Embroidery Prices in 1985, Meandering Down Memory Lane

cap ad
Newspaper Advertisement of Embroidered Polo Shirts and Caps from 1985

I remember the embroidery prices in 1985 when we could sell caps for $4.00 each. It was fun, it was in 1985 that Northwest Custom Apparel (Northwest Embroidery) installed the first cap embroidery machines in the Pacific Northwest. They didn’t have automatic trimmers. We had to trim all our caps by hand. We devised interesting ways to digitize (we called it punching in those days) the designs to minimize thread jumps. We made jump stitches nice and long so we could trim them with embroidery scissors.

Northwest Embroidery offered screen-printed caps for $13.50 per dozen. Can you imagine caps retailing for $1.25 each? This same cap retails for more than $20.00 today. Can you even find a screen-printed cap today?

We offered polo shirts of good quality for $7.50 each, including embroidery. We offered blank polo shirts for $4.75 each.

Remember, the minimum wage was $3.35 an hour in those days. If an operator could do 24 pieces an hour, our cost was 14 cents for the embroidery. Caps we imported for 95 cents each. The cost of making a cap was less than $1.50 with embroidery. We were competitive with the Asian manufacturers.

What changed everything was communication. In 1985 we purchased a new office equipment called a fax machine. We threw out our telexes and were no connection to the world. We could send a one-page fax for $3.47 to Taiwan. We learned how to make that 8 x 11 piece of paper a lot of information. We used the fax machine to process emblem orders. Writing an order and sending it to Taiwan for manufacturing was much easier. We were ahead of the game with our fax machine.

Our story continues, but I just wanted to muse about the good old days. Northwest Custom Apparel will reach 45 years in business this year. We are learning to adapt and change in this new crazy environment. No more fax machines everything is high-speed internet. Orders are completed in days rather than weeks. Transportation delivering from the factory floor to the consumer.

I remember the embroidery prices in 1985 when we could sell caps for $4.00 each.

senior man in his 70's sitting at a desk.
Jim Mickelson sits behinds his desk and reflects on his 45 years in the embroidery industry.
Jim Mickelson, Owner of Northwest Custom Apparel since 1977

About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!

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