Should You Start a T-Shirt Line? This is Your Sign Not To

To start off my 10 years of failure blog series, I wanted to jump into the evergreen niche of selling t-shirts. I feel most people get into the t-shirt business because they see it as a great get rich quick scheme, and the endless gurus peddling their courses on how to make millions add to the fire. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not.


To be fair, you can make millions from selling t-shirts, but the people that are successful are ones that have capital, in the forms of people or cash. If you don’t have the money to run promotions (both online and in real life) or have a huge network, then you will be looking at an upward battle in terms of making sales. In the world of selling t-shirts, the person with the biggest voice wins.


If you want to sell custom designs, they will not sell well if people do not know that you exist. Your artistry is not something that people are actively looking for, so in the beginning you will have to place your products in front of people. Going the other route and recreating designs that are already best-sellers will lead you down the same road. Essentially, your brand will be last in line as there is no brand trust and other brands that are more established will always be more visible.


So how should you approach selling t-shirts? The most regurgitated advice is to go after several small niches. The gurus use DS Amazon Quick View, a Chrome browser extension that shows the selling ranks of all items without a click. Another tool is PodCs which shows the best-selling shirts on Amazon and shirts that are taken down due to copyright infringement. Using Amazon is the goto because it’s one of the biggest marketplaces in the world, so the trends are easier to see. In the end, the plan is to use these tools to find unsaturated niches, create designs, then watch it turn into a huge payday. From experience, only a few designs will sell (art is subjective) and people using the aforementioned tools will simply copy your designs and undercut your sales. No matter the industry, there will always be competition, but in the t-shirt business, the race to the bottom is very real.


From my four years of selling shirts (on and off), the brands that make the most are selling blank and/or custom shirts. This is purely based on the spending habits of people. Customers are more likely to buy multiples of a blank shirt or purchase custom shirts as group purchases. If you don’t have the money or social capital, this may be your ticket to a winning brand.


If you’re set on continuing into the foray of selling shirts, I’ve found these niches to be great sellers:

T-shirts and sweatshirts with embroidered designs 

Vintage Photos

Adult Humor

Pop Culture 



Birthday Shirts

Non-English Shirts (especially Japanese and Spanish)




I was inspired to write this blog post after coming across Defined By Alex’s video about her failed t-shirt business. There are tons of people coming out about how the t-shirt business isn’t as glamorous as most people make it seem. Hopefully, this post can help you decide if you truly want to start a brand because your passion aligns with it or to follow something that aligns with what you truly want to do. There is no business where you can make a quick buck  — unless it’s illegal or immoral.