Dirty designer

David Rivers

Photo By tyler harbaugh

David Rivers leads a relatively simple life. He works during the day for Cal-Clean Office Cleaning and cares for his three children as a single dad, but it’s his hobby that’s getting him attention. A little more than six months ago, Rivers created Chico Dirt Shirt—now dubbed California Dirt Shirt—a small clothing company run in his back yard. His process of taking white T-shirts and throwing them into a 1950s-era Maytag washing machine—“Betsy”—full of dirt and mud in his back yard has created quite a buzz. Following the idea of Hawaiian Dirt Shirts, which were created when Hurricane Iniki blew red dirt into a small screen-print shop, Chico Dirt Shirts are an interesting commodity. Since their creation, Rivers has made other products such as shirts that read “California Dirt Shirt” and baby onesies that say “Chico Dirt Squirt” Check them out online at www.californiadirtshirt.com.

How did Chico Dirt Shirt begin?

The shirt idea was inspired by Hawaii because I lived in Maui for a year, and I’ve always had that idea in the back of my head. Just this last year I decided to shovel my back yard and try it out. It originally started in a bucket, and I just did one shirt to see if it would work, and it worked. So I bought a regular washer and it broke within a week. I was about ready to give up right there but I decided that I was going to get an old ringer washer.

How long have you been in operation?

June is when I got into the store here in Chico [Made in Chico] and I got some publicity with the E-R and the news did a clip. Then Turtle Bay called, in Redding, and they were like, “We want your shirts in here,” but they wanted like “California Dirt Shirt,” and “Older Than Dirt,” and other titles.

How successful have you been so far?

It’s been fairly successful as far as the two stores. The Chico store’s really belting them out. I’m making hundreds of them at a time, and I have a lot of expenses up front to help me sell, but they’ve been selling well. Now we have a website, so I’m hoping they’ll sell online, too. I haven’t had any sales online yet, but I just got the website up a week ago.

What’s your biggest obstacle right now?

Probably just promoting it and getting it beyond Chico. Locally, the reporters can come out and take a look at what’s going on, but somebody in San Francisco would have a harder time coming out here. So the biggest challenge is the marketing because the making of the shirts is a pretty basic concept.