Do we still sell Gildan shirts?
No, we stopped selling them in mid-2020
Many, many reasons. They're all listed below, although not in any kind of order of significance:
Gildan use a very low grade type of cotton called Open Card.
Don't be surprised if you've never heard of Open Card cotton, it's not well known and it's certainly not really a selling point for them.
Open Card is a type of cotton fabric where the initial manufacturing process excludes the part where the raw cotton is combed to remove poor quality fibres, or foreign objects such as parts of the cotton plant, before being spun into thread.
They leave all that in in order to bulk out the fabric, to make it comparatively heavier compared to all the other brands who use the industry standard, ringspun cotton.
Ringspun cotton in comparison is combed several times to remove these impurities, giving a smoother, better quality fabric. Although ringspun tends to be lighter in weight than Open Card, it has far better shape holding properties and the fabric is extremely unlikely to develop holes. Ringspun cotton shirts generally cost more to buy than Open Card shirts.
In the 80's when Gildan launched these shirts the belief was they were better quality purely because they were heavier, which is not the case.
Gildan shirts are very prone to developing faults, such as holes or snagging in the stitching.
This is caused by the low grade cotton the Gildan uses.
Foreign objects or poor quality fibres in the thread cause dropped stitches, or poor weaving, which leads to holes developing. Stitches get dropped, leading to frays and hems becoming loose and failing.
Constantly Having To Replace Faulty Items
As a business we ship out hundreds of shirts each week. Given the average number of faults Gildan shirts have, we were constantly having to replace faulty shirts that developed a problem of some sort or the other.
Our customers are located all over the world, in places
as far away as Australia / USA / Japan. We were having to replace faulty items - at least 2 or 3 times each week - to customers that far away it was a very expensive business.
Constantly Having To Replace Faulty Items - Part 2
Not a good look, we have lots of repeat, loyal customers. They'd contact us back then and say their order was great but 1 or 2 shirts had developed a problem. Doesn't look great or instil confidence in us as a brand for the future.
The Fabric Of Gildan Shirts Feels Very Rough
Open Card cotton is very rough, like sandpaper. It's not at all soft to touch, like cotton should feel.
Our new ringspun shirts feel the opposite, very soft to touch.
Gildan's Open Card fabric does not print well because the material is rough and the surface very uneven.
A good print needs an even surface or, more importantly, an uneven surface gives a poor print.
Not Suitable For Digital Printing
In 2022 Direct to Garment (DTG) printing is firmly the industry standard method of garment printing.
Gildan shirts were designed for silk screen printing, an antiquated print method which has really declined significantly in prevalence in recent times.
Open Card cotton is unsuited to be printed by DTG due to the uneven print surface of the fabric.
The Brand Is Widely Unpopular
Customers regularly ask us what type of shirts we print on. Previously, when we used to say Gildan, we'd never hear from the potential customer again.
From time to time we'd get people just come straight out and say " Hey I absolutely hate Gildan shirts (because of the faults and the rough material), but I love your designs. Could you print them on something else for me please?"
In Japan, one of our biggest markets - a country where quality is the most important consideration - the brand is very very unpopular.
Our distributor there informed us that changing to another brand from Gildan would be the single most important thing he could suggest to improve sales there. We took his advice and our sales have nearly tripled.
Our Market Wanted A Different Type Of Shirt
Our customers had been regularly suggesting we use other, newer brands with a more contemporary fit, such as Bella and Canvas and Stanley / Stella Organic.
We decided to try these shirts out in late 2019, we printed and washed them multiple times over several months to test the quality. We were very impressed by the fabric quality, the printability, the print duration, the shape retention and the cut.
We fully introduced these shirts in 2020 and had many customers contact us to say they were glad we switched from Gildan.
Gildan Don't Do Organic
Our customers want an Organic shirt option. Gildan don't do - and have no plans whatsoever to do - Organic shirts.
The quality of Organic cotton t-shirts is on another level, once you buy Organic cotton you will not return to anything else. It's truly a game changer.
Gildan's Fabric & T-Shirt Shape Is Outdated
Many new brands have emerged in the last 10 years that have far better quality fabric, far better printability, more contemporary t-shirt cut / shape than the standard Gildan shirts.
Gildan's 2 flagship shirts - the GD 2000 Ultra and GD 5000 Heavy - have not changed in any way since their launch in 1982. They are outdated, there are many better t-shirts for our business in 2022.
These Gildan shirts were criticised often for their loose cut, "flappy" sleeves.
Plus, Gildan remains as the last big t-shirt company still selling Open Card cotton shirts. No other big brand still uses this type of material.
Most Importantly: We Didn't Even Wear Gildan Shirts Ourselves
All the staff at Soul Tees get promos of our new shirt designs when they come are released. Tellingly, they'd all always request the designs to be printed on brands other than Gildan. So, we asked ourselves the question, if we won't wear this brand ourselves, why are we even still selling it? On reflection, for this reason more than anything else we decided to ditch Gildan.
Our New Shirts Are Very Reliable
Since launching our new ranges in 2020 we no longer have to replace shirts 2 or 3 times a week. Not even 2 or 3 times a month. We can count on 1 finger how many shirts we have had to replace since we switched brands. The problems we used to see all the time with Gildan, we no longer see any of them.
Did You Switch To A Lighter Weight Shirt To Cut Costs?
No. Our new, standard shirt - the Bella & Canvas blank - currently costs us 39% more to buy in than the most expensive Gildan shirt we used to stock. We absolutely did not switch brands to cut costs. Our Organic shirts cost almost double that of the Gildan blank shirt costs.
Why Do You Feel Your New Shirts Are Better Than Gildan?
Both types of shirts we stock are constructed from tight, ringspun cotton. This type of fabric is superb for digital printing.
Our standard shirt - the Bella & Canvas 3001 - was created specifically for DTG printing. It's a perfect match. It's midweight, so it can be worn around the year in any climate.
Our Premium Organic shirt by Stanley / Stella is equal in weight to our heaviest Gildan shirt we used to stock, however it's far smoother, far softer to touch and is Certified Organic cotton. The quality is on another level.
Your Customers Must Be Universally Delighted You Dropped Gildan?
No. We have customers who still love Gildan shirts and prefer them, despite everything, which we have to respect.
Our feeling is that on balance, all factors taken into consideration, it has been better to move on from Gildan. We worked with the brand for over 10 years, but we have no regrets whatsoever about dropping them.