Winning the Performance Wear Game

by Sean Piper, Marketing

Stahls' TEK for Performance Apparel
Decorate performance wear with new Stahls’ TEK™ heat transfer materials.

Right now in Sochi, Russia, there’s a major gathering of the most elite performers in the world. Apparel makers from across the globe have invested major time and money in showcasing state-of-the-art athletic garments.  As decorators we’re aware that performance apparel can present some challenges. Polyester dye migration and scorch marks are not uncommon when working with technical fabrics. But just as the technology behind these outfits is constantly improving, the decorative technology on top of them continues to progress as well. And the biggest advance to date? Stahls’ TEK™ printable heat transfer materials with STiX2™ adhesive. But before we move on to the future of performance garment decoration, let’s take a quick glance at its history.


Performance apparel is a relatively new concept. In the early days of the modern Olympics, organizers recognized the need for athletes to be easily identified during competition and numbers began to appear on uniforms. From that point on uniforms became progressively more intricate and stylistic. Appliqué and direct embroidery left their mark on early athletic apparel, but eventually the ease of application, durability, lightweight feel and softer hand of heat transfer materials  allowed heat printing to become the preferred method for decorating performance garments.


While heat printing continues to grow in popularity, it’s crucial that technology keep pace with the garments themselves. That’s why Stahls’ engineered TEK heat transfer materials, a new generation of materials designed to be as high-performing as the fabrics to which they’re applied. The key technology within Stahls’ TEK is a patented adhesive called STiX2™.

Short for Sticks to Anything, STiX2 firmly bonds to a variety of performance fabrics including polyester, nylon, and Lycra®/spandex, as well as traditional cotton, wool, and even leather. ONYX STiX2, the adhesive used on SuperTEK™ Sublistop™, uses an innovative charcoal-based lining to block polyester dye migration while retaining a light weight and soft hand. Designs created with your print/cut machine will keep their original colors with no bleed-through from the substrate.

Stahls’ TEK materials also address the challenges of decorating performance wear on a heat press. With their low application temperature, they greatly decrease the possibility of burning and ruining your garment. Plus, TEK materials have stretch and recovery properties that allow designs to move with the wearer of the garment.


Increasingly, performance wear has made its way off the track and field and into our everyday lives. As it turns out, moisture-wicking, stretchable garments are just as desirable to everyday people as they are to elite athletes. Today, you’re just as likely to see a performance garment being worn in your company’s conference room as you are at the gym. From technical polo shirts to soft-shell jackets, employers are increasingly outfitting their employees in garments that keep them cool, dry, and comfortable. With Stahls’ TEK line you’ll be uniquely positioned to meet this growing demand for corporate performance apparel.

Whether your clients are performing on the field or in the office, Stahls’ TEK is the unanimous victor when it comes to decorating performance apparel.

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