Just tape?

It’s a duct tape revolution.

The days of simple, silver duct tape are over, and the colors are in. An influx of “Funky Flamingo” pink, “Zig-Zag Zebra” and “Totally Tie Dye” tape designs are popping up at hardware and retail stores across the nation, and tape officials say they are selling fast.

More colors, designs and prints have led to more uses as well. There are duct tape sandals, duct tape flowers and even duct tape artwork.

The uses, styles and reputation of duct tape have definitely changed. 

But what makes colorful duct tape so popular? What makes it different?
Robert Cuthbertson, the senior category manager at Duck Brand-manufacturer ShurTech Brands LLC, thinks it comes down to the product-consumer connection.

“It’s taking it from that plain, old silver and adding more personality,” Cuthbertson said. “When you mention the word duct tape, it brings back memories of helping dad in the garage, and it’s that utilitarian tool you reach for when you have a problem.”     

In addition to the colorful design under Duck Brand, ShurTech Brands markets and manufactures do-it-yourself tapes under the Painter's Mate Green, Caremail, FrogTape and Easy Liner brands.

The company markets a plethora of house ware and office products, but the printed and colored tape designs are by far the most eye-catching.

Under the Duck Brand, ShurTech sells a full spectrum of colored tapes from “Island Lime” to “Neon Pink.” The printed tape collection is also extensive, with designs ranging from “Pink Zebra,” to “Dragons,” to “Hello Kitty.”

Last year, ShurTech and the Duck Brand launched a collegiate line of duct tape prints. After starting with only 10 schools, the company has stretched its collegiate line to more than 35 universities after demand for the tape grew, Cuthbertson said.

“Printed duct tape is definitely fashion cyclical and we are working with fashion trends and working with consumer demands to make things interesting for the consumer,” Cuthbertson said.

Duct tape has taken on a face, and as Cuthbertson said, has become fashionable. He said there are professional artists who work solely in the medium of duct tape, making sculptures and statues.
The Duck Brand even sponsors a “Stuck at Prom” contest each year that challenges high schoolers to make their best dress or tuxedo purely from Duck Brand duct tape. Students throughout the country used hundreds of rolls of tape and spent thousands of hours of their time to create complete costumes out of duct tape.

This year’s winners were a couple that used 57 rolls of tape to construct a prom dress and tuxedo in a “vintage meets modern” style. The costumes involved lace that was hand designed and cut out of duct tape sheets as well as rose and lily petals made from layered tape squares. The students each received $5,000 scholarships for their efforts.

“The outfits these kids make completely out of duct tape are amazing,” Cuthbertson said. “They take it upon themselves to create and design clothing items for their prom out of duct tape. They are making elaborate costumes. They are taking duct tape and using it as a medium.”

Making the tape

ShurTech is a subsidiary of Shurtape Technologies, LLC, which is based in Hickory. Shurtape produces pressure sensitive masking, duct, packaging and specialty tape products around the world, including most of Duck Brand’s colorful and printed designs.

“We start from the raw materials,” said Robert Cox, of ShurTape. “The actual printing of the backing is done at a local printer, and that comes into us. We blend the adhesives and construct the tape.”

Cox said printed designs add an additional step to the manufacturing process, and the difficulty comes in when trying to center a logo.   

“When you are just doing silver duct tape or a pattern that repeats, it’s not as big of a deal,” Cox said. “With this, you have to be a lot more precise. No one wants their razorbacks' head cut off.”

Like Cuthbertson, Cox said the popularity of the printed designs stems from the consumer’s connection with the product.

“That’s the beauty of the logo program – it makes it not just tape,” Cox said. “Everybody that sees their school has an emotional reaction to it. And all of the other patterns that we are doing – the teenage and pre-teen crowd have an emotional reaction to that as well.”