POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 19, 2007:
T-Town Tees. Local clothing entrepreneurs exploit the obvious and make a living at hipping-up the scene.
I am always the girl with nothing to wear. I have a closet brimming with crap that I have carefully organized and yet most days I pick through it, wishing I had more money and more time so that I could go and get all new crap. This drama goes in stages, typically defined by how recently I've let my guard down and purchased something.
My most recent fashion hissy fit began Saturday.
Saturdays are my research days and so I attempt to put together decent looks; I am after all a fashion writer, and when I pass out my card or introduce myself with a "Hi I'm Lindsay Burleson, the fashion writer for Urban Tulsa Weekly," I don't get looks of shock or sadness. I want it to show that I know a thing or two about my subject matter.
Anyway, I'm rifling through the closet, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a pile of discarded tops to my side when it dawns on me: t-shirts. Since I started working in an office, I've neglected my collection of comfortable, but equally fantastic, graphic tees. I slipped one on and it was as great as I'd remembered. I felt the need to go buy more t-shirts, and that's when I remembered that there are two t-shirt companies that have Tulsa ties. Ladies and gentlemen, if you too need a tee, check out Greenhouse Clothing Co. or 30 Thousand Dollar Millionaire.
I've come across Greenhouse Clothing Company a few times in my search for Tulsa shopping spots. Wherever you're shopping in Tulsa, you'll be hard-pressed to find a nearby store that doesn't carry Greenhouse Clothing. In Jenks, you have the option of both X&Y Clothing Unique and Azur Couture, both on River Walk. Here in Tulsa, there is the Woodland Hills Mall boutique Alysha Elaine and the clothing line's debut location Dwelling Spaces downtown. The public first got a glimpse of this brand last February, but brothers Bryan and Tim Schooley and their friend Matt Cartwright started making their own tees several years ago while going to school and working in Stillwater.
During their years in college, they worked for a company that created graphic tees. The guys soon realized that, although typical college wear is jeans and a t-shirt, they found it difficult to find graphic tees that looked like something cool from the West Coast, but didn't cost a fortune. In their spare time and with the reign to experiment at the workplace, they began making their own graphic t-shirts. Their t-shirt line grew from there.
Although they tried expanding their line into a neighboring house with green shutters, the dilapidated house couldn't make the cut, but the name stuck--Greenhouse Clothing Company. Studying for an exam one day, Bryan realized that it was time to do more with the project they'd originally started just for fun and with his brother and Cartwright along, that's just what they did.
The company that originally started in the college crowd is now a great look for a lady or gentlemen of any age. Both Matt and Tim come up with the graphics for the shirts, finding inspiration from everything from music to nature. These two elements seem to mesh well in the Greenhouse Clothing logo tee--a bird has a city landscape in its body and perches on the line's name, Greenhouse. The design isn't smack dab in the torso of the shirt, but off to the side and the bold color combinations (think teal shirts with bright orange birds, black graphics on a purple-pinkish shirt) increase the intrigue.
The bold color choice in tees and graphics are consistent, while the graphics vary from coi fish to guitars to skulls and more, appealing strongly to the original demographic--dudes. That's not to say the three guys who make them haven't been able to easily translate the styles for girls. While they originally eased their way into the women's niche by getting input from the ladies surrounding them, friends, girlfriends, etc., as time has progressed they have found a way to make those kind of executive decisions on their own.
Not that it matters anyway. As Bryan points out, the shirt graphics have a kind of unisex universal appeal, and it's true. Besides the fact that the women's tees are fitted for a woman's body (bravo for not making us ladies wear baggy, men's tees) you can't really tell the graphics apart. There are certainly no cutesy girly creations, just cool.
Case in point is the woman's argyle-print t-shirt, generally seen on a man's dress sock, now adorning a graphic tee for the gals. Schooley notes that often men will ask for a woman's graphic on their tees and the ladies request the same of the men's.
The classic tee shirt isn't the only item you'll find in the Greenhouse Clothing fashion house. They add their graphics to men's polos, ladies tanks and hats. And they're staying current.
The boys are putting out new t-shirts at a great pace. They try to keep bringing new things out seasonally with four or five creations arriving into stores within the past few weeks and another six designs prepared for fall. They're also taking the shirts back to where they originated; soon you'll be able to also purchase them in Stillwater. All this and a MySpace, www.myspace.com/greenhouseclothing.com to boot.
Currently, the only spot you'll find 30 Thousand Dollar Millionaire merchandise is also where I first spotted it. Doing my article on X&Y Clothing Unique, I stumbled across a politically inspired t-shirt that was right on the nose for the country's current right versus left debate. The Independent t-shirt is still my favorite because of its mascot, the delephant (that's a mixture of the elephant and donkey of the other two parties in case you're just now on the cusp of politics).
As 30 Thousand Dollar Millionaire states in its media release, the shirt is perfect for a city that is currently petitioning for the Independent Party to have state ballot access.
But if you think fashion and politics go to together about as well as republicans and democrats, there are still plenty of 30KDM tees for you. The t-shirt company's motto explains their approach to graphics best. "Our t-shirts represent a generation that by all appearance look fabulous, but in reality a lot of them are swimming in debt. Whether our customers are politically active or not, we hope our t-shirts will make people think or laugh. Hopefully they'll do both."
That is certainly the impression I got when speaking to one of 30 Thousand Dollar Millionaire's creators, Marla Roberts. She and business partner Ben Best threw around the idea of t-shirts while working the typical office job. While the company's older employees didn't always get the joke, they knew they were on to something and that was the beginning of 30 Thousand Dollar Millionaire.
The name comes from a local Dallas colloquialism. Nicely put, it's a person whose salary is around $30,000, but acts and spends like a millionaire. It's this kind of irreverence mixed with a bit of thought that makes up the themes of 30KDM t-shirts.
The ideas for the tees are bounced between Roberts and Best, trying to create something that is ridiculous, but that also speaks to their demographic. Generally, Roberts says, the cut off point is around 35; after that the jokes are just met with blank stares.
Case in point? How about the Tom Selleck shirt that proclaims "Chicks Dig the 'Stache"? There's also a throw back to an SNL sketch that says, "Suck it Trebek." A lot of the shirts have pop culture references, a great pairing for a generation that thrives on pop culture.
But, just as with the Independent tee, some shirts reflect on current events and surroundings. Roberts' insists that nothing is meant in a mean spirit (and I certainly didn't detect one) but as a way to bring attention to something without being overtly political. This is the case for the Dallas-themed shirts.
Roberts recently moved back to Tulsa after being in Dallas and the connection is prominent in the current collection. If you have ties to Dallas in any way, perhaps you'll appreciate the "Keep Dallas Pretentious: Support Your Own Materialism" t-shirt. Being that I am a big supporter of my own materialism, I smile. Another D-town connected tee is the "I got shot in Deep Ellum" tee.
As a Tulsan, this reference means nothing to me; as a lover of graphic tees, it doesn't have to, but in a certain place and time it does have that additional thought-provoking stance. With its city landscape outline and body in outlined chalk look, you'll look badass even if you don't have the bullet wounds to show it.
Currently 30 Thousand Dollar Millionaire has shirts for the ladies and gentlemen. Roberts and Best have recently added kiddie tees to the mix, so if you have a baby or personally know one, you can get that child a "Check out my Crib" tee. The kids line will soon be expanding as well.
And, if you see the Dallas tees and are feeling a little down, don't be so glum. Roberts says she's been thinking of creating a Tulsa-themed tee. It might be a little silly, it might make you think a little, but it won't be around until the right combination of the two inspires her or Best.
And while I generally don't praise the world of online shopping, I'm making an exception with 30 Thousand Dollar Millionaire. The website, www.30kdm.com will not only satisfy your shopping urge, but also get you laughing.
The captions next to each shirt are right on target and they manage to make even the most standard questions humorous ("What if my muscles/breast implants are not perfectly contoured due to ill fit?"). Typical online return policies are a hassle, but it looks like if you decide the tee isn't for you, they'll be glad to accept it back.
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