T-Shirts and Team Identity: Using Company Swag to Promote Company Culture
Tips & Tricks
5
min read

T-Shirts and Team Identity: Using Company Swag to Promote Company Culture

T-shirts won't define a company's culture, but they can sure help promote it. Here's how 👇

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If nobody wants to come in on Monday, it doesn’t matter how great your strategy is. It’s never getting executed. 

So, what are you doing to promote company culture? How do you take your company to the next level?

There are more than a million solutions out there and a thousand books you’ve told yourself you’re going to read, but let’s start real simple. 

Creating a branded t-shirt is one of the best first steps. When done right, t-shirts can be foundational in forming team identity and promoting company culture. They can make a statement and reinforce what you’re there to do. 

Here's how to define company culture, and 4 reasons you should consider t-shirts as part of that process.

How to define culture

Culture is pretty hard to define and has become the bane of many a manager’s existence. How do you fix something if you can’t even define it? There’s no magic bullet for creating the perfect work environment. But there are a couple of things you can do right, and a couple things that can kill a vibe. 

Joshua Levine’s 2019 book Great Mondays is a must-read if you’re interested in transforming your culture. He lists six components for solidifying a healthy work environment:

  1. Purpose
  2. Values
  3. Behaviors 
  4. Recognition 
  5. Rituals 
  6. Cues

The first three are the foundation of the culture while the last three put them into practice. You can’t work on the last three until you’ve defined the first two and started to behave like they’re true. Defining the first three will help lead you to your choices in establishing the last three.

We all know how culture can impact a company for the better or worse. But let’s talk about how t-shirts fit into your plan for revamping your business.

Four reasons why t-shirts are an effective tool for promoting company culture

Reason 1: t-shirts are great cues

While purpose, values, and recognition are straightforward, cues are often overlooked. In Great Mondays, Levine defines cues as the “physical and behavioral reminders that help employees, managers, and leaders stay connected to the future”. 

What do you have in your office that you can touch that reminds you of why you’re there and not somewhere else, far away? What are the items that make up the clutter on your desk? A book that your team shares as an inspiration. A picture of your family. Mementos from a company retreat.

Let’s face it, we can all be a little forgetful here and there. We all need to be reminded about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. A t-shirt might be the first item a person interacts with in their day. It might be the earliest time you can get your foot in the door and remind someone why they do what they do.


Reason 2: t-shirts and team psychology

It’s not surprising that teams wear uniforms. There’s a dramatic psychological shift when you wear the same thing as the people next to you. 

Studies date back as far as 1988 linking color and aggression in sports teams.  These studies were again confirmed in 2012 by Mark Frank and Thomas Gilovich, who realized the far-reaching implications of the original study. 

It’s clear the color a team wears changes its psychology. Not only were teams who wore black more often penalized, but they were also statistically more aggressive. You can see a pretty obvious example of aggression with the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team. For them, being aggressive is working out pretty well. 

What a team wears matters. Something shifts when someone puts on a uniform. They become attached to a larger mission. This can bring out the best or the worst in your team. And sometimes aggression isn’t such a bad thing for a team.

Something might click when your employee slips on that t-shirt. See if this is the thing to spark a change for the better in your office.

Reason 3: make a statement

T-shirts have long been a vehicle for making bold statements. They can be excellent marketing tools when used properly. SNL hosts have even given shoutouts to their families or silently voiced their politics with well-worded t-shirts. One of the best parts of designing a custom t-shirt is that you get to tell the world what you’re about. 

This reason is also closely linked to the next one. Understanding what statement your company is making may not be entirely up to you.

Reason 4: valuable insights—flushing out the reality

The process of designing your t-shirt may be the best part of the whole thing. Make sure that you get everyone involved throughout the process. Give everyone in your company a voice—from operations to the CEO. 

By taking people away from their typical routine, you’re going to get some creative solutions. You may be able to leverage this process to do valuable research for your company. You may be happy to find out that people do have a positive feeling about their work, or you may find the exact opposite. 

In high school, I came up with the concept for my class’s senior shirt. It would have said, “Doin’ time till ‘09.” Surprisingly, the administration shot the idea down. It didn’t reflect well on the culture of our high school if we were comparing it to a jail. 

When you begin this creative process, sometimes you’ll get insights into the reality of how your employees view their work. This can be enlightening, discouraging, or exactly what you expected. All three options are going to be super insightful.


Begin to be the place you want to work at

Hear everyone out during the process. Don’t punish someone for making a joke or for expressing an unpopular position. It may be painful for you to keep your mouth closed, but use this experience to learn, not to control. 

Not only will this communicate to your team that you listen, but it might teach you more than you expected. If you listen and foster an open environment, you may find out what your company is really like to work at. You may be making your business just a little better in the process too.

A caveat

Don’t be too frustrated if some people aren’t jolly on Monday morning. At the end of the day, your office is still an office. So, don’t be too hard on yourself, and make reasonable goals for what you want your culture to be like. 

Also, please don’t make your employees wear our t-shirt. A dress code makes sense in the office, but a uniform doesn’t. Uniforms were frustrating in high school, but they’re downright upsetting afterward. 

It’s belittling to be told what to wear. You may have to put up with it if you’re 8 and your mom helps you decide or if your spouse lays it out on the bed before work. But when it comes to the office, you aren’t going to make any fans by enforcing your branded t-shirt.

Talk to us

We’ve mentioned how t-shirts can be cues that reinforce and promote your culture. They can shape a team’s psychology and behaviors for the better or worse. They can make a statement to the world about your company’s mission. And during the process, they can help reveal what your team thinks about its work.

Make your company a place where people want to work. Build a culture where people can be themselves, where they can be creative, and where they can still find the time to have a fulfilling personal life. Making company swag can be a great way to wrap up the changes you’ve recently put in place, or it may be the best way to begin the transformative process. 

Ready to create a thoughtful new company t-shirt? Talk to our team. We'd love to help you order soft, stylish shirts your team will love and wear.