Social media has given rise to communities based around movies, television shows, bands, singers, and other entertainment franchises. Having a group of people with similar interests has become a wonderful way to socialize and connect. It is no surprise that companies and artists have come up with merchandise that reflects their brand. But since fandoms span multiple countries and regions, not all items are available worldwide. As a result, fans themselves have come up with ways to create their own merch. These may be as simple as printing artwork of their favorite character using a heat press machine for shirts. It can also be more complicated, such as building a customized statue or vinyl disc.
A lot of fandoms have their own symbols. Musicians may have a trademark font used in album and single artwork, which can be used by fans as a badge of honor to imprint on t-shirts and caps. This is now increasingly easy to do at home, with an ever-increasing range of heat press devices flooding the market. The results are great for wearing during concerts and meet-ups, as they add to the experience of seeing an artist perform in the live setting. Getting to wear matching clothes with other fans is also a way to connect and build friendships beyond social media.
Besides printing on t-shirts, embroidery is also becoming popular. Caps are one way to utilize logos, as fans can have symbols embroidered onto them. Movies, TV shows, and comic books produce some of the most visually appealing elements that can be turned into cap designs. Fans can also wear them casually, as they fit in with a wide variety of everyday fashion items.
Gone are the days of cities and other tourist spots having monopolies on souvenir items. These days, fans can easily commission or come up with their own key chains or mugs for a fictional place too. Attractive logos and fonts can work well on mugs, and new variants even allow for self-stirring or lenticular versions to be produced. Key chains are widely available in most printing shops, and are still a popular way to express solidarity with a fandom.
There are times when brands do not produce the kind of merch that fans want. This is different from availability issues, since these are instances when the artists come up with a completely new piece of merch. Music-based fandoms are beginning to revive vinyl sales, and as a result, discs have seen a resurgence. Variants such as marbled designs and picture discs are not always offered by the artist themselves, and fans have come up with their own bootlegs to express their love for albums and songs.
When it comes to comic books or anime, there are characters that do not receive a lot of marketing push from the company. Thus, they do not receive their own action figures or statues in the official merch lines. Fans have begun to explore creating their own through 3D printing or handcrafting, often producing output that rivals the quality of official figures.
While coming up with custom merch usually means there is a lack of availability, there’s no doubt that fans have explored it to express their own creativity. It has also added more opportunities to connect with like-minded people in the age of social media, fueling conversations and building more friendships.