5 Cash Cows for Expressive Clothing Designers

5 Cash Cows for Expressive Clothing Designers

It was tough to find expressive clothing prior to the introduction of graphic T-shirts in the 1960s. By ‘expressive’ we mean clothing that expresses some sort of thought or image via printed messaging or graphics. Expressive clothing runs the gamut from graphic T-shirts and sweatshirts to coats and hats boasting corporate insignia.

Most of what we would consider expressive clothing is considered casual wear. As such, you are not likely to see people attending a black-tie affair wearing graphic T-shirts and shorts. Yet some expressive clothing is still formal enough to wear in work settings.

It goes without saying that there is money to be made in expressive clothing. To prove the point, below are five cash cows that expressive clothing designers routinely exploit:

1. Pro Sports

Marketing Pro sports is a business worth hundreds of billions of dollars globally. It produced revenues in excess of $388 billion in 2020, and that was in the midst of worldwide lockdowns that essentially brought pro sports to a screeching halt. Nonetheless, people are more than happy to buy clothing associated with their favorite sports and leagues. From the NFL to English Premier League soccer, you will find team-inspired apparel the world over.

2. Anime

As an art form, anime is quite unique. It is so unique that just about everyone recognizes it when they see it – even if they don’t know the official name. And now, the whole anime genre has become a cultural movement of its own. Just ask the good people behind the Umai brand. Their original artwork is turned into all sorts of clothing items and accessories for sale all across the internet. People love this stuff, and they are willing to show their appreciation with their spending habits.

3. Entertainment Franchises

While anime is a genre all unto itself, expressive clothing designers make a lot of money focusing on specific entertainment franchises. A few that come to mind include the Pokémon, Marvel, Star Wars, and Harry Potter franchises.

Entertainment franchises enjoy a unique advantage in that there are always new and creative ways to expand them. Tell more stories or come up with new characters. Start with films and develop a whole series of books. Turn franchises into theme park attractions. Every expansion creates an opportunity for more expressive clothing.

4. Musical Acts

The whole idea of expressive clothing traces its roots back to the graphic tees originally developed to promote musical acts. In short, the rock concert T-shirt started it all. Today, musical acts are still a big cash cow for expressive clothing designers. They still sell tons of T-shirts, hoodies, and hats at both live concert events and through traditional retail.

5. Political/Social Causes

For good or bad, expressive clothing designers have discovered that political and social messages do very well as subjects for expressive apparel. In every election cycle, the U.S. is littered with T-shirts promoting all kinds of candidates – from local dogcatchers to the President of the United States. In between election cycles you have a variety of groups relying on expressive clothing to push social causes.

Using expressive clothing this way would probably continue even if doing so were not a cash cow. As a society, we have accepted the fact that clothing gives us an opportunity to express things we might find difficult to speak in front of large groups of people. We let a T-shirt or hoodie do the talking, and that’s fine.

At any rate, expressive clothing is big business. As long as there are messages to get out there, apparel designers will continue putting those messages on clothing pieces.


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