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Decorate Outerwear Like a Pro

It's definitely outerwear season! Jackets clock in at the top of many people's wish list for branded outerwear - whether it's from a company they're associated with or a brand they love. If your clients are ready to invest in high-quality outerwear, there are many great styles with fashion, functional and performance features recipients crave. Add a stand-out logo or a name drop, and they'll wear it for years.

A personalized or custom jacket that checks all the boxes gets kept for an average of 16 months, and probably longer, according to ASI research. During that time, a single jacket can score 6,100 impressions for your client's brand. That makes outerwear a marketing investment with a great ROI, so be sure to pitch this category to your customers.

Ready for the skinny on how to recommend and decorate jackets for your clients? You're in the right place. Before we jump in, here are a few more benefits of selling promo jackets:

  • High-quality, logoed outerwear promotes brand awareness inside and outside of the business.
  • Promotes unity among employees, a team, donors or fans.
  • Give your top employees and clients a branded keepsake they can wear for years.
  • High-quality for-sale merch that will get your client's brand seen far and wide.

Choosing the Right Jackets for Your Clients

First, you'll need to know who's wearing the jacket, and for what purpose. Is it for winter sports or work in extreme weather? Is it commuting to work in the winter elements? Is it jogging in the rain? When you've narrowed that down, you can consider the style and fit of the jacket.

For example:

  • Fleece/microfleece jacket or vest: This soft, comfortable material adds a warming layer of insulation, making it a good choice for people working or playing in cooler fall or early spring temperatures.
  • Windbreaker: This lightweight jacket, often made from nylon, provides protection from cooler weather and precipitation in the spring and fall.
  • Soft-shell jacket: This activewear style is lightweight enough to offer freedom of movement and breathability, but also offer protection against the cold.
  • Hard-shell jacket: Often seen in workwear styles, this is a thicker, more durable version of the soft shell.
  • Heavyweight jacket: These jackets have more insulation for maximum warmth on the jobsite or for outdoor events.
  • Three-season jacket: Designed for colder areas, this jacket style comes with extra lining or insulation to keep the wearer warm. You'll see these made of fleece, often with a waterproof shell.
  • Puffer jacket: Besides being on trend this year, this lightweight, functional style is well-insulated against the cold.
  • Bomber jacket: Another popular style this season, the military-inspired bomber offers both warmth and a fashionable look.

Second, you should consider sizing and color ways. It's always a good idea to choose jacket styles that have an inclusive size range, such as XS to 5XL. You can also check to see if there are youth sizes available, or ladies' or men's companion styles. When you're outfitting large groups, a wide range of sizes is a must.

When you're considering color, you'll find there are many options. You should be able to match your client's brand, school, team or event colors without an issue. Many styles also include options like neutrals, muted heather shades, brighter colors, neons, colorblocked styles, high-visibility for night conditions and more.

You'll also want to determine which physical and performance features are most important for your client, and for the end-wearers who'll be using the outerwear.

For example:

  • Packable jackets: A jacket that packs back into itself or a pouch is great for commuters, travelers and those on the go all day.
  • Hoods: Depending on how they'll be wearing the jacket, a hood might be a must or a maybe. A detachable hood is a good compromise.
  • Pockets: Depending on a wearer's needs, look at a jacket's pocket offerings: full front pouch, side pockets (open or zippered), inside security pockets and more.
  • Waterproof/resistant/repellent: Some jackets offer 100% protection from getting wet during downpours. This may be an essential performance feature if wearers are outside regularly or reside in a rainy area. You'll want to pay attention to waterproof ratings, determined by the resistant or repellent coating on the jacket. The rating refers to the amount of water the jacket can take in 24 hours before it leaks. Being fully seam-sealed is another feature to look for in a jacket that will be out in the elements.
  • Wind resistant: This means that a jacket has a special insulation type that keeps wearers comfortable even in windy conditions.
  • Moisture wicking: Often used in activewear, these jackets wick sweat and moisture to the surface fabric, keeping a wearer comfortable.
  • Lightweight insulation: Jackets offer different weights, types of insulation and inside finishes, to keep wearers warm in different conditions. Because of human allergies and animal rights concerns, the trend has been toward synthetic down. Some jackets have thermal reflective technology, which reflects and retains body heat to keep the wearer toasty warm.

Decide How to Decorate Your Jackets

Like jacket styles, there are lots of options for artwork, imprinting methods and logo locations. Decorators use a whole slew of options that work for a variety of outerwear styles and brands, such as:

  • Embroidery: Offers a quality, professional look and feel for a long-lasting and durable look.
  • Patches: Leather and woven patches add a retail touch to outerwear.
  • DTG printing: For high-quality full-color prints, and larger designs.
  • Heat transfers: There are lots of transfer options, including screen-printed, direct-to-film, rhinestones and more.
  • Multimedia: Combine one or more techniques to create a standout design.

Unsure which techniques might work for you? Get inspired by three decorators who each share a standout jacket design, one which far exceeded their clients' expectations.

Party With This DJ

Gillian Allen, owner and designer at The Cat's Pajamas USA , digitized and decorated this jacket for a client with a DJ business. "He already had business cards with his logo, and felt it was time he had branded merchandise for his team to wear to events," she says. "He was over the moon with the results, and definitely felt it gave them a more professional look."

The Technique: Allen used embroidery to give this jacket-back design dimension that wouldn't have been possible using a printed technique. "The bold colors within the design also lent themselves to the textured look we achieved," she says. "We used a jacket style that featured a port pocket for easy access to do the embroidery."

Insider Tips: This project turned out well because Allen embroidered the design using the correct underlay. "I also made the design for a full back - it's a mistake I see many people make by attempting to resize a design," she says.

Rocking It With Rhinestones

Linda Schutzman, owner of Sparkle Gear and, created this eye-catching, full-back bling design for a local yoga studio owner. "My client was looking for clothing for an event and wanted to stand out in the crowd," she says. "She was thrilled with the outcome! She reported that the jackets attracted many people to her table at the event."

The Technique: Schutzman used rhinestones to add an eye-catching factor to jackets and ladies' full-zip hoodies. "When we work with rhinestones, we can bring our clients' logos to life in a way that we can't accomplish with other decorating methods," she says.

Insider Tips: Like many other decorations, the quality level starts with the artwork. "If your artwork is clean, the decoration will be as well," Schutzman says. "Using high-quality rhinestones also makes for a better finished product."

Multimedia for Microsoft

A team at Microsoft reached out to Artem Ionitsa, president of Logo Unlimited, for a jacket that would really stand out. "We provided them with the perfect solution, combining multiple decoration methods with their artwork to create a branded jacket that was unique to that particular Microsoft team," he says.

The Technique: At Logo Unlimited, Ionitsa prides himself on offering clients unlimited options. The idea for this soft-shell jacket started with custom laser-etching the artwork's circuit pattern, using a garment laser-etcher. Then, the team created a custom die plate to deboss the text in the logo. Then, they used the classic and durable embroidery method for the squares. "Once the decoration was complete, we felt adding a custom Microsoft logo zipper pull tied the whole piece together to create a one-of-a-kind jacket that's sure to stand out," he says.

Insider Tips: When you're combining multiple decoration methods, it's important to build a design that works well with whichever methods you choose. "For example, this Microsoft design has a great pattern that flows well and has the right shape to sit nicely in the jacket's left panel," he says. "The Microsoft text is bold and solid, which is great for debossing. The four different colored squares look great embroidered."

Another fun fact about this design: There's a special message that Ionitsa laser-etched onto the fleece on the inside of the jacket specifically for the team members over at Microsoft to read. "We aren't at liberty to disclose what it says, we can only tell you it's there," he says.

Next Steps

Once you've become familiar with this season's popular outerwear trends, it's time to find styles you can share with your excited clients. Here are some valuable tools you can use on the alphabroder website:

  • Catalogs: Check out our latest e-apparel catalogs-like our Spring 2023 One-Stop Solution - so you can see what's trending. You can share our generic versions with your clients.
  • SalesBuilder: Want the power of an entire graphic design department in the hands of your marketing team and sales reps? Whether you're making a one-page custom flyer, apparel lookbooks or an entire presentation, you can use our premade templates to create professional materials that showcase the season's hottest jacket styles and colors.
  • High Stock Inventory Filter: When you use this feature, you can quickly find in-stock products in various styles and colors to present to your clients.

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