Why you should care

Because the summer is coming and you’ll need to make the coolest statement without saying a word. Let your T-shirt do all the talking.

Ever reminisce on an ex-love from long ago? What about that that crush from high school, college, or heck, Peggy from that one summer trip? The best way to honor those vivid memories is to support the hottest T-shirts to hit the market in a while: Old Flame.

The brainchild of successful New York entrepreneur, Paul Dewitt, Old Flame is a lifestyle brand based on nostalgia. The designs are conceived from logos of the many matchbooks found in dive bars and jazz lounges where both young and old, rich and poor, have hung out, gone drinking and had some such memories.

Interior shot of a bar with old school hair dryers as chairs

Beauty Bar, New York

Dewitt, in his mid-50s with salt and pepper hair and a surprising boyish charm, hung around in the clothing business as a hobby for a short time in the early ’90s. He acknowledges that his recently deceased ex-wife sparked his taste for the fashion biz. After the women’s line they ran back then folded, he partnered with a buddy on another T-shirt line called RetroActive. It was made up of vintage designs through heat press insignias. That didn’t pan out either. Then in 2013 came the idea for Old Flame. “I had all these matchbooks and I loved the imagery,” he explains fondly. “I said, this would be great on T-shirts.”

After shifting through some at flea markets, surfing the Internet to find more images and going through his own personal stash of matchbooks, Dewitt was ready to produce. Some design examples, all based on real locations, include: a Shreveport, Louisiana speakeasy named Glass Hat (identifiable for its typical top hat image), Dorkey’s Alibi Inn out of South Bend, Indiana (a naked woman perched on the word “Dorkey”) and a classy flamingo for NYC’s Stork Club. That’s just the start; with 25 other shirts you are bound to find one from your neck of the woods.

The price points for the mostly monochrome prints (a select few have multiple hues) range from $24-30 on the OldFlameGoods.com site. Sales, though steady for a small boutique brand, aren’t Dewitt’s be-all end-all for success. He’s already got plans to expand the name into a spirits brand and a few other cool ideas on the horizon. And just in case you thought you couldn’t make a career out of nostalgia, chew on this: Dewitt is also one of the founding owners of the national chain of bars, named Beauty Bar, based on old beauty salon themes. Yeah. You can.

Fun, crazy and aged from eras long gone, Old Flame tees are still cool enough to rock in modern times. It’s the Americana that makes it a special get. Strike a shirt while it’s hot and think about the old flame that got away … in style at least.

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