Nothing compares to the feeling of tearing open your long-awaited box of uniforms, finding your number amongst your teammates’ (“I can’t believe that freshman actually got number 69...”) and finally pulling your fresh jersey over your head for the first time.
This tradition, shared by ultimate teams around the country each year, is an integral part of team identity and program culture. Unfortunately, looking fly doesn't always come cheap.
However, it is possible to get your team outfitted at an affordable price, and there are a couple of tips you can use to save that scrilla, no matter who you use to produce your ultimate uniform.
It’s quite easy to do once you know how. Let's get to it!
Or click the button below to get started on your custom order!
1. Avoid Sublimation
Savings: depends on outfitter, but substantial
There is no denying the gleeful absurdity of a sublimated jersey, but screen printing will almost always be a cheaper option.
Screen printing forces you to sacrifice unlimited colors and full-garment designs for a lower price, but nine times out of ten you’ll end up with a cleaner, more composed look for your team.
Plus, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of many great programs, like Revolver, Riot, and Ironside, who all favor the clean lines, sharp contrast, and cheaper prices of screen printed kits.
2. make your screens count
Savings: ~ $3 per person for every color you don’t use
In the simplest terms, a screen is one color in one location. All companies charge by the screen, and price will vary depending on who you use (at Five, we charge $3 per screen).
To save money, simply limit the number of printing locations and the number of colors in your logo. Easy right?!
Pro tip: watch out for hidden fees! Some screen printers will quote you the price per screen, but leave out some of the fees associated with customization.
You probably won’t need to worry about shyster tactics like this if you use an ultimate apparel outfitter. But if you’re planning to use a local screen printer to customize your gear, make sure you ask up front if you’ll be charged for set-ups, screen changes, or color changes.
We never charge hidden fees at Five, but we do require a minimum order quantity of 15 items for new orders and 10 items for reprints. If you want to learn more about the screen printing process, check out our post from a few weeks ago: What every college captain should know about screen printing.
3. Choose free art
Creating a logo for your jersey is no easy task. It requires time, an artistic eye, and some fancy software.
The industry standard price for graphic design is $40 / hour. If you think that sounds like a ridiculous amount of money to charge a college kid who just wants her jersey to depict a rainbow piercing through a majestic flying unicorn, then we’re on the same page.
So how do you get amazing designs on your swag at an affordable price? Well, you’ve got two options:
1. Use an art major
Got an art major on your team? Good. Do they know the ins and outs of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator though? Uh-oh, better go recruit from the graphic design department!
2. Email Five Ultimate!
Yes, this is a shameless plug, but it’s hard not to plug yourself (...) when you’re truly proud of what you offer. We will give you unlimited free art assistance every time you order, because we know that looking fly is imperative.
That means you can come to us with a vaguely formulated idea for a jersey design. Say, for example, something that combines your team's love of Pokemon, Lord of the Rings, O Brother Where Art Thou, and flannel shirts.
We’ll absorb and internalize all of that ridiculousness, and hit you back with this for free. That design represents four hours of Karl’s life that any other company would charge you $160 for! We’re just thankful that Karl works for us.
(Psst! Want to get started right now? Click the red button at the bottom of this post.)
4. Opt for a 2 in 1 Reversible
Savings: Up to 40% off your entire order
Like shampoo and condition, buying 2 in 1 light and dark jerseys will also save you money and time. Money, because you're only having to buy one base item and time because you won't have to search for your other jersey when your team loses the flip!
USAU's 2017 Uniform Requirements state that, "Teams must have two jerseys of distinctly different color, one predominantly white and one predominantly dark" (USAU Uniform Requirements). This rule might make you scratch your head and ask, "Does that mean my team can't wear Reversibles?" Luckily, we've checked with USAU and it is perfectly fine for teams to wear Reversibles at Sectionals, Regionals, and even at Nationals.
Think Reversibles don't allow for creativity? We can't speak for other companies, but our Reversible Tanks come in 5 different color options! (Dharanidharan Ramamurthy made us aware that if we added pink, all of the Power Rangers would be represented - thanks!)
Keep in mind that the only option for printing on reversibles is screen printing. On the bright side, that will keep you away from the temptation of sublimation. However, fear not, you can still do quite a bit with a couple screens! Check out these Air Traffic Control Reversibles that we did back in 2015.
Artwork done by Air Traffic Control team.
5. Lock Down a sponsorship
Savings: 10%-100% off your entire order
All right, let's be frank: unless you play for Oregon Fugue or Pitt, you probably won’t get your gear completely free. But that doesn't mean there aren't sponsorship savings to be had for teams like yours. Most ultimate companies offer sponsorships to college teams at specific times of year, and they advertise these opportunities on their social media and their homepages.
For most outfitters, college sponsorship season begins in August and lasts till September or October. You can stay up to date on all of the offers if you follow your favorite outfitters on Facebook and Twitter, or check in on their homepages frequently. Our window for college sponsorship applications is in the fall.
Pro tip: When it comes time to apply, don’t let thoughts of USAU rankings cloud your judgment; your team’s performance at Conferences / Regionals / Nationals is only one of the factors that go into considering a sponsorship.
It is far more important to get your application in on time, and focus on communicating your team's unique personality, values, Spirit, and traditions. Don’t be the team that comes calling in the middle of January with a one-line email asking for a sponsorship.
Once you’ve submitted your application, just sit tight and daydream about designing this year's logo while you wait for a response. The outfitter will get back to you shortly with an offer that you can accept, decline, or negotiate.
Who knows? You may just end up with a sweet discount to take back to your team!
6. Start your order early so you don't have to pay for rush shipping
Savings: $50-100 per order
Know your chosen outfitter's specific production timelines! If you can't find the info on their website, ask them to estimate how long it'll take to print your gear. (Learn about Five's production timelines here!)
Five will produce and ship your gear 3-4 weeks after you finalize and pay for the order.
If you need your gear quick, you can save time with rush shipping, but it costs a pretty penny. Assuming standard FedEx shipping from Seattle, you’re looking adding 1-5 days to your timeline depending on your distance from Seattle. All that considered, get started way ahead of time!
Takeaway: start your order as early as possible, because waiting till the last minute can be costly.
7. Ask about cheaper fabrics
Savings: Depends on outfitter
Some ultimate apparel companies offer a lower quality fabric or cut for teams who really want to save money. If you are interested in hearing about these options, email your preferred outfitter and ask about they have available.
At Five, we only make and sell gear that we want to play in ourselves. That's a high bar, and we have yet to find a jersey fabric that is both high performance and cheaper than Electro.
Now that you know how to get fly gear in your budget, follow the button below to get started on your gear!
Over to you
What did we miss? Are there other ways to save money on your custom uniforms? Let us know!