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RAF End Of Tour T-shirts

From what seemed like a normal online inquiry, turned out to be one of our most interesting commissions.

Challenges Faced

Type of T-shirt To Use

The RAF set out strict criteria concerning what their personnel can wear whilst in the field of combat. ASL Creative had to ensure that not only did the t-shirts meet this criteria, but also the printing did as well.

The t-shirts would be worn in a variety of climates, one month it could be a hot humid environment and the next month it could be a colder polar region of the northern hemisphere. Plus the t-shirts were likely to be worn in combat, so the personnel would not always have access to full laundry facilities. It could be a case of rinse the shirt out in a river and then hang up to dry on a tree.

Using their extensive knowledge of how various t-shirts perform whilst being worn and laundered, ASL Creative selected a 100% polyester wickering t-shirt.

This t-shirt is lightweight and can be easily rolled into a rucksack, allows the body to sweat without the shirt absorbing sweat, is easy to wash and very quick to dry, plus it is very durable.

The drying aspect of the shirt was very important. A traditional cotton t-shirt retains the moisture within the fibers of the cotton fabric. This means when a cotton t-shirt is washed, a considerable amount of moisture is retained in the shirt. This retained moisture evaporates into the surrounding air during the drying process which can cause condensation and humidity problems when dried internally in un-vented spaces. The degree of moisture retention means it can take a long time for a cotton t-shirt to dry, as it needs the right ambient temperature to allow the evaporation process to take place.

Whereas the 100% polyester t-shirt retains hardly any moisture and therefore dries extremely quickly and does not cause the same degree of problems that a cotton t-shirt does when being dried indoors.

Printing Method

The t-shirts were going to be used as a base layer, so the garment decoration method used had to be such that it would not cause rubbing to the skin. The last thing you need in a theater of battle is unnecessary skin abrasions caused by the clothing. So the traditional method of decoration used for crests on military clothing – embroidery, was ruled out, as that can cause “nipple” rub when used on the left or right breast of clothing worn next to the skin.

The printing could not be reflective or contain any bright colors – in case it caught the glare of the sun in a combat environment, which could help the enemy identify a person’s location.

The printing had to be durable and flexible and the number of shirts required was 15-20.

The squadron’s logo was very detailed, so there were three methods of printing available, screen printing, dye sublimation or plastisol transfers. The plastisol transfers were ASL Creative’s chosen method as they allowed the detail of the logo to be retained, allowed the print to flex with the shirt and no set up fees for screens.

The printing on the back of the shirts was undertaken using sublimation, so that the wickability function of the shirt remained.


Not Run Of The Mill

This particular commission also involved extensive liaison with the MOD in Whitehall with regard to the use of the logo as well as dealing with a nominated person within the squadron who was actually in “combat theater” at the time. So this meant all communication was undertaken by email, often at odd times of day and the final delivery had to made to a military base in the middle of a combat zone.

As you can see from the photograph, they loved posing in their t-shirts with one of the RAF Chinook helicopters.