Threadless designs are pop culture inspired usually leaning towards geek culture. Play of words and imagery are often used to communicate humor. But that isn’t what makes Threadless unique….
… Threadless fascinates me because it is one of the bigger open source shirt manufacturers that’s on the web (they also have a retail outlet now in the USA but their main business is still web based). I say open source because the creative team is composed of the thousands of gals and guys who buy the same shirts they wear: they are all consumers! Anyone with a Threadless account can not only purchase shirts, but submit designs as well. You get up to USD $12,500 if your design is chosen for print and $500.00 in commissions for reprints.
If you aren’t a designer, you can also accumulate points for referrals in the form of writing blog entries on their site, affiliate marketing links, or posting creative photos of you wearing your Threadless. Photos that are chosen get to be placed on the gallery page (see, no need for a product photographer!)
To make the deal sweeter, each shirt shipment comes with an iron on “I Love Threadless” statement which you can put on any shirt you want as well as Threadless stickers. Talk about community!
It is interesting how a traditional business can make use of the Internet to boost not only its sales but marketing as well. Threadless is a fine example of the open market concept which is often preached by Hugh McLeod, Seth Godin and present in books like the Cluetrain Manifesto and The Starfish and the Spider (huge thanks to Zafer Unver of Unilever Food Solutions for this great recommendation).