The web has no shortage of resources for the would be tee shirt sleuth, but one of the very best is Shirtoid. The designs, collected from an assortment of shops (some large and established, others small and fledgling), are archived around a broad, pop culture skein. We recently spoke with the site’s founder and editor, Jon Martin, via email; the transcript of our conversation follows below.
IG211: Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Shirtoid: My name is Jon Martin, and I live in Alabama with my wife and three
daughters. I love movies, pop culture, and of course, t-shirts.
IG211: What led you to launch Shirtoid and when did you go live? Does the name have a backstory?
Shirtoid: Shirtoid launched in May of 2009. It actually spawned from another site I had which was dedicated to geek culture and technology. I found myself slowly gravitating toward all these cool t-shirts that I was seeing online. I’d share those with my readers, and eventually I decided I needed a place to consolidate and focus on all the t-shirts I find online. The name just came from a desire to have something memorable as well as being thrifty on characters (blame Twitter for that).
IG211: What’s your vision for the site and how many designs have you archived to date?
Shirtoid: I want Shirtoid to become well-known and a place where artists want their designs to be featured. As of this writing, Shirtoid has 6,476 designs. For every three designs added, one is likely taken down. This is simply a matter of housekeeping — getting rid of dead links or designs that I can’t believe I actually posted.
IG211: The web has several extensive t-shirt archives, most notably Rumplo and Teenormous. Where, in this online landscape, does Shirtoid slot in and how do you differ?
Shirtoid: I suppose Shirtoid fits somewhere in the middle. Our designs are hand-picked, not bulk uploaded by merchants. I also interact with folks on Twitter and Facebook, so people know that there is a person behind the website.
IG211: I imagine that you get lots of submissions. Do you review all of them? Likewise, the curation process, almost by definition, requires some rejection, which can lead to some hurt feelings. Open the site up to all designs though and the quality suffers and your niche is compromised. Do you find yourself wrestling with this dynamic on occasion?
Shirtoid: Yes, Shirtoid receives an ever-increasing number of submissions, and I do look at every submission. Some designs are an immediate hit, and others I have to revisit before approving or not. There are several reasons that a design might not get accepted. First and foremost, I have to like the design or feel that Shirtoid’s readers will like it.
I also try to keep Shirtoid family friendly, so if you send me your marijuana leaf design, your keg stand design, or your “adult humor” design, count on it ending up in the trash bin. Another reason a design might not be accepted is that a quality image wasn’t submitted. In that case, I will often follow up with a request for a better image.
I don’t have the time to reply to every submission, and I would rather say nothing than say something that might hurt an aspiring designer’s feelings. As you mentioned, the overall quality of the site suffers without the curation process. I feel that this is one thing that causes Shirtoid to stand out from the crowd.
IG211: What are some of your favorite online tee shirt resources? Do you keep tabs on any tee blogs in particular?
Shirtoid: I have a few blogs in my feed reader, including Hide Your Arms, mixed in with a lot of artists’ and merchants’ feeds. My feed reader is probably my best resource at this point. I get to see new stuff right away (and sometimes even before the artist is ready to announce it, oops).
IG211: Did you give any thought to starting a more traditional tee blog? Are there advantages to the archive format?
Shirtoid: Since t-shirt shoppers are very visual, and I am very concise in my
writing, a traditional blog format would not have worked as well for
Shirtoid. If the design is on Shirtoid, it’s because I like it.
IG211: On a related note, I’m drawn to the presentation and the consistency from page to page. Was this deliberate and how did you develop the template you’ve come to use?
Shirtoid: The manner in which Shirtoid presents t-shirt designs has evolved over
the last couple years. At first just the design was presented, but I soon learned that due to the nature of the internet (and some lack of etiquette), images are often shared, tweeted, reposted, or reblogged without attribution. This causes a couple problems.
First, if only the design is in the image, the viewer may like the design but doesn’t know that it is available as a t-shirt. And second, the viewer doesn’t know where to find the t-shirt. That’s how I came up with the current design + mockup that you see on most of Shirtoid’s pages.
IG211: How extensive is your personal t-shirt collection (Andy at Hide Your Arms told me that he has amassed more than 300 shirts in the last four years!)? Any particular faves or themes you’d like to spotlight?
Shirtoid: I’m right at 100 t-shirts now. I bought a simple bookshelf so that I can fold and stack my shirts there rather than taking up a lot of closet space.
IG211: What does the future hold for Shirtoid?
Shirtoid: Shirtoid will continue to grow, both in size and fanbase, and maybe at
some point it will become a household name. I also have a couple new things in the works that I don’t want to mention just yet…
IG211: As always, we want to thank our gracious interviewee for taking the time to pen such thoughtful answers. Our kudos, Jon!
Why Waltz When You Can Rock & Roll: travis [at] founditemclothing.com