This is crazy, but it is not too far off...
Did you know that on average, every 48 hours a new t-shirt brand is created in Michigan? Well, that may not be true, but it is not far off. I had a customer visiting our store from Florida, and he couldn't stop remarking on how many t-shirt companies he saw in Traverse City alone. I asked if that is the case in Florida, and he said "I cant think of one, other than Ron Jon."
We are talking about Florida, home of Disney World! Off the top of my head as I write this, I can think of a couple dozen Michigan based companies, and I am sure there are at least a few dozen more I have never heard of. So what happens when there are too many brands all vying for the t-shirt buying community...lawyers get involved.
If you imagine any other industry where a state or city becomes oversaturated with, let's just say microbreweries. If a city gets a dozen microbreweries opening up in a matter of a few years, do those breweries start trademarking the rights to make stouts, IPA's, or porters? No, of course not. That would be insane....almost as insane as trademarking an aspect of our ENTIRE STATE!
Let's go back to the beer industry, because I love beer, and I could easily just blog about my favorite stouts in the state(Founders...looking at you!). There are an incredible amount of microbreweries in Michigan...so many in fact, that we have multiple festivals JUST for trying new beers! So what does a brewery do to stand out from the crowd and ensure a steady flow of customers? They make the best damn beer they can! Whether it is something incredibly different, like bacon beer, or asparagus beer(Right Brain, you know I am talking about you!), or you just make a stout so perfect, so dark and creamy, that it rivals every other stout out there. The point is, to be competitive in the beer-making industry, you innovate or master the art of beer making.
Insert photo of delicious looking beer here.
In the t-shirt industry, I am noticing a way worse trend....instead of providing something unique, or printing on the best quality materials you can find, people are seeking out lawyers to make sure that they can be the ONLY ones making beer...whoops, I mean Michigan T-Shirts.
Where does this leave us if this trend goes on? What happens if someone trademarks the right to put "MICHIGAN" on a t-shirt? What if someone copyrights the right to put the outline of Michigan on a t-shirt? Well, the answer is simple...it means that you will not be able to buy the best, or most creative Michigan based t-shirts on the market. You will only be able to buy t-shirts from the companies with the biggest budgets for trademark attorneys.
And what happens 5 years from there? I am also glad you asked. 5 years from there, the companies that have locked down the rights to do ANYTHING Michigan based on apparel will realize that they have zero competition, so they will simple do the bare minimum in terms of quality and creativity. You will notice the apparel you loved from years before will now be stiffer, will pill more often, and will just not feel as good as it used to. And you will no doubt have to pay even more for that shirt, because hey, someone has to pay for all those legal bills! But you will have no choice in the matter, so if you want to represent this beautiful state of ours, you will need to hand over your hard earned money to a company that you don't love quite as much as you used to.
The Michigan Outfitter
Right now, there are some incredible companies(tooting my horn time, Tee See Tee included) that pride themselves on coming up with awesome new designs every single year that go outside the box, excite people, and better yet, they print these designs using the best inks and best materials, so you not only love how the shirt looks, but how it feels! I will commit a little company suicide and tell you some of these great companies, hoping that you will spend a little more money with them, because they work REALLY hard to innovate in this industry; Michigan Outfitters, MI Rootswear, Live Love Michigan, Ardent Ink, Detroit T-Shirts, Detroit GT, and Mitten State.
So what's next? Well, we can all lawyer up, lock down every last road and reference to Michigan that has not been trademarked yet, or we can take a page from the microbreweries, and we can all put that energy into giving our customers the greatest, most creative apparel around! I know Tee See Tee and the companies I listed before will keep bringing out crazy new designs, still printed on incredibly soft materials, always at the same low price, and I hope that we can all just enjoy a little bit of friendly competition with each other.
And that concludes my rant, stay tuned as I tell you more about the seedy underbelly of the Michigan T-Shirt industry:)