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April 30, 2021

Labelling Activewear: Which Materials Work Best?

By: Peter Gregory

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Sports and activewear gets put through its paces in some of the toughest environments on earth!

From the sub-zero temperatures of the ski slopes to the high-friction athletics track and even the open seas, your garments have to endure a much tougher environment than most casual and workwear products. What’s more, the person wearing your garment is usually exerting themselves much more than they would in their normal day-to-day lives. Textiles need to be able to handle extreme friction, chemical abrasion, heat and stretching. It’s only right that you pick a label to match.

In this guide, we’ll group activewear products by activity, and give you some pointers on which label types work best in each situation. 

Ski & Expedition Gear: Silicone Outside, Woven Inside

If you’re dealing with sub-zero temperatures and wet conditions, silicone labels are a great choice. Silicone is a completely waterproof material that can survive extreme cold and heat, so your branding will still look vibrant and crisp even if it’s on a dripping wet jacket in an apres ski bar.

There’s no need for silicone labels inside a garment — satin-woven and printed labels are best for internal labels on ski jackets and salopettes. They won’t cause any irritation, even if they’re in direct contact with the wearer’s skin.

Bear in mind that if you’re labelling kit that gets used in polar expeditions, silicone labels should be kept as far away as possible from the high-movement areas in your garment. Silicone doesn’t really freeze at survivable temperatures, but it does become noticeably stiffer when you get into the -40° to -60° C temperature range (the sorts of temperatures you get at the north and south poles).

Cycling, Rowing, Yoga & Athletics: Printed Woven

Whenever you’re dealing with lycra-type activewear, you’re usually making direct contact with the wearer’s skin in a high-movement environment. Skin-tight sports outfits should usually just carry a satin-woven printed wash care label at the hip, and a seam-stitched satin woven label at the neckline. 

We can produce woven labels for stretchy activewear if you want, but you might be better off adding graphics with dye sublimation or embroidery, depending on the area you’re trying to brand. If you border-stitch a woven badge onto a stretchy garment, you won’t create too much rigidity, but you will run the risk of warping your fabric and causing unnecessary chafing.

Scuba & Swimming Gear: Woven, Not Printed

You might have heard that you should always wash your swimming togs in fresh water after you’ve been swimming in salt water. There’s a really good reason for this: when you hang your togs out to dry, seawater leaves tiny salt crystals behind as it evaporates. These salt crystals usually settle within the threads of your garment, and they can act like sandpaper, wearing down fabric and rubbing off inks in a relatively short space of time. 

If you’re making swimwear, scuba kit, sailing gear (or any product that’s going to be exposed to salt water), then a woven, not a printed, label is probably your best option. The ink on a printed label can get rubbed off by these tiny salt crystals, whereas woven labels carry the design in the threads themselves (learn more about the difference between printed and woven labels here).

Martial Arts: Woven & Badges

Two of the GB Labels team hold black belts in karate, so this is an area we feel we know a fair amount about!

Any combat sport — from judo to fencing — needs clothing that will keep participants safe and stand up to the toughest abrasions and tugs. You should fix your labels to preshrunk cotton ideally, and those labels and badges should be border-stitched. Loop fold labels, hem tags and silicon badges just aren’t appropriate, as there’s a very small risk that the label could get caught up in a thumb, finger or foil during a critical bout. If you want to add a patch of branding, a border-stitched woven badge is by far the safest option.

Extreme Sports Strapping: Woven Labels

If you’re manufacturing strapping for bungee jumpers, parachutists or climbers, then you’ll need the right strapping labels to match! We produce a lot of ratchet load strapping labels, which are very similar — they have to state the maximum forces that a strap has been built to sustain. Strap labels also state the production date, webbing material and industrial standards that the straps meet. If you need something like this for the extreme sports industry, just let us know and we’ll be happy to help. 

Engineered Fabrics Need Specific Wash Care Instructions

Activewear is usually cut from some sort of engineered fabric, so you need to take care to get the wash care instructions absolutely right. For instance, if you’re working with Gore-Tex, your customer will have to avoid fabric softeners and apply a water repellent spray to the product after every wash. If you use a synthetic or blended fabric like nylon or lycra, you should double-check with your supplier before ordering your wash care labels. Just be 100% sure that you’re giving the best advice. If you need help figuring out what to write on a wash care label for an engineered fabric, take a look at our ultimate guide to wash care labels

Activewear is such an exciting part of the clothing industry — we love it! Combining sports science and materials technology, the best activewear businesses really do have a meaningful, lasting impact on people’s lives. If you’re working on a garment that can improve people’s health and sports performance, we’re here to support you – just get in touch

Thanks for reading!


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