Gary DeCavage, perhaps known to many Hartford families as the Connecticut Shirt Man, spoke with me Thursday morning about the change to Hartford’s student attire policy. I explained to him that the school board voted to revise the policy so that, among other things, there can be no more sole source vendors for Hartford school uniforms.
DeCavage’s business is listed as an exclusive vendor for several Hartford magnet schools. He also sells school shirts with logos for other city schools that have multiple vendors.
DeCavage told me he has worked with Hartford schools for the last 12 years, doing embroidery and screenprinting in-house. In fact, business has been good enough that he plans to move his Watertown operations to Hartford by spring or early summer and focus entirely on school uniforms. There is currently a Connecticut Shirt Man retail store on Arbor Street, but that is a temporary location.
“The reason schools work with a uniform company is they want one consistent brand, one consistent quality and color,” said DeCavage, who was very polite over the phone. He didn’t sound upset about the policy change, but did acknowledge that if parents can now flood department stores for a powder blue polo shirt — or whatever is a particular school’s uniform color — and sew on the school’s logo themselves, it doesn’t help his bottom line.
“It does make it different on the supply side,” DeCavage said. “As a supplier, if I bring in X number of shirts … and don’t sell them all … that hurts our business.”
DeCavage noted that he hires Hartford residents and summer interns through Capital Workforce Partners.