My closet shelves are full, and I blame Guy Kawasaki. He’s the one who declared that t-shirts were part of the development process for any computer product, and people listen to Guy. Of course, the popularity of t-shirts was also helped by the fact that a large collection could help put off the need to do laundry one more day.
There’s little not to like about the industry t-shirt. Along with having an actual function, it can also be attractive, amusing, or at least indicative of your opinions or affiliations. Although, as a member of the press, I occasionally worry about what t-shirt to put on, since the products or companies emblazoned on certain t-shirts could prove embarrassing for me in specific situations. At MacHack, for instance, where t-shirts are practically the required uniform, I’m careful to wear only t-shirts from defunct companies and products. Besides, historical t-shirts are far more likely to encourage conversation with interesting people (such as the time I wore a rare InterCon Systems t-shirt made from recycled plastic soda bottles that even an ex-InterCon employee had never seen).
You can have too much of a good thing, and when Tonya was working on TidBITS as well, we’d often come back from Macworld Expo with pairs of matching t-shirts. One year we were panhandled by a homeless guy in San Francisco on our way out of Moscone Center on the last day of the show; he seemed genuinely surprised and pleased at the long-sleeved t-shirts we gave him, and we felt good about reducing the duplicates in our collection in such a fashion. (If you’re in a similar situation, or just have some random t-shirts you dislike, I’m sure there’s a local clothing bank that could put your extras to good use.)
TidBITS Tchotchkes — We’re pleased to announce that some of our – and hopefully your – wardrobe worries are over, since we finally have TidBITS t-shirts for sale, along with mousepads and mugs. It’s been far too long in the coming, but the problem we’ve always faced is that we don’t want to get into the t-shirt business: taking orders, printing t-shirts, storing them in boxes around the house, and shipping them out. We were thus extremely happy to come across CafePress.com, an Internet business that takes care of all those details for us, and for anyone else who wants to sell large or small numbers of shirts, mousepads, or mugs via the Internet. To place an order, visit the page below (unless you’ve made a contribution to TidBITS, help translate our issues, or write articles for us, at which point we have a special deal for you). If you want to receive your order before Christmas (they make excellent gifts, of course), be sure to place it before 12-Dec-00.
As a way of thanking the more than 500 TidBITS readers who have contributed money via our voluntary contribution program, we’ve set up a special secret page where you can order the same products at a discount. Current contributors should have received the link to the secret page in email; anyone who wishes to contribute to help keeping TidBITS operational in the future will receive the link as part of the contribution process. These discounted prices are also available for the folks who translate TidBITS each week and for anyone who writes articles for TidBITS.
Here’s how CafePress.com works. You set up a store, which entails filling in a form with the appropriate contact information, and then you upload your graphic designs as GIF or JPEG files for the items you wish to sell. Each item has a base price, and you can add a markup on top of that. Whenever anyone orders a product, CafePress.com prints it (these are all one-offs, so there’s no minimum order), handles the credit card payment, and ships the product out. They also handle customer service should there be any problems. Then, every month, they add up the amounts you’ve earned from the price markups and send you a check. And, in the grand Internet affiliate marketing tradition, if someone else sets up a store based on your referral, you get a small credit for each item ordered through that store too. (So if you want to set up your own CafePress.com store – it can be a good way to create custom shirts, mousepads, or mugs for yourself – and give TidBITS the referral credit that CafePress.com would otherwise keep, use the link below to sign up.)
Products & Designs — The fact that CafePress.com handles all the printing and fulfillment is great, but we also like that they offer a variety of different products. You can order white and ash grey short-sleeved t-shirts, white long-sleeved t-shirts, baby doll-style t-shirts for women, ash grey sweatshirts, mousepads, and mugs in two sizes. Even better, the shirts come in a wide variety of sizes, with the white short-sleeved shirt ranging from a Kids-Small up to an adult 4X-Large.
CafePress.com started out with just the white short-sleeved t-shirts, mousepads, and mugs, so we expect they’ll add other types of products like baseball hats as they find suppliers for the blanks and adjust their processes. We’ll update you when new items appear – we’re especially hoping for different colors of shirts and for baby clothes (since many baby clothes we’ve found are utterly insipid).
Our current designs were created by Jeff Carlson with input from everyone on the staff and inspiration from numerous suggestions made on TidBITS Talk. The front of the shirt (and the mug design) is a variant of our main logo, and the back (and the mousepad) is the word "TidBITS" made up of the ASCII text of our 500th issue (parts of it are readable). You can see a large preview of both images at our store page.
At the moment, selling multiple designs through CafePress.com is a bit clumsy, but they’re working on a more streamlined approach, so we hope to offer different designs in the future, generated from contests of reader-submitted designs.
If you’re just dying for other designs or Macintosh-related products to add to your holiday gift list, other groups sell a variety of interesting shirts as well. Both RedLightRunner and Dougintosh offer a variety of unique designs along with collectibles like Apple pens, watches, and the Think Different posters – they’re definitely worth checking out.
Signed Copies — I hope you like our initial designs and enjoy the various products – perhaps one day they too will become collectibles. I’ll even aid in that process. If you wear a TidBITS shirt to the upcoming Macworld Expo in San Francisco and find me, I’ll sign your shirt then and there. Be warned though, people often jokingly suggest things to me when I’m signing, and I usually write exactly what they say, no matter how silly.