and ready to be customized.
King of the North: Roopa Knitting Mills
Location: Toronto, Canada
Known for: Heavyweight fleece, side panels on hoodies, making Supreme bogos
Roopa Knitting Mills is the current title belt holder in the blank hoodie and T-shirt game. Almost every popping streetwear brand today uses their premium fabrics and factories to deliver top-of-the-line, heavy-duty, made-in-Canada product, including Supreme, Aimé Leon Dore, Noah, Adsum, and more. If you see a made-in-Canada tag on a hoodie in 2019, chances are it’s made by Roopa, who seems to have usurped CYC (the people behind Reigning Champ and wings+horns) as the King of the North in the fleece business.
It’s also easy to spot a Roopa hoodie by its side panels, which are designed to add additional stretch around the seams, as well as its often-used 14oz fabric and flat drawstrings. But there’s a reason that so many brands turn to Amit Thakkar for their fleece needs: Finding fleece manufacturers in America isn’t easy in 2019, especially ones willing to go the lengths that Thakkar is known for. Whether you’re an up-and-coming label or worth a billion dollars, Amit knows his customers on a first-name basis and works his ass off to make sure each brand’s needs are being met.
And if you want a Roopa hoodie sans logo, know you can pick one up on their website House of Blanks. The hoodies go for $115 in their unadorned form. If you’re going to cop, veer on the slim side.
Nostalgia, Ultra: Stateline
Location: North Carolina
Known for: Classic American style, baggier fits, retailer merch (Stadium Goodies, KITH Treats)
It was just a few decades ago that brands like Champion and Russell Athletic were knitting their blank hoodies and T-shirts in the United States. But as is the case with so many American-born brands, that all changed in the 1990s when international trade agreements made producing in South America or Asia way more appealing to labels' bottom lines. Thankfully a new company, Stateline—founded in 2017 in North Carolina—is making hoodies and T-shirt reminiscent of the good old days of American manufacturing. (Even Stateline’s logo is somewhat reminiscent of Russell’s.)
See, it’s not just where hoodies are produced that dictate their quality. It’s about fabrication as well as the amount of attention to detail put into the construction. On that front Stateline has become known for its classic approach. Side paneling (much like Roopa), a variety of different fits, and round drawstrings all say “classic cool.”
In an era when making clothes in the United States is not only relatively expensive but difficult to do, companies like Stateline are proof that many Americans do indeed care about quality over branding. Stateline is the embodiment of “buy less, buy better, and buy local,” which also means its blank hoodies and T-shirts are meant to stand the test of time, both literally and figuratively. Trends come and go, but a well-made plain hoodie for a good price? Those are values that last forever.
High Street Newcomers: H&M's Blank Staples
Launched last year, H&M's Blank Staples line is the high street brand’s entry into the streetwear blanks game, adding an affordable option for upcoming brands.
Purposefully minimal, the collection can be worn as is, or used as a base for your own label (as Plant Man P demonstrates here). Made from heavy weight cotton and designed with a slight oversized fit (the tees arrive in 7 oz. cotton jersey while everything else comes in a substantial 14 oz cotton), these pieces are made to blend seamlessly into your wardrobe, and to last. The label's second drop comes in a range of YEEZY-esque beige and brown tones, classic black, grey blue, white, and a summer-ready lilac.
Fun in the Sun: Comfort Colors
Location: Northfield, Vermont
Known for: Sun-faded staples, oversized fits, Vineyard Vines T-shirts
Comfort Colors is a really interesting story of ingenuity and resourcefulness. They’re the only company in this story that doesn’t actually make its own products. Instead, Comfort Colors is a brand that began by buying blank hoodies and T-shirts from other companies like Gildan, and then treating them through a washing and dyeing process to give them that sun-faded appearance that you’ll find inside coastal gift shops and college bookstores. Additionally, Comfort Colors is the only brand on this list that doesn’t sell directly to consumers. If you want Comfort Colors, you'll have to place a bulk order, using their antiquated website to track down one of their distributors.
Recognizing the hustle, as well as the brand’s success thanks to co-signs from companies like Vineyard Vines, Gildan actually bought Comfort Colors for around $100 million in 2015, which changed the quality for the worse, according to die-hards. Nevertheless, Comfort Colors remains the go-to destination for the most easygoing blank hoodies and T-shirts on this list, defined by their oversized fit, soft hand-feel, and faded color schemes.
On Twitter, there’s an interesting contingent of people who swear by indie bands who use Comfort Colors T-shirts for their merch. This highlights the schism between the streetwear crowd and everyone else. Where streetwear fans value things like silhouette, rarity, and construction, the average concert-goer values looks and comfort above all else. And in that sense, Comfort Colors is the best in the business.