NH Diary: Only in California I

Posted by on Jun 6, 2017 | No Comments

The Tag Collection began as an accident. On the way to a studio on Melrose Avenue, I spotted a mid-fifties Ford pickup in the parking lot of an apartment. complex. Bright yellow with polished chrome, it had recently been restored by an owner in love. Unfortunately, the mid-morning light came through a fence that, combined with a cinder block wall, cast hard shadows across the grille. I shot anyway, hoping I could minimize the shadows in the digital darkroom.

Then I lay flat on the ground and got very close to the brighter yellow, 1956 license plate that completed the restoration. Because the sun was directly overhead, the truck’s grille put the plate in even, glowing shade.

On the computer, the images of the grille were all shadow, but the plate came through as I had seen it. I repaired a few scratches, increased the saturation, and as an afterthought cropped off the bottom four-fifths of the image. The 1950s ribbon across the top struck me as a new angle on the plate.

The result led me to order it silkscreened on a batch of shirts that week, and they sold the moment we put them on the site.


The ’50s Tag Tee’s success surprised me, but I think the design has power because it speaks to a generation who got their first cars in high school in the ’50s, when gas was less than a dime a gallon. They remember the freedom they felt, the wonder of cruising away their worries in California. The shirt became the company’s bestseller.