No More Conference T-Shirts, Please!

In an unexpected fit of spring-cleaning, I went through my wardrobe getting rid of all my old conference t-shirts.

A huge pile of old t-shirts, each covered in conference logos.

Hundreds of 'em! They're all covered in logos for companies which long-ago went bust, or for events which are no-longer running, and most have... errr... "shrunk" in the wash.

I know I'm a grumpy old sod. But I've a couple of serious points to make. T-shirts are wasteful, exclusionary, and a bit of a crap gift.

Firstly, if you have spare cash at your conference - SPEND IT ON THE CONFERENCE! Make the tickets cheaper - or give them away to people who can't afford to come. Get better catering than stale sandwiches or soggy pizza. Reinvest it into the community. Pay your speakers.

Secondly, sponsors - I promise you that no one is buying your paradigm-shifting product because they wear your logo under their armpit.

I've blogged before about how t-shirts can be exclusionary. I'm not alone in thinking this.

There's a side argument. When you attend the 2018 conference wearing the t-shirt from the 2015 conference, you're sending a message: "I belong and you're just a newbie."
If you've ever been to a concert and seen a dude wearing a t-shirt from the band's original 1974 tour he's saying that he is a real fan - not like you Johnny-come-latelys.


Do you really want an unending supply of logo'd Ts? What can you possibly do with them all?

Yeah, fair enough. But there's a limit to the number of times I can colour my hair while doing the gardening.

This is a serious problem!


OK, so you want to give away something. You need to bribe your participants into loving you. What can you distribute instead?

Of course, you don't need to give crap away to attendees.

Or, alternatively, turn those old shirts into a blanket.

Check Your Privilege

I'm lucky. I can afford to buy my own clothes. And my body-shape is pretty well available at most retailers. I strut with the confidence of a mediocre white man and don't need to prove myself in the workplace by conspicuously displaying symbols of my in-group membership.

Am I wrong? Do you have a source of secret survey data showing how much conference attendees love free branded t-shirts?

Shove your thoughts in the comment hole below.

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8 thoughts on “No More Conference T-Shirts, Please!”

  1. Alex says:

    Occasionally you’ll get useful conference swag: a few power sticks, a nice backpack, decent notebooks, a cuddly toy for my son and once a nice Cross pen I still use 8 years later. But 99.999% of it is crap and is usually left in a hotel room because I don’t want to carry it home.

  2. says:

    They don’t fit me either, which just makes it embarrassing. I tend to give them to smaller friends to use as pyjamas. I like the sock idea and the “nothing” idea best.

  3. Kathryn says:

    I’ve never organised anything as big as the conferences you mean, but even so organising T-shirts is a pain. Do you ask everyone in advance what size they want? So much extra faff and the size guides are often not that helpful. Do you get loads of extras so that you probably have the right size for most people? Or do you get the right number and accept that the person at the back of the queue will just have to make do? Do you get more larger sizes because too big is better than too small, but then accept that small people probably won’t have something that fits well? So much cost and effort for something that has so little impact at the end of the day.

  4. David Buck says:

    If ever I chose to take a T-shirt I know that I need to wear it about 30 times as a minimum to off set the human and environmental cost of wearing it. I can’t remember where I read that, but I still aim to do that, so will wear them when and wherever I feel comfortable doing so. What I haven’t learned is that it’s hard to keep track, I need to come up with some simple way to do that. Goes away to ponder an iron on label with 30 boxes. Oh – love the thought on notebooks, will keep in mind for OneTeamGovGlobal if anyone suggests t-shirts for everyone.

  5. I need those free conference t-shirts, don't ruin the freebie for the rest of us. Sure most of them are men's sizes and I always rate highly those that think of womens sizing however where else will I get the tops to slouch at home?

  6. You can just not take them?

    I quite like (some) conference / sponsor t-shirts. One of my favourite tee's is one from @splunk that fits perfectly and is nice and soft.

    Plus, my daughter would get upset if I came home from a conference and didn't have a t-shirt for her. 😆

  7. Be careful what you wish for. Since moving to GS1 4 years ago I have had to, yes, buy t-shirts. But I have a lot of branded shopping bags...


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