Being expressive about my interests has long been a fixation of mine, dating back to having every inch of my adolescent bedroom covered with album and concert art to scouring VHS store boxes for outdated movie posters.
Now being an adult with plushies and action figures lining the edges of her cubicle, displaying my favorite things is still a hobby in and of itself.
To this day, my youth-based obsession isn’t just limited to interior decoration. Being able to pair my affinity for gaming with a girly addiction to fashion is no exception to that. Just as vintage band t-shirts are institutions in thrift stores, and vehicles with Tranformers decals randomly sprinkle my daily commute, there will always be a fandom that is anxious to attest their loyalty to popular culture new and old.
Shirtasaurus.com is here to make such outward expression that much easier. Based out of Detroit, MI, the online retailer provides apparel for everyone from gamers, the nostalgic, modern TV series-fans, and the general public who forwardly appreciate representing their passions with distinctive designs.
Matt Wendt is the owner and founder of the website, and with his family-run operation, he oversees most of the backend software, manages their Troy and Lincoln Park shipping hubs, answers three phones, and uses seven computers—all in the 1,000 square-foot Shirtasaurus underground lair.
“Some days, I just want to move to the woods,” says Wendt.
I found Shirtasaurus a few months back among my latest Twitter followers. After following the link, I was immediately attracted to the indie site setup that subtly showcased the underground appeal of their Featured Items. The company slogan, “We dig up clothing from the past so you can look rad today!” fits them to a T, and the Shirtasaurus logo font pays evident homage to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The design was a concept of Wendt’s, among many others, as he provides the majority of the site’s graphic art. Being a longtime fan of TMNT, I ask our guest why he chose that as their logo. “The TMNT mock was never supposed to stick,” Wendt tells us. We were going to change the logo monthly to a new 80’s/90’s movie or game logo mock, but during the growth spurt, we got too busy to change all the logos. So one day this just happened to be the one we had up, and it stuck.” As a lover of all things purple, I also felt compelled to ask him if the bold background color of the site was chosen because his favorite TMNT was Donatello. “Rocksteady is my favorite of the series,” he replies.
Game over. As much as I wanted to indignantly drop the figurative mic, Wendt adds that purple is also his favorite color. Game on. “We did have a red site, but I wanted something I’d never seen, so a ridiculously purple site was just that.”
The backdrop behind the band of novelty shirts, ringers, and hoodies doesn’t overshadow the graphics that cater to those looking to represent their passions. Site visitors are greeted with items paying homage to Breaking Bad, Pokemon, Dr. Who, Zelda, and Star Wars.
Shirtasaurus shoppers and Game Fanatics fans may find a likeness on a print found in both of our shops. Modeled after as piece of UK war propaganda that encouraged its citizens to “Keep Calm and Carry On”, TGF’s logo replaces the trademark crown on the (often parodied) poster with our controller-fisted logo and the motto “Keep Calm and Game On.” Shirtasaurus sells a similar design with the same motto, albeit with a variation of the controller in the crown’s place.
I ask Wendt if the designs he doesn’t offer are “taken” from other sites. “Yeah, it always seems that way,” Wendt begins. “But really, the same ideas in shirt design happen so often. Most of our designs are user submitted, so that’s a good pool of ideas to start with. Other designs are things I like—funny shirt ideas our friends laugh about. I usually take pictures, add them to a folder, and just look at them to try to form an idea on a design. But to be honest, our user submissions have been really great. It’s hard to deny the prints because I want them to wear myself.”
Artists are encouraged to submit their work to be printed on Shirtasaurus products following certain guidelines through the website for per-purchase royalty payments, a store gift card, and a bonus for gradually exponential sales.
For pop-culture fiends on a budget, Shirtasaurus makes procuring their duds easy on your worn jean pockets. With designs ranging from $9.99 to $12.99 for t-shirts, ringers (body of the shirt one color, rimmed sleeve and neckline border another) and raglans (same as ringers with a ¾ sleeve) at $19.99, and hoodies at $29.99, it’s hard to resist such comfortable costs.
“Price is a standing point for us,” says Wendt. “We don’t have much overhead, which allows us to keep the prices low and to give back to our fans.”
Bonus buys and loyalty perks top the Shirtasaurus cake of easy contests offered to their customers, and as the entrants can attest, that cake is not a lie. As of press time, the site is offering a Back to School special that awards a free pullover hoodie and free domestic shipping for every buyer of any four hoodies.
“We do so many giveaways, I can’t even keep up with them. We give random [prizes to people] who send in photos of themselves in our shirts.” These gifts include Xbox and PS3 consoles, and retro consoles and NES games. There’s even an unannounced giveaway for customers whose purchases meet a certain qualification, but we here at The Game Fanatics aren’t at liberty to divulge that criterion. Consider it a Secret Achievement that you have to keep buying to unlock.
The majority of t-shirt laundry loads in my household can all be washed on cold because they consist of mostly grays and blacks. I’ve discovered that this isn’t uncommon among fellow t–shirt enthusiasists, as Wendt confirms these to be their most popular colors. For those with similar monochromatic preferences, Shirtasaurus offers a unique variation. “Heather black is something most people really like, but no one sells,” Wendt states. “We do!” The cotton-poly combination of grey and black, a textured, darker version of solid grey, is among many color options that the site offers their customers.
The ability for shoppers to be able to choose not only their favorite design, but the color of the shirt on which it’s printed, is one of many things that set the store apart. While some prints only come in one color (in order to stay true to the original logos or designer’s concept), shoppers have a variety of hues to go behind their print of choice. The Robot Evolution graphic, for example, comes in black, grey, green, red, blue, burgundy, dark blue, purple, heather black, or brown. By simply clicking on the colored squares on the shirt’s page, customers are able to preview the graphic in different colors before selection their favorite shade.
Another awesome attribute to Shirtasaurus’s selection is that the majority of shirts are available in Guys and Girls sizes. All too often I see shops that only offer gaming and music shirts in Mens sizing, meaning I need either a Youth Large or Small to be in stock, and that is rare. Shirtasaurus not only has two popular brands of shirts for the dudes (Anvil and Hanes) but recently picked up American Apparel to supply their Guys and Girls tees—a move that was made in response to feedback from their fans
Accommodating customer requests speaks to Shirtasaurus’s support of the consumers’ side of the clothing community in addition to their acceptance of artist submissions. Since purchasing my first American Apparel-made item more than ten years ago, the Los Angeles-based manufacturer has been a personal preference of mine mainly due to its slimmer, figure-fitting girly tee. According to Wendt, I’m not the only one.
“We had so many requests. Sooo many,” he attests to the demand. “We literally listen to our customers, and don’t just say we do.” American Apparel (or “AA” as abbreviated on Shirtasaurus shirt options) offers a cotton blend that provides a super soft texture as an alternative to the heavyweight Guys brands for an additional $8. Add $6 for the Girls AA tees.
Meeting those kinds of needs is a means of gratitude that Wendt expresses for their customers. “We give so much thanks to our customer base for helping us make this site work. Everything we do have been moves made on their behalf, and so far it’s been working. I mean really,” he says earnestly. “It’s amazing there are still great people out there.” I ask if his statement might come across as too cynical to quote for this story.
“Nah,” he replies. “That’s how we roll.”
With so many avenues for customer satisfaction, could there possibly be any complaints with what Shirtasaurus has to offer?
“To be honest, we get a few,” Wendt tells us. “Most of the complaints come from people not understanding what they’re ordering, in regards to Anvil shirts versus American Apparel.” The company does what they can to clear things up for their customers, including a real-time chat client on their website for Live Help for any questions. “Sometimes our prints also don’t work out and are flawed, which happens in screen-printing.” Due to these naturally occurring mishaps, Shirtasaurus offers a 30-day return policy, which is even extended over the holidays. “The issues we have get resolved. But those happen so few and far between, some days I think my email is broken.”
As a child, the self-proclaimed kid-at-heart company founder broke up his days playing Atari 2600 by programming 80s robots to bring his mom drinks in the living room, playing with He-Man and Transformers figures, and watching cartoons. While playing sports was a huge impact in his older years, the most dedicated time of his adult life was spent playing World of Warcraft for hours.
“I’m mostly an RTS guy, and have been, but I got into FPS games along the way,” Wendt explains. “[I] played a bunch of CoD on PC back when it wasn’t on consoles.” He laughs. “If people remember those days anymore.”
At the time of our interview, the entrepreneur was playing Diablo 3, and about to embark on Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on Xbox. Wendt, however, has a general adversity to today’s games. “I think the only innovation in video games right now is from the indie side. All the big titles are just complete crap with a few moments of cool sprinkled in.” He audibly indicates the end of rant. “I just played a bunch this weekend, and I hated them all.” I ask him if this is why he has seven computers. He replies that PCs pwn consoles.
“I’m also kind of a home media geek as well,” he admits. “XBMC for LIFE! Only a handful of people will get that. I just like networking and getting things to work. It’s like an OCD thing, I think. Much like most of the things I do. As to why I have seven PCs.”
OCD or not, Wendt runs a smooth company, supports fellow industry enthusiasts by sponsoring The Geek Cave Podcast*, and lends the site popularity to hard work and insomnia. His last words of encouragement for those seeking similar success? “If you do all you can, someone out there will pay you for it.”
He pauses. “Wait, that makes no sense. If you love what you do…”
I prompt our guest to take a nap.
“Yeah right. I don’t sleep.”
Check out the goods and start looking rad today by heading over to http://www.shirtasaurus.com.
*Use checkout code TheGeekCave for 10% off your total Shirtasaurus purchase.