Saturday, December 5, 2015

What you need to know about Dealer T-Shirts

Mike showing me RK Stratman's 2016 1st Qtr dealer tees
We had Mike stop in at FX Caprara Harley-Davidson this past week. He’s a dealer representative for RK Stratman – one of three companies licensed by Harley to make the dealer t-shirts. You know the ones I’m talking about – I know you’ve seen them before.  They have a Harley design on the front and the name & city, state of the dealership on the back – some guy Frank & Mike are picking (on American Pickers) is wearing one; or the last time you went to dinner at Texas Roadhouse you noticed one. I thought you might find it interesting to learn a little more about the ‘Dealer Tee’ ordering process (hopefully I’m right!).

First off – yes, Harley-Davidson dealerships sell more than just motorcycles!! There are leather & nylon jackets, boots, gloves, helmets, casual wear, barware, pet accessories, toys and (on and on) that have H-D logos. Each dealership is independently owned, so Harley leaves it up to each dealership as to what they want to sell in their shop. About half of the inventory comes directly from Harley-Davidson. The other half comes from companies that Harley has licensed to use their logos on merchandise. They'll have this label:

Back to the dealer tees: “What’s the big deal??” you may be asking. Allow me to explain – quite a few bikers collect them as a way to show off where they’ve been. Some guys have rules about collecting tees, like they’ll only get a dealer tee if they’ve ridden to that dealership. Others enjoy ‘showing off’ their home town dealership. And still others only have pocket tees, or ‘Bar & Shield’ tees, or just pin-up girls tees. I have dealer tees from Boston, Atlanta, San Jose, and even Dublin, Ireland - every H-D dealership I go to I get a dealer tee and shot glass. Everyone is a bit different, just as there are many different dealer t-shirts designs.

LtoR: RK, VF Imagewear & Bravado catalogs
And each of the three companies that make dealer tees – Bravado, RK Stratman & VF Imagewear – have new designs available every three months that dealers get to choose from. Artists come up with designs based on a variety of input – both from dealers and customers. Then each design is sent up to be approved by Harley, and after that the manufacturer chooses what color shirts to use for a particular design.

As for the back design – the one that shows off the dealership name and location – there are lots of stock back designs to choose from between the three companies. But the real fun begins when the dealership has a custom back designed just for them. This custom back usually has something specific to that dealer’s area in their back design – the Golden Gate Bridge for Dudley Perkins Company Harley-Davidson in San Francisco, the city skyline for Atlanta Harley-Davidson, or the Empire State Building for Empire Harley-Davidson. Last year I had an idea for a new dealer t-shirt back: I wanted to show off the fact that FX Caprara is located close to the Seaway Trail and Lake Ontario, so I scoured the internet for images. Below you can see the two pictures I submitted to the artists, and the work they came up with. Once we approve the artwork, it is then submitted to Harley-Davidson Motor Company - they must approve the design before it can used.

So there you have it: a little slice of Harley life summed up in t-shirts from dealers across the country and the world. The next time you see a Harley-Davidson Dealer T-Shirt, please do me a favor for me: make a mental note and look to see where that shirt is from. Is it from a dealer close by, the next state over, or even from another country? Then leave me a comment here, on this blog, or on our Facebook or Twitter page – say where you were at (city & state) and where the dealer tee was from. You may find yourself a bit surprised at how many you’ll see once you start looking!!
Top Left: Googled pic of "Motorcycle on Seaway Trail" Top Right: Seaway Trail Sign
Bottom: What the artists came up with - now FXCHD's  newest custom back design