BU T-shirt sales in high cottonNov. 12, 2004
By MEGHAN MERCHANT, reporter
T-shirts dominate Sarah Stamper's closet and everyday wardrobe.
This semester she has spent $172 on them.
She doesn't go shopping every weekend -- she is just involved in several organizations on campus.
While the popularity of T-shirts stretch beyond greek organizations to most of the groups on campus, sororities and fraternities are known for the number of T-shirts each chapter generates every semester. According to Jeffrey Paul, director of corporate and collegiate sales for Quala-T Imprints, the average Baylor sorority member spends about $128 per semester on Greek apparel, while the average fraternity member spends about $78.
Paul said his calculations found that the larger sororities spend about $158,000 a semester on shirts.
Paul's company will open a new T-shirt store near campus soon.
"When I found out how much [sororities and fraternities] spent, opening a shop close to Baylor was a no brainer," Paul said. Sundae Nichols, a Dallas junior and T-shirt chairwoman for Kappa Alpha Theta, estimates her organization has probably ordered about 3,000 shirts this semester.
While it is not mandatory that the members buy T-shirts, usually about 100 of the 130 active members in her chapter buy them, she said.
"We encourage members to buy as many as they can, but we don't have a minimum required amount," Nichols said.
Nichols pointed out most of the T-shirts she orders cost about $7.
"If you were to buy a shirt at a retail store, it would cost double that," she said. "I think it's worth it."
Kari Ann Kayworth, a Lorena junior and T-shirt co-chairwoman for Chi Omega, said members can spend up to $240 on shirts each semester.
"Usually the new members choose to buy all of them, and it kind of dwindles off from there, just because there are so many [T-shirt] opportunities," Kayworth said.
"It can get expensive," she added. "Each organization probably pays half of someone's salary."
According to Paul and Joel Peel, owner and president of Hole in the Roof Marketing, the price groups pay per T-shirt depends on shirt brand, quantity and number of colors on the shirt.
Paul noted many groups are asking for more graphically demanding shirts recently.
T-shirts, originally designed as part of sailors' uniforms in the 1800s, became popular after 12 million World War II sailors returned from war and didn't want to give up the comfort and convenience of the shirts.
By the 1950s, T-shirts were popular across the United States, according to an article by Marian A. Jones in the March-April 1997 issue of Psychology Today.
"[T-shirts] can be a status symbol," Paul said. "Not only for Greeks, but for anyone on campus."
Paul said T-shirts were just as popular at Baylor in the mid-1990s when he was a student.
Peel credits the uniqueness and inexpensiveness of T-shirts to their popularity. Peel said his company deals mainly with sororities and fraternities and processes about 30-35 T-shirt orders each week. Kessa Alderson, a San Antonio senior, sees T-shirts as a definite "identity thing," carrying a sense of exclusivity for those who wear them.
Alderson, who is involved in on-campus groups but is not a member of a greek organization, said she has bought one shirt this year.
"Sometimes there's pressure to buy [a certain shirt], but I don't want to spend the money," Alderson said.
However, Jeremy Reddin, a Nederland senior, has another perspective on the Baylor T-shirt frenzy.
"For some people, [T-shirts] are about advertising for their group. But for a lot of people, I think it's just that they have a shirt so they wear it," Reddin said.
"It's a college thing to roll out of bed and pull on T-shirt," Reddin said.
While Reddin has only bought one shirt in the last year, his shirt collection has expanded because of the sorority shirts he has received.
"For guys, [wearing sorority shirts] gives them a sense of self-assurance," Reddin said. "Some people like to add to their collections and see how many they can get." Students have different perspectives on the purpose of buying T-shirts from on-campus groups. Some use T-shirts as a form of advertisement for their organizations.
Students like Laura Theiss, a Katy sophomore and member of a Baylor greek organization, said T-shirts are a way to get the name of her sorority out for people who might want to rush. Shirts may also a way of showing involvement on campus.
However, T-shirts can be more than just getting the word out for sororities and fraternities, according to Kayworth.
"It seems like it's a competi-
tion between greek organizatio-
ns to see whose shirt is the best," Kayworth said. On the other hand, some students choose to buy shirts as a way to commemorate special events.
"They're a memory," Stamper
This idea is evidenced by the 1,000 shirts Paul said his com-
pany sold by Tuesday after Baylor University's win over Texas A&M University, celebrating the victory.
So, what do students do with their collections of T-shirts after they graduate? "I'm going to make a T-shirt quilt when I'm done," Kayworth said.