It takes a certain amount of skill, planning, and luck to get commemorative championship game T-shirts from screen to store to happy fan overnight.
F&E Sportswear, a family-owned medium-size shop specializing in screen printing, embroidery, and specialty advertising, is no stranger to hot-market printing. “We started hot markets the same year that [University of Alabama’s] Coach Saban won his first national championship; that was in ’09,” Rodney Tidwell, F&E plant manager, recollects. “Chaos would be a good word for that first time.” The shop now averages two hot markets per year, and has developed a system Tidwell classifies more as “organized chaos.” The shop is contracted with New World Graphics (which in turn is contracted with both Auburn and Alabama) for the annual Iron Bowl rivalry game hot market, and usually one or both of those teams are in the SEC football championship game. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect (or at least, as close to perfect as a hot market will allow).
The Game Plan
With the countdown to kickoff less than 12 hours away, I make my way to F&E’s shop on the north side of the state capital to see just how much prep work can be done before the game. After a very confused Uber driver drops me off at F&E Sportswear – and not AB Sportswear, located directly across the street – Tidwell gives me the grand tour of the facility.
By now, F&E is in full swing, from the art department to the showroom to the shop floor. Clarence Smitherman, graphics supervisor, is in the art department offices on the phone with their agency, New World Graphics, sorting out some last minute artwork details: Georgia ordered 13,000 red shirts, but the job ticket that came in this morning also calls for charcoal shirts. The final approved artwork was designed for printing onto red, so prints onto charcoal T-shirts will require some tweaking – preferably sooner rather than later. “We’re trying to get our ducks in a row before it’s crunch time,” Smitherman explains. “Sometimes it goes as smooth as smooth can be, and other times, not so much.”
A Georgia left chest on press during a test run.
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