If you’re looking for a Michigan-specific tee that you’ll wear year after year (instead of forgetting about it at the bottom of your dresser), then have we got the maker for you at ShopMyNorth.com! Traverse City-based company Tee See Tee manages to break the mold by creating t-shirts that celebrate Northern Michigan in a way that appeals to locals and tourists alike. From humorous, tongue-in-cheek designs like the iconic AC/DC logo reformatted to read “TC/MI” to more classic, nostalgia-driven aesthetics like this retro Traverse City design, Tee See Tee makes shirts that honor the things that make Northern Michigan unlike anywhere else. MyNorth’s Sig Steiger talked to Beau Warren, Tee See Tee founder/chief operator/head designer/President of United Tees of America, about the origins of Tee See Tee and what he hopes to communicate with his designs.
Histor-tee in the Making
Designing tees has been in Beau Warren’s blood since he was in grade school, where he would make shirts emblazoned with yin-yangs and killer whales with puffy paint. But it wasn’t until very recently that he decided to drop everything and completely pursue t-shirt designs as a full-time business. “It was a huge leap of faith,” says Warren. “I quit my job and started making shirts as my full-time job.” And he hasn’t looked back.
Warren first began screen-printing at concerts in Chicago back in 2006. He says the beginnings of his life as a Tee Toter (not to be confused with a teetotaler) arose from a time when he was asked to design and print shirts for a band called Chicago Afrobeat Project, who Warren attests are “an awesome group, and totally electric to watch.” The band ended up loving his designs, and thus, the seeds of Tee See Tee were planted.
Shirts for Sightseers and Settlers
When conceptualizing a design, Warren considers Michigan-centric phenomena with a sense of humor while still remaining universal enough for visitors to understand and identify with. “My designs are just as popular with locals as they are with tourists,” says Warren, who grew up in Traverse City. “I want to go back to a memory about what we love about Northern Michigan. And I want to do that by celebrating the good and the bad: to this day one of my best-selling designs is the Polar Vortex shirt!”
“Most people who live in Michigan didn’t love the Polar Vortex, and they don’t love the constant construction and traffic in the summer,” Warren clarifies. “But all of that stuff is part of what makes up where we live and who we are.”
Tee See Tee: Where Quality Counts
Blank t-shirts, when it comes down to it, are all basically the same…right? Wrong. The quality of a tee lies in its fabric, its drape, its fit, its color, and its softness; these are all things that Warren takes very seriously when choosing the canvases for his designs.
“It’s very important to me that the shirts are made in a sweatshop-free environment,” he says. He would know: with a background as a toymaker, Warren spent many years in China and witnessed the truth of working conditions in factories firsthand. “I know how bad it can get there. The shirts I print on are American-made, and are made of a tri-blend material. My shirts are like butter. They’re so soft, they last forever, and they’re preshrunk, so how the tee fits when you buy it won’t change when it comes out of the wash.” All of these factors point back to the Warren’s philosophy that t-shirts should be comfortable, flattering, and most importantly, something you want to wear: over and over.
Designs as Colorful as Northern Michigan
Tee See Tee’s slogan is: “We don’t just make shirts, we make the shirts your memories wear.” What this represents, according to Warren, is the idea that he wants his tees to hearken back to a specific memory or aspect of Michigan that sticks with you as years pass by. He used the example of his “HOMES is Where the Heart Is” design, calling upon the popular acronym used to remember the great lakes. (Come on, you totally know this!)
“I’ve had people from all over the country approach me while wearing this shirt, saying they remember being taught HOMES in grade school! It’s awesome being able to reach people that way,” Warren says. Some of his other tees include themes that will surely make you think of the Great Lake state, such as beer, boats, and… brass knuckles? Browse the gallery below to check out all the Tee See Tees available at ShopMyNorth.com:
Making for Michigan
A big part of Tee See Tee’s business comes from contracted work: from bands to race coordinators to local business owners, Michiganders are approaching Warren to make personalized designs. Demonstrating his go-getter, enthusiastic attitude, when asked how he got to design t-shirts for Traverse City’s The Accidentals, his reply was simple. “I basically stalked them,” he laughs. “I remember hearing them on the radio and immediately calling my brother, saying, ‘These girls are going to make it huge!’ I reached out to them with the idea of designing a shirt for the band, and we just clicked really well.” Warren ended up designing a shirt for Girls with Guitars, the songwriting/performing collective comprised of female artists from Michigan, as well as an Accidentals exclusive shirt.
So if you’re looking for a gift, memento, or just a base layer you’ll want to wear again and again that reminds you of why the Mitten State is so great, Tee See Tee is your go-to shop. Visit Beau in Blueregard—his roaming, one-of-a-kind Tee Truck—or visit ShopMyNorth.com.
Tee See Tee is based in Traverse City, Michigan, and is a featured retailer at ShopMyNorth.com.
ShopMyNorth is an online marketplace that supports and promotes Northern Michigan businesses and craftsmen. If you’re a merchant interested in placing your company’s products on ShopMyNorth, please contact Drew Warner at 231.941.3102.