I think that I’ve always loved t-shirts. For as long as I can remember there has been some form of quest for new pieces to stuff in my drawer, and I certainly have some all-stars that date back to 15 years ago. I don’t really wear them, but I can’t imagine throwing them away. I can remember the story tied to each shirt and still conjure up the excitement of stumbling upon it in the local thrift shop. T-shirt hunting was a far different experience 10 years ago. It had a lot to do with hard work and luck. There were only a handful of shops around that carried old t-shirts (and the fact that they were actually old shirts, as opposed to the modern-day, faux-vintage, made you overlook that they all smelled like old socks). Finding a new shirt was a thrill, and it had to be that perfect balance of factors that made a shirt, once owned by someone else, personal to you. When I was just a novice in my t-shirt collecting and working at the local pool, I found a 1976 Tri-County Swimming Championship shirt in the lost and found. It was beautifully designed (simple and sophisticated, before all of those types of shirts became gaudy). As a swimmer, I was psyched, and I quickly snatched up the shirt. Sadly enough, over the years that one seems to have been lost in the shuffle.
That’s my ‘good old days’ intro to the world of t-shirts, as buying shirts today is nothing like that. With the ‘hunt’ removed and t-shirts dominating the internet, the options (from simple font-based to obnoxious giant penguin) are truly unlimited. The explosion of t-shirt companies in the past few years has been fascinating to watch (some of them have been good, some not so good), but the emergence of Threadless has really taken this craft fully into the realm of ‘anyone can do it.’ As the dust settles from those companies that embrace the overwhelmingly zany (I would say aesthetically ugly) side of the business (look at this shirt <a href=”http://http//tiny.cc/cu1y5″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>http://tiny.cc/cu1y5), we’re always happy to see the true craftsmen still standing; and doing some pretty amazing things.
We stumbled on Chris Glass a few years ago and have always enjoyed keeping an eye on what he’s doing. Artist, t-shirt printer, photographer, designer, web developer, and overall creative zealot, Chris seems to have a mastery of a countless number of skills, and what’s better is that he really knows how to unite those pieces in an experiential way for his users.
Chris has a t-shirt company named Wire and Twine that we’ve always liked, and it was one video that he made for his “Facial Hair Shirt” that really blew us away. In a quick, two minute clip (set to a great Apple track), Chris essentially takes you through the process of t-shirt creation, from penned drawing to screen-printed (and dried) shirt. It’s totally engaging, and the first time that we watched it (yes, we have seen it quite a few times), we sat around with our hands over our mouths, taking turns saying “man!”
The beard video, as we refer to it, seemed to pop up everywhere. I certainly hope that Chris sold a million of those shirts. The beauty of that video, however, is that independent of whether or not it helped Chris sell a million shirts, it helped tell a great story about Wire and Twine (as well as its owner). I don’t know Chris, but I think his work is incredible, and if we’re ever looking for help on a project, he would certainly be at the very top of our list. In addition, Chris reminded me why I love t-shirts. The point of the lost and found story is that I remember the story of that shirt. I have plenty of shirts that I’ve purchased since the beard shirt that I like, but none of them carry any real connection for me. When I see that beard shirt in my drawer, I immediately think of that video, and I inevitably say a silent “man!” in my mind. If that’s not a Onething, I don’t know what is.
The lesson? Not all marketing has to be a one-to-one translation from idea to ‘sale.’ Emotional marketing can have a great impact as well, and it can pay dividends in ways that you may not even have in mind. We’re psyched that Chris made that video; in two minutes he showed us his chops, taught us how to make a cool shirt, and made us really like him. Impressive.