The manifesto reads like something out of a self-help book: A 15-sentence message comprising brief commandments such as, “Do what you love and do it often,” “If you don’t like your job, quit,” and “Travel often; Getting lost will help you find yourself.”
The Holstee manifesto is the most iconic product of the Brooklyn-based apparel company Holstee. Although the company was founded with the aim of selling sustainably sourced consumer goods, the poster of the manifesto is now one of Holstee’s best-selling items. At one point this summer, they sold out of it with a four-week back-order. The manifesto has been translated into 12 languages, and by Holstee’s own approximations, it’s been viewed more than 50 million times.
Surprisingly, it was the one thing about their business they never intended to become popular.
Holstee was founded by brothers Dave and Mike Radparvar and their friend Fabian Pfortmuller in 2009. Before that, Dave and Mike were, like Thorpey, successful in their careers but growing restless in the corporate world. They began tinkering with various side projects in their spare time until they finally came up with something they thought had staying power: A T-shirt with a side pocket positioned like a holster, or a “hols-tee.
“Even though all our friends were plowing forward with digital ideas, the idea of having a tangible product was appealing to us,” Mike Radparvar said. “There’s been no real innovation behind the form of a T-shirt, and we thought it would be neat to rethink the T-shirt in general.”
Dave and Mike made a pact that they would both quit their jobs on the same day to work on Holstee full-time.
“You know in ‘The Matrix’ when they unplug you? It felt like that,” Radparvar said about quitting. “We had this nervous energy and excitement.”
They went into survival mode, cutting expenses by renting out their apartment through the site AirBnB and cooking at home. They joined up with Pfortmuller, and between them they had just enough to bootstrap Holstee.
The trio set out to produce and sell only environmentally conscious products. The original Holstee T-shirts were made from recycled plastic, and the company’s “upcycled” wallets, made from plastic bags, are bought from an organization that works with Indian “rag-pickers” in Delhi. Ten percent of their sales go to the micro-finance lending organization Kiva. To codify their ideals, they wrote the Holstee manifesto, put it on their Web site and — largely — forgot about it.