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What the Heck is a Gusset? And Other Terminology Concerns

Even though I work for a promotional products company, there are certain words that throw me for a loop. When I needed to write a product description about one of our personalized tote bags, I was caught up on the word “gusset.”

As it turns out, I’m not the only one. After gathering a few more suggestions from my fellow coworkers, I decided to define these crazy terms to clear up any concerns.

1. Gusset

Outside of the promo items industry, a “gusset” is a piece of fabric that is placed inside of a seam to reduce the stress of tight clothing. Basically, to give yourself a little room to breathe.

When it comes to tote bags, the gusset is the material that makes the sides and bottom of the bag. The front and back panels attach to the gusset so you are able to fit more in your bag.

gusset (1)


Another way to think of it is in terms of depth. If a tote bag says it has a gusset of four inches, that means when fully expanded, there are four inches of space between the front and back.

2. Non-woven polypropylene

The next confusing term also relates to reusable bags. Many reusable tote bags are now made from non-woven polypropylene. Unlike canvas or cotton totes, non-woven polypropylene fabric is made from plastic.

Non-woven polypropylene is popular right now because it’s durable, lightweight, inexpensive to produce, recyclable, and made from other recycled plastics.



If you are interested in learning more about non-woven polypropylene, we have an extensive article about it in Promo University.

3. Grommet

Also known as eyelets, grommets are rings inserted into fabric. Generally, they are used to strengthen that particular area of fabric.

The most common use of grommets is for shoelace holes (for Chuck Taylor All Stars, on the side, too), but they can also be used to make handles in tote bags or tie strings for drawstring backpacks.



Even if a particular material doesn’t need reinforcement, grommets can be used for decorative purposes, too.

4. Plunger

The word “plunger” has an instant connotation to the bathroom. But when it comes to promotional products, I promise that plungers have nothing to do with that.

In the promotional items world, “plunger” is the top of the click pen, also known as the part you click to plunge out the tip to start writing.




Plungers are essential to click pens, but you aren’t going to find them on cap or twist pens.

5. Carabiner

Carabiners are metal loops with clips. They are used to connect two things together and are an increasingly popular way to hold keys, water bottles, and other items. They can hook to loops on pants or backpacks.

Sometimes they come attached to other products (like water bottles), but you can also buy them as solo products.



Heavy-duty carabiners are used for recreational activities like rock climbing and sailing. However, please do not use any promotional carabiners for these types of activities – they may not meet safety standards for extreme physical activity. They will be great for holding your keys, though.

Were any of these words tripping you up? Are there any words – specifically related to promotional products – that are still confusing?


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  1. Amy Swanson

    Excellent job, Mandy explaining these terms! Like you, even though I’ve been here for almost a year (holy smokes, didn’t realize that til just now!!!!) I had no clear understanding of what these words were. But now I do 😀 Thank you!!

    As for other words that slip me up… I’ll be keeping you posted while I write product descriptions. There’s bound to be a few that I come across there 😉

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      “Gusset” annoyed the crud out of me. Then again, I guess it’s more eloquent than “side panel thingy.” Glad to hear that I cleared up some terms for you!

  2. Kelly

    Great post Mandy, I’m sure I’ll be referring customers to this article often. 🙂

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Thanks, Kelly! I’m glad that you found the article useful! Hopefully your customers will, too!

  3. Bret Bonnet

    I think this should be a bi-weekly series referred to as “WTF – Promos Terms”.

    I think the addition of pictures make understanding the terms THAT much easier (and more fun).

    Only if IKEA would take a page from our book… My God, I spent almost my ENTIRE Sunday afternoon ordering kitchen cabinets from them… It was torture, not only because I have 137 boxes of unassembled furniture coming my way, but because the terminology they use to describe what I’d otherwise consider VERY basic things like handles, hinges, and cabinets is something out of bad Star-Trek episode!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I figured that you can say what a gusset is until you’re blue in the face, but a picture would definitely emphasize the point.

      It’s strange that IKEA is so cryptic in their terminology! You would think with the amount of furniture they sell, they would’ve made it easier on their customers.

  4. Jaimie Smith

    The only word I was actually familiar with was Carabiner. The rest I had no clue…especially that plunger had two different meanings.
    Thanks for the info, Mandy!

  5. Eric

    Leave it to you, Mandy, to list Chuck Taylors as an example of grommet use. 🙂 Informative stuff!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hey, how could I resist? Grommets are one of my favorite features of the shoe, and I had a blog post all ready to link to it! 😉

  6. Jeff Porretto

    Thanks Mandy! I had to ask Derek (*shudder* – it’s a shame you didn’t get to know him) what a Gusset was. Several babbling minutes later I still was unclear. Wish this blog was around then!


    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Glad that this blog could clear it up for you now. It’s much easier to point to a gusset on a bag than try and describe it without one!

  7. Joseph Giorgi

    I totally forgot that the “clicker” on click-action pens was actually called a “plunger.” Kind of a weird term, but I guess it makes sense.

    Very informative post, Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Even though I learned (here at QLP) that it was called the plunger, I will sometimes call it the “clicky part at the end.” Old habits die hard and all that. 😉

      Thanks, Joe!

  8. Rachel

    I agree with Joe — I learned recently that “plunger” was the correct term, but “clicky part” is so much more fun to say. 🙂 Also, good to know about the polypropylene! I had a general idea that it was plastic but didn’t know much more than that. Thanks for the super informative post, Mandy! 🙂

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      No problem! Not only can we all speak authoritatively about these terms now, but we can also say that we learned something this week!

  9. Jenna Markowski

    This is a great breakdown, Mandy. I had never heard the word Gusset before in my life until this blog, and now I am fully educated. And I know I’ve Googled Non-woven polypropylene many times, and now I have the definition in a handy little blog! Also, pens have lots of parts with confusing names, so I’m sure we could find some more to include in a sequel post!

    I use the word grommet on a regular basis, as my friends and I use it as a term of endearment. 🙂 Sometimes we shorten it to “grom.” The use of it goes back to the California skate scene in the 70s, as quoted by Heath Ledger’s character in Lords of Dogtown, “Now get out there and surf, ya little grommets!” THE MORE YOU KNOW!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Thanks, Jenna! Gusset is such a crazy word! But with so many cities outlawing plastic bags these days, I imagine that the gusset on reusable bags will start becoming much more important!

      I didn’t even know that grommet was used as slang. The more you know!

  10. Jen

    This is a great post Mandy! Bret is right, we should do more posts like this for our customers, I think they would find them very helpful. Heck, we didn’t even know what half of these terms meant, so I’m sure they wouldn’t either!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      As long as we keep finding terms that we don’t know, I’ll write about them! 🙂

  11. Jill Tooley

    The word “gusset” always makes me do a double take when I see it (because of its British meaning/association). Totally different meaning over here! 😉

    Well done on this post. You managed to entertain while you educated, which is always a plus. And you’ve shed some light on confusing promotional product terms that probably confuse everyone who comes across them! If I think of any more ad specialty jargon, then I’ll be sure to send it your way for the inevitable sequel post.

    Excellent job, Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Thanks, Jill! I certainly tried to entertain and educate simultaneously! I know that boring learning is just the same as not learning!

      Keep those terms coming! 🙂

  12. Julie

    Thank you so much for explaining those terms, English for me is a second language so some words are unfamiliar to me, and some times as you said, double meaning.
    And when I am looking for something, and suddenly they appear…then I Google it!
    I am so glad I found you!!
    Have a great day!!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hi Julie!

      I’m glad that you found the post useful. Don’t even worry – I didn’t know most of these terms before I started working here. And English IS my first language. You are not alone!

      Have a great day, too!


  13. Ashley

    This is great! Who knew there were so many different terms? I will definitely be using this to clear up any confusion when talking to my customers 🙂

  14. Patrick N Paternott

    I was very pleased to obtain the information that was required, however very disappointed that you promote polypropylene tote or shopping bags ignoring the fact that even “recycled” causes so much damage to our environment…..shame on you, Patrick

  15. brianolmo

    Great and unique post! It would be more informative if you will add more pictures of discussed stuff. It is very helpful for bag lovers and manufacturers. Thanks for sharing.

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