Wearing the Italian heritage with style and simplicity

Mike O'Brien and Jason Darby

Mike O'Brien and Jason Darby, creators of Shirts of the World

 
There is a sort of heritage clothing that screams "look at me" with tacky, silly stereotypes. And then there is Shirts of the World, a small business created a few years ago by two brilliant entrepreneurs 
of the East Coast, Mike O'Brien and Jason Darby, and based on a completely different philosophy that is the secret of its success.
 
Basic shirts with a small logo representing the geography of countries. Where did you get the idea?
It came about in 2008 with the prototype Ireland Shirt. When I put it on, somebody asked: "Where did you get that shirt with the map of Ireland on it?" We were surprised that people could immediately recognize it, and decided to start a business based on the geography of countries, because everybody likes to show and share national pride.
After two years working on the product, in 2011 we launched the company. It really took off, and soon we expanded the logo idea to other countries. 

 

 
Italy came right after Ireland. Which are the criteria of selection?
I would say personal experience, we feel how passionate people are about their native countries. 
As the United States is our primary market, we haven’t made a U.S. shirt so far to let people reflect their immigration heritage. 
 
Why Italy? Because we have some Italian background and were culturally influenced by it, but also because its geography is among the most recognizable. As we expected, Italy has exploded in terms of popularity. This makes us feel gratified, since we didn't just take Italy's logo and put it on a shirt. 
Our main goal is to respect the heritage of nations, and Italian consultants worked with us to ensure 
that cultural authenticity was reflected in our products.
 
After this great success online, are you planning to expand the business?
Market demand is growing. Our ultimate goal is represented by major retail distribution, and we have developed two strategies: the virtual store, and about 15 store shows a year to present our products and get the customers’ feedback. 
For the time being, we are focusing only on countries, but our design could be used for States as well as for co-branding with business partners or universities. 
We will expand the product range to seasonal clothing, and widen gender and children selection. 
There isn’t a limit to the possibilities, provided that we stay within our brand philosophy: simplicity. 
 
Is this what makes your brand unique? 
Simplicity is our point of strength. The country itself is all we need to reflect our heritage. People like the idea of a secret code they can recognize while others can’t, and wear in every occasion. 
We take the heritage aspect of our products extremely seriously, this is the core message we are trying to get across.  And we really appreciate people's support. Our idea is threatening to big companies ruling the heritage market, and we wouldn't fight this battle every day if customers didn’t really appreciate our work.

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