For aesthetics’ sake

Tom Davenport

Photo By Larry Dalton

The T-shirt long has been an American favorite. It first made its way to America’s shores during World War I, when American troops noticed European soldiers wearing them as undergarments and copied the idea. In 1955, James Dean sported one as outerwear in the film Rebel Without a Cause. It effectively landed the T-shirt as a symbol of rebellious youth. Today, it seems everyone is using the T-shirt as a vehicle for their cultural and social beliefs. From political affiliations to sexual identity, T-shirts have become an inexpensive means of delivering any message.

Tom Davenport (pictured with his wife, Amy), principal designer and owner of

Tommypop , knows that there are others, like him, who can appreciate a T-shirt for the mere aesthetics of it. So, he has decided to put his creative mind to work for the sake of us all. Tommypop is located at

In a market that is flooded with T-shirts, what sets Tommypop apart from the rest?

Tommypop doesn’t make any kind of a statement, and that’s what we really like about it is that it’s not really bold and obvious. [Tommypop designs] don’t put down any other groups of people, and they don’t represent a culture that the consumer doesn’t actually live. I know that there are a lot of other young people like myself who care about style but don’t go out shopping for it. I wear T-shirts, but I don’t want everyone asking me what my T-shirt means. These shirts are for a market that is, surprisingly, often misrepresented in the apparel industry.

How would you describe the Tommypop style?

It’s pretty nondescript. We try to make nice-looking designs that will appeal to people like us, younger adults in the 20-to-30-something age range. The goal is to give the tees a nice urban look but not have it be exactly like hip-hop fashion, because most of the urban designers end up just doing hip-hop type designs—not that we definitely want to stay away from that, but we want to do something a little bit different, something that appeals to a broader range of people. The main point is that we didn’t want to make any kind of statement or anything—nothing flashy or really obvious, just nice, clean-looking shirts. I don’t try to dictate style. I encourage any of my customers to incorporate their Tommypop tees into their own style. That’s what it’s all about. That’s why we ask our customers to send us pictures of themselves wearing our tees, so we can post them in our up-and-coming picture gallery.

How did local electronica musician Dusty Brown, who designed your Web site, come to work with you?

I’ve know Dusty for like 10 years, off and on. You know, we were acquaintances. Then I ran into him somewhere one night, and he kinda sold himself to me. So, I checked out his work, and I really liked it. It’s just the idea of keeping everything local—not just local in Sacramento but in California—keeping everything local and supporting people like us, people in our age range, young business people. That’s one of the goals.

Your Web site features a link to Command Collective (the electronic-music collective including Chachi Jones, Dusty Brown, Fruitbat, Faster Faster and Tycho) as well as a pop-up radio featuring local and more well-known bands. How important is music to you and to your design process?

Oh, I mean, it’s really important. I’m a big music fan. As far as the design process goes, a lot of the influence comes from artwork that would appear on album covers, anything like that, you know? Basically, I’m inspired by ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s rock ‘n’ roll artwork. I’m not a professionally trained designer. I just go off of what I like.

What’s in your home stereo right now?

I’ve been stuck in a rut of listening to ‘60s music. It’s not that I have anything against new music. It’s just that there isn’t a whole lot of new music that really appeals to me.

Describe your perfect environment for creating.

I don’t know if I have a perfect environment for creating. It seems to me that if I knew what that environment was, I would be forcing myself to create, and that’s not how I operate. Usually, I’ll just see something that sparks an idea, or I’ll have an image in my head. I like to be alone and have quiet when I’m actually trying to get the image out and working with the design on the computer.

Do you have a favorite Tommpypop design?

Probably any of the ones that I didn’t come up with. There are a couple of designs that are by Scott Hansen [Tycho]. We’re planning on working together more in the future, but a couple of his designs are on the T-shirts, and I like his artwork a lot. It’s got a different look, but it’s nice because it keeps it from being one-dimensional. It’s nice to have somebody else’s influence in there.