The ongoing conversation about the Redskins name has, if nothing else, been a serious boon for novelty T-shirt sales.
Last week, we learned about the Keep the Name T-shirts, which experienced a surge in sales after Daniel Snyder bought 10 in Richmond. Also last week, San Francisco-based T-shirt company Headline Shirts debuted a new release, a “Rednecks” design modeled after the Redskins logo.
And it wasn’t just hot on social media. The shirt went through two re-printings in seven days. About 1,500 shirts were sold in the first week, which is “easily five times the average for the first week of a new shirt,” said Jake Ginsky, the creative director for Headline Shirts, which aims for “intelligently funny tees.”
Ginsky said his company had been thinking about such a shirt for a while; the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decision in June finally pushed the concept toward the front of the queue.
Headline Shirts, he said, started in 2005 with more politically adventurous shirts, before seeking safer territory that would appeal to a wider swath of people as the company grew. The Redskins model — featuring a white dude with a mullet instead of a Native American, and a raccoon tail instead of the Redskins feathers — takes the company back to its roots.
(The design is sort of similar to one put on a snapback by hat company Hella Tight in 2009; Ginsky said he saw that image only after his T-shirt was completed and any similarity is coincidental.)
“It’s fun to sometimes stir the pot, and if we can get some attention for it, great,” Ginsky said this week. “This one we had a clear position on and just went for it. It definitely ruffled some feathers, and I was ready for that. … The basic idea was to just sort of flip the script, to basically give people a taste of how it feels when the shoe is on the other foot. It’s really just as simple as that.”
Indeed, the product description makes it pretty clear what the shirt company thinks about the issue:
There’s a certain pro football team that many believe is due for a name change. To something a little less — you know — racial-slur-y. We agree. But we also know that it can be hard to break with tradition.
So we’ve got just the solution. The Rednecks! You can basically keep the same logo. Just change a few letters, trade the feathers for raccoon tails, swap out the red-skinned caricature with a rustic Caucasian, and bam! Done.
After all, why should Native Americans have a monopoly on all the culturally insensitive team names? What about the white folks? When is it finally going to be their turn?
The thing is, some Redskins fans who passionately defend the team name also liked the T-shirt. I found this out when I retweeted an image of it — diehard Redskins fans asked how to buy one of the Redneck tees — and the company has found that out as well.
“A lot of people will sort of proudly wear this who are on the other side, which is totally fine. We’ve gotten a mix of both,” Ginsky said. “I know that the term ‘rednecks’ also has sort of been reclaimed by rural white people as a term that they identify with. I would not doubt one bit that as much as 50 percent of the sales could be people buying it to rock it that way. And that’s fine. This is definitely meant to be light-hearted. We’re not trying to be too serious about it. Whatever peoples’ reasons are for wearing it, I’m fine with.”
(Sidenote: As someone who went to Fredonia (N.Y.) High — nickname: Hillbillies — and who has a Hillbillies sticker hanging at his desk, I’m not surprised by any of this.)
Ginsky said his own personal opinion “is that the name should change, if for no other reason than you’ve got a team that’s representing the nation’s capital identifying with a sort of racial slur for a disenfranchised people.”
But he understands the appeal of tradition, especially in the modern sports world, where players come and go but team names and logos mostly remain. Heck, as an Eagles fan, he’s still wistful over the loss of Philly’s kelly green uniforms. In any case, this debate will go on, and people will keep buying shirts all the while.
“This one is a divisive product, but it’s still selling really well, which is kind of making us think,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to turn to this kind of thing exclusively, but it definitely helps us build buzz.”