Suddenly, Charlotte T-shirts are all the rage. Pop up and local gift shops are carrying colorful new and vintage-looking T-shirts decorated with Charlotte-esque logos and neighborhood-themed designs. In the last month, two new businesses opened up with their unique version of a Charlotte T-shirt — Charlotte Apparel Co. and Glory Days Apparel.
What does this mean? Is it a fad or a sign that Charlotte’s residents are proud of their city?
I spoke with Dr. Craig Depken, Professor of Economics at UNC Charlotte, about T-shirts and economics. I asked what he thought it meant that so many T-shirt businesses were opening in Charlotte.
Depken said, “The craft beer and moonshine trend has been successful. The craft T-shirt market may be a niche that has not been pursued.”
He added that T-shirts have been traditionally associated with sports teams and tourism. In both instances, T-shirts are a status symbol showing affiliation to a particular place, team or city.
This recent T-shirt trend may be the result of this city celebrating its developing identity as a community with winning sports teams, active neighborhoods, fun events and interesting restaurants. When I questioned the owners of the Charlotte T-shirt companies, they all agreed that pride in Charlotte is driving the market, along with their cool and edgy designs, of course.
Here’s what they had to say:
The Crown Heart shirt was designed by Evan Plante, owner of Docklands Design. It debuted four years ago and may have been one of the first Charlotte t-shirts in this recent market. Plante understands that T-shirts define your identity.
He said, “Everyone likes to know they fit in somewhere, and wearing a shirt is an easy way to find your place.”
Buy: Green with Envy, Ruby’s Gifts, Beehive and City Supply, online
Scott Wooten has been operating 704 Shop for the past 2½ years. It was a struggle for him at first.
“We couldn’t give a T-shirt away. There didn’t seem to be a lot of interest so we spent the first year selling to family and friends,” Wooten said.
After their first media story last March in CharlotteFive, Wooten began to push harder because he felt validated in what he was trying to do with his brand.
Wooten’s shirts are for people who are proud to live in Charlotte. His Home shirt was introduced last June, a design idea that came to him in the middle of the night.
Wooten said, “When this shirt came out, that’s when things started to go viral.”
Buy: Online, pop up
Just one month into the T-shirt business, Charlotte Apparel Co. owner Dan Melo is hoping to catch the vibe of the distinct neighborhoods with his designs.
Melo said, “Our hope is that we can create at least one thing that each Charlottean identifies with in some way, as it relates to the city and the individual spaces within it.”
Glory Days Apparel
JD Harris, owner of Glory Days Apparel, kicked off his new T-shirt business at VBGB in late April. His soft vintage T-shirts are like a really good thrift-store find – they fit well with good quality. Harris wants to recreate a memory or a feeling of nostalgia with his brand. Pro-Golfer and Charlotte native Jason Kokrak saw a Glory Days shirt and has already put in an order of his own.
Buy: Pop up, Online
Photos: Charlotte Apparel Co., Docklands Design, 704 Shop, Glory Days