What is the perfect gift? It's unexpected. It's desirable. It makes the eyes pop and evokes a big smile. It's something only someone who really knows them would think of. And it's darn hard to come up with year after year after year. Here's an easy way out you probably haven't thought of: custom t-shirts (or sweatshirts). Let's go through the checklist: Expected? Never -- it came from your imagination. Wanted? Who can't use another shirt? Big reaction? If you do it right. Personal? It's custom! But it's got to say the right thing! Here are five tips from the 98.3 The Key Crew to help you create a custom t-shirt that will make this Christmas unforgettable.

  • 1

    The Inside Joke

    Inside jokes are endearing. They reveal a personal connection. The best one I ever heard was a former co-worker who made up an imaginary friend when he was a child and still used the person an adult. Parents are taught by psychologists to treat their children's imaginary friends as real. My friend picked up on this at age 5 and made up an imaginary friend he did NOT believe was real. When he didn't want his sister sitting by him at dinner, he told his mom the chair was taken by David Michael. When he wanted more space in the back seat of the mini-van, he said David Michael was sitting next to him. If he didn't want to attend a play date, he'd say David Michael didn't want to go. Fast forward 25 years: If his girlfriend did something he didn't like, my co-worker would playfully text, "David Michael says I should dump you." So for his birthday one year, she got him a t-shirt that read, "David Michael hates you."

  • 2

    The Catch Phrase

    Everyone knows someone who is famous in their circle of friends for saying a funny phrase: Okey Dokey, Cool Beans! Whoopsy Daisy, If 'Ifs' and 'Buts' were candy and nuts we'd all have a Merry Christmas. Put the word or phrase on a t-shirt and generate smiles everywhere that person is known. Only a loved one would have the guts to make this t-shirt, but everyone in their life will laugh that you did.

  • 3

    The shirt you wish you saw in a store

    My mother bought me a t-shirt last Christmas from The Onion that reads, "I appreciate the Muppets on a much deeper level than you." It isn't that funny, but it's SOOO true of me. Mental Floss is also famous for quirky t-shirts -- one made my uncle laugh so hard he coughed up his emphysema. But if there's a joke you just can't find in a store -- online or otherwise -- make it yourself! The Big Bear at the station says he loves one he's seen that has a salmon with three heads that reads, "Welcome to Tri-Cities, Fish On!" Local printing shops say they make a lot of "I'm with baldy" shirts. Maybe your loved one has a joke they tell EVERYONE during a first encounter. My grandfather was known for funny phrases anyone can enjoy: "Uglier than a gunny sack full of a**holes." Around polite company he would censor it to "Uglier than a mason jar full of a**holes."

  • 4

    The Philosophical Shirt

    Is there an anecdote, parable or proverb someone you love always brings up in a debate? The one idea they think would convert souls if everyone just pondered it enough? My old boss would always say, "Going to church doesn't make you Christian any more than sleeping in a garage makes you a car." My grandmother would always say, "Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers," which I'm pretty sure is teaching kids it's OK to steal. During his mid-life crisis my father got really into self-help seminars and made a t-shirt that read, "If you got what you've always wanted but you weren't dead yet, what would you do next?"

  • 5

    The Utilitarian Shirt

    Would a t-shirt help your relative achieve a goal they have? One local print shop said they made several yellow shirts that read, "Pick Me!" for people heading to a live taping of The Price is Right. Is the person looking for a job? A date? Are they starting a new business and could use some additional marketing? Maybe they're shy and could use a shirt that says, "My name is ___." If they're an outspoken critic or advocate of something, you could print one saying, "Ask me about tort reform" or "Invite me to tell you about my church." My nephew made a shirt when he was 11 to discourage people from crushing bees during the Colony Collapse Disorder scare.

    If you guess wrong, the person my be embarrassed and leave this shirt in the drawer, but the utilitarian shirt is a good one for people who can't think of anything funny or profound.