Blog / Style & trends / 50 Surprisingly Creative Merch Ideas + Examples
Blog / Style & trends / 50 Surprisingly Creative Merch Ideas + Examples
Looking for ideas for your online store? Whether you’re an influencer, a musician, or an entrepreneur who wants to sell your own merch, you’ve come to the right place. Not only is merch a good way to engage with fans, but it’s also useful to promote your band, channel, community, or company.
In order to make it happen, you need to first come up with some merch ideas that truly connect with your audience. Where to start? Knowing your options! In this article, we’ve listed the most popular merch items right now, so you’re sure to find something that fits your fancy.
The best part: with on-demand production and fulfillment, you don’t need to build an inventory or invest in advance. So why not give it a try?
Let’s be honest. For a long time, the words merch and cool didn’t really go together very often. It took a while for brands to understand that they could do more than just place their names or logos on products and offer those in different sizes and colors.
Thanks to the popularization of ecommerce and print-on-demand dropshipping, you can use your imagination and try different products and layouts without worrying about wasting money.
Here are some of the coolest merch ideas to inspire you to start selling merch today.
Since 2020, athleisure has become a full-blown trend, and hoodies are more popular than ever. What’s more? With the right design, they can get even cooler.
Check out what the black-owned athleisure brand Actively Black did, for example. In collaboration with Marvel Studios, they’ve launched a whole Wakanda Forever-themed clothing collection. Of course, hoodies are one of the stars of their campaign.
Source: News Onyx
Just like hoodies, sweatshirts are everywhere. You can wear them to work, exercise, party, and use them to promote your projects.
The one and only Sir Paul McCartney—you know, the Beatles—launched an exclusive sweatshirt to promote his Got Back tour on his official website.
Band merch can be a great way of bringing your fans together and even raising funds for your band’s tour. More on that later.
Source: Paul McCartney’s official website
Tees are definitely one of the most popular types of merchandise out there. But it’s a given that you’ll want your merch to match the quality of your work. That’s why we suggest you sell premium t-shirts with meaningful designs. And depending on your aesthetic, meaningful can either be elaborate with a highly creative design, or simple and chic.
Toy brand Mattel understood the assignment and launched Barbie shirts for the doll’s fans around the world. Note that the design is just the Barbie logo, but the look and color choice is on point.
Source: Mattel Creations
Childhood memories and pop culture references can inspire you to generate profitable merch ideas. Just remember to always respect copyrighted work.
Further reading: Can I Print That? Copyright and Trademark 101
There’s more t-shirt design ideas throughout this article. Don’t go yet!
Merch ideas may vary according to your selling region and the different seasons your buyers are in. During winter, beanies are a great original canvas for your art.
And beanies are the perfect merch item for embroidered designs. With embroidery, making creative merchandise is a breeze. Just take a look at this example for passionate gamers from the Call of Duty Shop.
Source: Call of Duty Shop
If beanies are a hit in the winter, caps are a huge success all year long. This popular headgear offers multiple possibilities for customization.
Apply your project’s name, logo, a quote, or an icon to the front, sides, or back of the hat. Surprise your fans with a signature catchphrase or funny quip like internet comedian and video producer PewDiePie.
Pro tip: experiment with different models of caps like:
Organic baseball caps
Closed-back structured hats
Both beloved and useful, custom mugs are definitely a top merch idea for selling online. Make them special by adding fun, motivational, or cute artwork.
Enamel mug by MonsieurDorian
Custom mugs are especially interesting if your niche is related to office supplies, home & living, or gaming.
Learn more: 37 Mug Design Ideas to Sell and Gift
Wanna give it a try? Check out Printful’s Design Maker.
Sustainability isn’t just a trend, it’s a reality that’s here to stay. So even though tote bags initially became popular as substitutes for plastic bags, they’re now part of the most stylish wardrobes for just about any occasion.
Women Who Code, a nonprofit organization that aims to empower women to excel in tech careers, found tote bags to be an excellent way to spread awareness. As a plus, they also bring in additional revenue to support the initiative’s growth.
Source: Women Who Code
More than just protecting clumsy peoples’ phones, phone cases are a form of self-expression. Honestly, do you know anyone who doesn’t have one? If your brand is related to fashion or tech, this is a must-try idea for sure.
Play around with colors, patterns, and photos to create impossible-to-ignore phone cases that protect and promote at the same time.
Want an even more original merch idea? How about earphone cases? They’re just as easy to customize and may be exactly what you’re looking for to make your merch store stand out.
Find a design that catches your audience’s attention and you’ll be good to go. Is your niche related to pets? Take a look at this example by BeautybyVeeStore.
Feeling inspired to launch your online store yet? If so, keep reading for merch ideas for your business.
There are so many ways to express your creativity. And isn’t it even better when it can also generate income? If you’re the artistic type or always up for a fresh take, let’s see how you can start using your gift to fill your piggy bank from creative merch ideas.
As we’ve said, sweatshirts are a staple in any wardrobe these days for people of all ages and styles. Using embroidery to personalize them is just the icing on the cake.
This customization technique elevates the look and brings an air of luxe to the garment. Take this “I need a nap” sweatshirt as an example. Doesn’t it give off a higher-quality vibe with the embroidered design?
Source: The Drop by Stylist
Did you know that bomber jackets can also be an option for your merch collection? Place your logo or design on the chest, sleeves, and back. Or, apply a creative pattern to the whole thing and make an exclusive all-over-print garment that shows your brand’s true colors.
They’re fun, they’re comfortable, and you probably didn’t consider them as a merch idea until this very moment. But here they are! Shorts are a unique item that’ll surprise your customers when they access your catalog.
Here’s some inspiration directly from Coca-Cola:
A personal favorite on this list are leggings. They crossed over from gym attire and sportswear and are now part of our everyday looks.
And who said they have to be boring? Take a page from musician Kaylie Caswell’s book and help your customers make a statement using this ultra-comfortable gear.
Source: Instagram @kayliecaswell
As the weather gets colder—and we get older—getting socks as a gift doesn’t seem so bad. Especially if they have a fun creative design. Being a foodie myself, I’ve been crazy about these sushi socks since I saw them on Amazon for the first time. They’re also top-notch inspo for quirky custom merch.
Source: Food Beast
Duffle bags may not sound so creative at first, but think again. How about adding an all-over-print design and matching them with leggings for a stylish set? A funky design could really make this oldie but goodie stand out. Plus, they’re a super practical merch item for everything from exercise gear to travel stuff and beyond.
Speaking of matching outfits, sports bras follow the same logic as duffle bags. This piece is a must-have item for anyone who wants an active-yet-comfortable lifestyle like Robi Lami.
Source: Instagram @roby_lami_singer
If there’s one accessory that knows how to make a comeback, that’s the fanny pack. After being forgotten for a time, it’s now once again a trendy staple that screams fashion.
With the right colors and patterns, you can put a new spin on a casual or sporty look. Plus, you’ll be able to rep your brand and raise your ecommerce store sales too. That’s why this item couldn’t be left out of our top merch ideas list.
Get inspired by these vivid gems by Katie Kortman. The season 19 designer on Bravo’s Project Runway has her own online store and turns her creative ideas into colorful, maximalist merch items.
If you’re in the music business and still don’t offer themed merch for your music fans, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Band merch is both a way of helping your fans express their admiration for your work and also promoting an upcoming album, tour dates, or even financing a new project.
Designs can include your band’s logo, parts of your own music, a photo of your album cover, or a promotional photo of the group. And you can sell your custom merch on your website, in record stores, or that local bar where you usually play.
Let’s see some unique band merch ideas from those who’re doing it right.
As we said before, caps are popular anywhere, any time. And although we often associate them with rock’n’roll fans, they can dance to any rhythm and be the perfect band merch item for your store.
Latin rapper and singer Bad Bunny created a strong visual identity for his latest album, which generated a bunch of offbeat merch items for his fan base around the globe. Here’s one of the caps from his collection.
Source: Bad Bunny Store
While researching creative merch ideas for this article, it was hard to find a band merch store that didn’t have at least one hoodie. So why wouldn’t yours?
Experiment with colors and visuals, and launch collections related to your songs or tour titles.
Singer and fashion icon Harry Styles surprised fans by choosing two bunnies to represent his current tour, which spurred many conversations online about what exactly they mean. If the goal was to generate buzz, well, it worked.
Source: Harry Styles Store
No arguments here, it’s obvious that t-shirts have always been the number 1 band merch item of all time. It doesn’t matter what you listen to, you’ll always rep your favorite band’s tee with pride.
Taylor Swift seems to know what she’s doing when selling tees on her official store. The designs include photos of her, TS album art, and song lyrics.
Source: Taylor Swift’s store
Looking for a less obvious merch idea for your band? How about patches? Let your fans customize their own apparel with your band’s name or logo. They can be embroidered, cut into a custom shape, and applied to jackets, backpacks, sweatshirts, and reusable bags to give an edgy look to any outfit.
A classic is a classic. And posters will always be a piece of art for true fans of your music. These highly collectible items are easy to produce and send—especially if you use print-on-demand dropshipping.
Make them even more valuable by investing in exclusive art and adding tour dates and locales to your merch.
In 2022, Youtube surpassed the 2.6 billion mark of users around the globe, making it one of the most popular video platforms in the world. And that’s thanks to the talented creators that are always bringing new content to the table.
Are you one of them? How about using your inventive mind to create profitable merch too? You can promote it on your Youtube channel and sell it on your website, ecommerce platform, or marketplace.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s some guidance for your creative process.
The safest choice is definitely apparel. We’re talking t-shirts, jackets, but also pants or even dresses and swimwear. With print-on-demand, you can do it all without having to invest in inventory. So the world is your oyster.
Just ask yourself: what would my audience like to wear?
Mark, from the Youtube channel Markiplier, used his passion for horror-themed video games to create an original clothing line. He also partnered with other YouTubers to start a clothing brand called Cloakbrand. They offer relatable merch that’s on-brand for their followers and fans.
If you’re feeling bold, expanding your merch selection with caps and beanies is also a good plan. There are plenty of possibilities for hats in terms of models, colors, and printing techniques or placements.
Zach King used this trick on his store. Besides t-shirts, tank tops, and hoodies, the magician/Youtuber also offers his subscribers caps, beanies, and even a deck of cards and comic books.
Accessories are among the most profitable dropshipping products out there, as they usually have a higher profit margin and greater volume of sales. And in the tech accessories category, there are a few standouts:
As an example, we found this simple-yet-meaningful phone case related to the Youtube channel and Podcast Morbid. Do you have a quirky slogan or catchphrase too? Put it in a design and let your fans express themselves with it.
Source: Morbid ecommerce store
Want more ideas? Check out 15 Successful YouTuber Merch Stores to Get Inspiration From.
You might also like: How to Make Money on YouTube with a Small Channel.
Speaking of Morbid, let’s talk Podcast merch. This type of content has become increasingly popular in the last few years, especially with 35–45 year olds.
Although most platforms don’t monetize creators for their content, it’s still possible to make money out of it. How? Mainly through publicity and merch. While attracting brands to invest in your content usually requires a larger audience, selling merch online is something that can actually finance your project as it grows.
If you’re into podcasts, you’ve probably heard of Emma Chamberlain. Her weekly show Anything Goes with Emma Chamberlain made it to Spotify’s top-streamed podcasts list in 2022. I’m sure she has no trouble finding advertisers, but she also sells merch.
What I really like about her merch is how the products align with her content in a simple, but clever way. The show is basically a stream of random thoughts she records from her bed. Could you think of anything better than comfy sweatshirt and sweatpants sets?
Source: Emma Chamberlain official store
Pod Save America is another famous podcast that’s exploring merch to generate extra income. Their store is integrated with Crooked, a website where you can actually shop by Podcast and find many great examples of Podcast merch.
From t-shirts to pet bowls, the Pod Saves America merch store offers a large variety of products. Their catalog also includes mugs, aprons, and oven mitts.
Source: Pod Saves America
Love the idea of selling drinkware? Try water bottles! Jon Lovett, from the Lovett or Leave It Podcast would agree. And, as a former Obama speechwriter, he probably knows what he’s talking about.
Source: Lovett or Leave It merch store
If your podcast is on Spotify, there’s a way of maximizing your revenue stream by linking your Spotify artist profile to your merch. This is how it’s done:
Many talented artists struggle to make money from their work. But many others find merch an excellent solution to that problem. And marketplaces like Etsy are a paradise for customers who are looking for original artwork on cool products. Let’s check some of them out together.
Stickers aren’t just for kids anymore. And once you start using them, you’ll never look back. Stuck on notebooks, laptops, water bottles, and so many accessories, they’re a fun way of showcasing your favorite artist’s work in different shapes and sizes.
Source: AZiggies store
Pro tip: Add free stickers to your pack-ins for a personalized brand experience.
Find more amazing sticker ideas from our blog post 39 Sticker Ideas: Get Inspired and Design Your Own.
When we think of an artist’s work, the first thing we usually envision is wall art. So posters are a definite staple for this merch category, whether you’re a painter or a photographer.
Learn more: 29 Poster Ideas + Tips to Create Your Own Poster Design
To help your fans turn any room into a beautiful gallery, you can offer posters in different sizes, framed or not, alone or in a set. Variety is the spice of life!
Source: Instagram @eliyahqureshi
Same as posters, a canvas is often an artist’s best friend. They’re perfect to print colorful paintings on and can be easily sold online using the dropshipping business model.
Source: Instagram @juliannefelton
A flag is another great asset for gifted minds looking for creative merch options. This decorative wall art gives the gift of making a statement, brightening up any room, and increasing your store’s revenue.
Used to increase brand awareness, spoil customers, and motivate teams, there’s a reason why company merch never gets old. And it’s even better if it’s truly functional and made of quality material. Looking for examples? Let’s get to it!
As evolved as technology is, a notebook is still a staple in any office or household. It always comes in handy for quick notes or doodles, and is one of the most popular company merch items we know. It’s also one of the easiest to customize.
Add your brand’s name and color scheme and your work is done. Wanna make it more creative? Use patterns or a cool illustration that communicates your company’s values. And, if you really want to impress, make it part of a complete kit along with other items like sweatshirts and even socks.
Personalized with a logo, slogan, or saying, engraved keychains make durable, classy company gifts for picky customers or employers.
Yes, pins are still in. And they’re an affordable, fun way of showing off your brand while making a statement.
Source: Pin it up
There’s a reason why sports teams usually have uniforms. They make team spirit stronger and bring a sense of belonging. The same logic applies to team merch. Are you ready to step up your game?
I wasn’t lying when I said there was a solid dose of hoodie design inspiration in this post. With their comfortable and modern style, they can be worn anywhere, any time, and with pride for your team, players, and fans.
How can we talk about team merch without bringing the NBA into the conversation? We can’t.
These versatile jackets are usually associated with football players, and can definitely bring the same powerful energy to your team. Add your team’s name, emblem, and colors to customize fashionable bomber jackets like the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Most of us believe sweatshirts and sweatpants are the perfect outfits for exercising and practicing sports in. Customize these comfy pullovers on the front, back, sleeves, and even labels to give your team an ultra-modern look.
Source: MLB Shop
Get inspired by the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ champions and design 5-star sports jerseys to win your team over and make your fans happy.
Source: World Soccer Shop
It doesn’t matter what your sport is, a duffle bag always comes in handy to bring everything you need to the game. And there’s enough space for your trophies and gold medals too.
Get your head in the game with personalized caps. Use intricate embroidery to highlight your team’s logo in style.
New York Yankees Cap. Source: New Era Cap
Maybe stationery isn’t your thing, but don’t skip over this category just yet. School merch is a popular niche that also includes school apparel and accessories for children, teenagers, young adults, and even teachers.
From kindergarten to college, students are looking for unique items to express their personality and identify them as part of a group.
Whether you’re promoting a school brand or just targeting this niche, here are some creative merch ideas to include in your store.
Read next: Back-to-school marketing ideas
We know, we know, hoodies are pretty popular with most people. But they’re a true wardrobe must-have for students of all ages. And with the right design, they can make a real statement.
You can go back to the basics (school names, mascots, slogans, etc.) or do something like TikTok influencer Brianna Chickenfry and embrace a lifestyle.
Her school merch collection is all about the party-non-stop spirit of college students, and perfectly aligns with what her audience loves most about her videos.
Backpacks are mandatory for any student. You probably remember feeling excited to show your friends your new favorite backpack—and I bet it had your favorite teen star or animated character printed on it.
Need inspiration? Check out this backpack with references to a BTS song—school merch that K-pop fans would love.
Laptop cases are a smart product choice for any school merch collection. They’re convenient and easy to customize, and the best part: they’re perfect for repping your school. Think about them as a way to create a sense of belonging with classmates, teachers, and the wider community.
Source: LSU tigers store
This might not be a groundbreaking idea, but the classics are classics for a reason. Notebooks are school essentials that’ll fit the needs of any customer. A golden tip: create a design series, so customers will want to get the entire collection.
Joining a sorority is exciting. If you’re a member, I’m sure you can imagine your Greek letters printed on every different type of apparel, stationary, and decorative product out there. So we’re here to help you create sorority merch that’ll really stand out.
And yes, you can also steal some of these ideas to create awesome frat merchandise.
After a few years of absence in fashion, bomber jackets are back. Icons like Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber have recently been photographed rocking this modern classic.
Here are some ways to make your sorority jacket look really bomb. My advice: make them over the top with some really graphic embroidery for a fresh, bold effect.
You can always use flags for their traditional purposes, but we particularly love the boho effect they bring when used as wall art. For us, it’s one of the most creative yet practical merch ideas on the list.
When designing flags for your sorority, don’t be afraid of using fun graphic backgrounds. Make them colorful and flashy!
Yes, they’re also back! Custom patches are all about that 90’s aesthetic, but align with a contemporary concept: upcycling. T-shirts, hats, jackets, denim, backpacks, tote bags—any piece can get a new life with patch customization.
Take advantage of this versatility and jump on the big sister/little sister trend. Think about complementary designs that’ll help strengthen bonds during mentoring.
A good design has the power to transform an everyday item into an Instagrammable decorative piece. Think coaster sets that’ll be perfect to personalize your sorority sisters’ desk space or the common areas.
Source: Mads Studio & Co.
I can’t stress enough how underrated coffee mugs are. They might be one of the most common merch ideas, but when done right, they’re a real treasure. People love mugs as memories to be kept forever.
If that doesn’t convince you, think about how easy they are to customize. Keep it simple by printing your Greek letters, or make it special by displaying your sorority’s motto or pledge. Create playful designs for custom mugs that won’t even look like merch.
Source: Zeta Tau Alpha
What’s a great merch idea for sororities? Water bottles. Just think about how your unique merch designs cleverly placed on this universally-used product would be perfect for philanthropy events and/or fundraising. Swap out your traditional Greek letters for some cool lettering for extra pizazz.
Now that you’ve got some inspiration, it’s time to get to work. When planning your merch collection, always remember:
your brand’s personality
your audience’s lifestyle and product needs
your competitors’ approach
your budget to invest in stock
If your goal is to sell merch to generate some extra income, you’ll be happy to know that there’s no need to invest upfront in stock. Take advantage of print-on-demand dropshipping to get your marvelous merch out there with way less effort (and almost zero investment).
Here’s how it works: when your store receives an order, your print-on-demand provider will take care of the customization (printing, embroidering, etc.) of the products you choose, then process and ship them directly to your customers.
That means all you have to do is the fun part—create awesome designs and promote them. Doesn’t it sound perfect? Let me know if you’ve tried out some of the ideas in the comments!
Gabriela is a creative copywriter, professional blogger, and passionate content marketer with experience in publicity agencies and international companies. She loves sharing her ideas and new trends to bring inspiration to everyone around her.