We’ll start with a simple premise. Ninety-five percent of adults have all the printed T-shirts they will ever need.
Yet a Chicago company is selling tees out of a Northwest Side building at a rate that would make an MBA’s head spin.
Last year, Threadless, by its own account, sold $6.2 million worth of these wardrobe add-ons, its fourth year in a row of, roughly, quadrupling sales. This year, the three twentysomethings who run the company expect to at least triple last year’s numbers, pushing stylized, often ironic, one-of-a-kind designs with names like “Rainbow Worrier” and “Hypotamoose.”
But the Threadless success is also a story about the Internet, which links people not by geography or ethnicity but by common interest, in their case an interest in T-shirts and designs so passionate that 150 new submissions are e-mailed in daily. It’s a more specialized version of the same phenomenon that has seen YouTube and MySpace, sites that also rely on user-created content, grow into two of the Web giants in recent months.
Photo by Threadless.