Having custom team kits is one of the key ways to establish a club identity to build a community around. Plus, you'll look awesome.
Essentially all custom clothing companies will help you design a team kit, usually for a fee but increasingly as a free service to get you to contract with them. Either way, they'll generally work with anything from a napkin sketch to a complete and finalized design. If no one on your team is comfortable with graphic design, talk to your sales representative about having the manufacturer do it. Usually they can whip up something pretty good based around logos and rough ideas you send them.
To get a truly custom design, however, usually takes a little bit of graphic design skills. All companies provide templates of their fabric patterns which you can edit and draw on to develop a genuinely unique style---for better or worse. Typical vector art software packages used, such as Adobe Illustrator, are generally fairly expensive but often available on campus computers. Another possible option is Inkscape, a free, open source graphics design tool. Note that all these tools have fairly substantial learning curves, so don't expect to just dive in and produce masterpieces on a time crunch.
The Drexel University jersey laid out in the Hincapie Sportswear pattern template.
Regardless, three primary points to keep in mind are:
- Your school must be the most prominent entity on your kit. Sponsor logos are perfectly fine, but cannot overwhelm or overshadow the school logo(s).
- Teammates within a race must wear identifiably similar kits. Some change is usually workable, but if you completely redesign your outfit, everybody will have to buy new clothes.
- Depending on the manufacturing process used, designs may be limited to a small number of solid colors, often with a per-color fee, or unlimited and full color. Talk to your sales representative for details before investing a lot of effort on a final design.
Technically the conference director has to approve your design. In practice they almost invariably don't want to hear about it unless you have many or prominent sponsor logos, or are hoping to significantly change the design but keep it compatible with previous outfits. Look around the photos on this site and other online photo albums for examples of what's generally accepted and a good idea. If you have doubts, don't hesitate to get in touch.
In general it's probably best for teams to try and maintain the same basic outfit for a few years running. Otherwise current racers won't be able to use their stockpile of previous clothes, and alumni will be slightly more alienated from the team.
Also note that some institutions require that clubs get approval before printing clothing, so check with your club sports administration's requirements before beginning the process.
Finally, whatever you do, DO NOT consult the Williams College team for design advice.
Ordering and Printing
The ECCC is generously sponsored by Hincapie Sportswear, which provides the conference's amazing leaders' jerseys. Hincapie produces very high quality clothing and is eager to work with ECCC clubs to develop and manufacture custom team designs. Their services are strongly recommended to get your team outfitted in its own unique style.
Regardless of manufacturer, the three most critical parts of the ordering process are:
- Do not underestimate the time it will take! You should conservatively budget a few weeks to get the artwork and order squared away, and as much as twelve weeks for the order to actually be printed and shipped to you. That means if you're placing an order for the spring road season, you should aim to have it in by November.
- Most manufacturers have minimum order thresholds. The quantity and structure of these varies widely, e.g., per piece or total dollar amount, so talk to your sales representative for details. A common strategy to help meet minimums is to branch out and spread the order beyond the team. There are often many alumni and faculty and staff who don't have a strong relationship with the team that would be very happy to order a school kit.
- Most manufacturers require a 50% payment before beginning the printing process. If your team budget can cover this then the club might pay up front. However, it's generally a good idea to collect full payments from all your riders before beginning the process. Similarly, make sure none of the club officers are left footing any part of the bill and forced to chase down people for payment or holding onto a bunch of unclaimed orders.
Finally, if the team budget and school rules permit, it's a very good idea to have the team purchase a small stock of extra kits. This way new club members can buy one from the team right away rather than waiting for the next order.
Williams College: Voted worst kit in the conference---over at least 3 different designs!---for so many years in a row, it can't not be intentional... This is their "good" design---the previous one was banned for causing retinal bleeding! (photo: Chatura Atapattu)
If you don't get your act together in time to order custom clothing and are a new team and/or don't have a pool of alumni and current riders to borrow kits from, there are two basic options:
- Some manufacturers offer expedited semi-custom printing. You select a basic design from a gallery of their designs and provide a logo to print onto them. These often look nearly as good as full custom efforts, and can be printed in very short order. You might also be able to find a local silkscreener to do something similar on a blank commercial design.
- It is perfectly acceptable for teams to ride in blank cycling clothing that your riders can pick up from any shop. Just be sure to coordinate colors and major graphic elements. Non-school printed clothing with shop or pro team logos, etc., are not permitted.
Beyond that, if worst really comes to worse, you would not be the first club to show up in t-shirts or athletic wear for other sports bought at the campus bookstore!