A Tagless Future?

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When one of America’s top performing apparel manufacturers makes a change to their wears, people tend to take notice. So, when Hanesbrands Inc. recently announced they were incorporating tag less technology across their brief, boxer, and boxer-brief lines, the news cycle took note.

“We know that underwear is out of sight, out of mind for guys… until there’s a problem,” Bernadette Wallace, a representative for Hanes told The Underwear Expert. “Ill-fitting underwear may not be visible to the eye, but it affects everything about the unfortunate wearer, from the way they walk to their mood.”

The company, which removed tags from their undershirts in 2002 (and even has a trademark on the word TAGLESS®) is going tagless across their entire men’s underwear line as just one part of their “continued commitment to providing the ultimate in comfort for each of our customers” Wallace continues. “We know from extensive research that irritating tags are chief among consumer complaints when it comes to comfort.”

But what’s the big fuss that results in those troublesome tags anyways? Apparently, since 1971, the Federal Trade Commission has regulated that any retailed clothing must have a permanently affixed label describing both the fabric-content and the cleaning and care requirements of the item. The rules for these labels are surprisingly strict, with limits on the text, sizing, and orientation of this information. (Even before the FTC regulated clothing, an organization was founded to create an international set of symbols for textile labeling. GINETEX, founded in France in 1963, devised those little circles, squares and triangles on the labels of your clothing, that is the basis for these universal symbols.)

What these rules don’t mandate, though, is the placement or printing method of these labels. Common sense dictates that the placement of a tag should be a combination of where it’s most accessible and least annoying. This is clearly not always the case, and consumers have long voiced their opinions about this. As an alternative to pesky tags and the consumer distaste that accompanies them, some clothing manufacturers started using heat-transfer methods and printing the label directly on the interior facing of the fabric. For underwear, however, which is flush against the skin and engineered of a more delicate, softer material, heat-stamping proved a little more difficult (heat-transfer labeling processes aren’t kind to thin fabrics), and so in 1971, when labels were initially required, sewn-on tags won out for underwear by default.

Fortunately, fabric technology has progressed and engineering delicates that can withstand this labeling process is much easier. What’s of interesting note, too, is that modern tag less processes are actually two to four cents cheaper per label than their rash-inducing counterparts.

And so it’s a win-win, and high time. If a company can market a feature like tag less apparel, and save cents on the dollar, everyone is happy. Hanes’ announcement is sure to catch the ear of both industry giants and small manufacturers alike… and spur them, hopefully, toward some in-depth customer research of their own.

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