The Magic of a T-shirt

There's a pretty good chance you'll toss out your old work shirt before you throw out that old college t-shirt pressed in the back of your dresser—that old t-shirt might have some grill stains, maybe some paint, but it stays while the rest come and go. Over the years I've designed many t-shirts and one thing never changes: I'm always amazed the effect t-shirts can have on people. After creating a new shirt with our marketing team at Mendix, we could never keep the shelves stocked whenever we were at an event. Stop by our booth, get an awesome shirt, talk some tech—no one I know would refuse such an offer :). It got me thinking, why do people love t-shirts? I've simplified it to 2 main reasons and I'm giving a little breathe into what makes the new Mendix shirt successful.

  1. Provides a sense of community
  2. Lends itself to nostalgia


Put on a t-shirt and you're instantly part of its crowd—you're saying to the world "I get it" (with whatever the shirt is saying), instantly fitting in. Successful t-shirts hit at some underlying message that can only resonate with those "who are in the know". It is a powerful opportunity to bring people and groups together. This strong sense of unity and community doesn't just affect the wearer, but those who design and have input in creating the shirt.


If you're not a developer or familiar with some of the more basic code languages, the Mendix shirt likely doesn't resonate with you. "Take a break from code" talks to a few things:

  1. HTML & CSS: The piece of the shirt that says "<br />" is syntax for the most common web code language on the net. This code snippet gives you a line break wherever you place the syntax—hence, "Take a break from code"
  2. Solid pun: Who doesn't love a great pun? A great pun adds an additional layer to the niche of the community you're trying to sell your shirt to.
  3. Worthwhile general messaging: The overall message of the shirt makes sense. Whether you code in HTML, PHP, Java, C++, or lead a team of developers, the message is clear and the sentiment is real: We've got a great tool that enables you to build apps faster, without code. The back of the shirt seals the deal on Mendix capabilities and offers what will help give you the break: "modeling".


Nostalgia is powerful because it recalls a particular feeling or emotion you've had in the past—A memory describes a moment or event, nostalgia recalls the feeling. Because of this, its easy to gloss over a period of time that we remember fondly; looking back on undergrad years or an old town you used to live in, all give way to a generalized positive or negative nostalgia.

Nostalgia isn’t about being stuck in the past, but using the past to give hope for the present, or even the future. It’s important to note the difference between nostalgia and a memory. A memory is recalling a specific event, where nostalgia is recalling a specific feeling." ( source

Shirts that best utilize Nostalgia are difficult to create and was not a factor in our T-Shirt design. We didn't want to look to the past, but be clear in our view of the future.

Netflix's Stranger Things show and logo harkens back to the 80's to play on our nostalgia—There's a pretty good chance Netflix has run the data and understands that a good portion of its users are children of the 80's, wherein the logo and timeframe of the show resonate perfectly (it helps that the show is great and well executed).

Its much easier to create a shirt that brings you into its community—a few inside jokes later and you very well might get it. Nostalgia will create a stronger response but is more difficult to fabricate: you've got to truly understand the dynamics of an era or time that most people can associate the feeling with. Create feeling and emotion that drives nostalgia and you'll have yourself a t-shirt hit.