Nichole Has An Evening With the T-Shirt Insurgency


I came across the T-Shirt Insurgency maybe (my recollection is fuzzy) because of the article about them in the Post, and found myself browsing their site with glee. You see, I too am a rabid opponent of high fructose corn syrup and the cartel that controls its production and distribution. I ordered myself a shirt warning of the perils of this vulgar corn-bastardization, excited to wear it around town and spread the word. I started getting antsy when an upcoming trip to Ottawa was drawing near and my shirt had still not arrived. I sent the Insurgents an email and discovered the delay was an issue of the banks, but that my shirt would arrive imminently. What I could not predict was that my shirt would arrive, hand delivered by Matt, to my office in Old Town.


I wore my shirt out that night (pictured here, on Aaron – the evil corn there is better known as Fructose Fructose Ghali) and told my friends of these guys on the Hill who were nice enough to hand deliver it to me, and shared with them some of the Insurgents’ other designs. I returned to Capitol Hill Books (which serves as a quasi-headquarters for the Insurgency) a few days later and bought four more shirts for my friends. I was told that buying all the designs garners that purchaser a free ham. (No hams have been given away. Yet. A pound of Kale goes to any vegetarians/vegans completing the challenge.)

So I sent the guys – Aaron, Matt and Kyle (4th Insurgent Justin is ensconced in an undisclosed location in the Seattle area; I was told that they are an “Aggressively Bi-Coastal” bunch) – an email with some hard hitting questions, and I provide for you their answers here: Answers after the jump.

Who is T-Shirt Insurgency?

We’re 4 guys from D.C. who met around 4 years ago and realized we shared a certain appreciation for the absurd. But enough about us, let’s talk about militant breakfast items…

How’d you get started in the crowded T-Shirt market and what was your first shirt?

We’d drink a lot of beer and toss around odd ideas and phrases to amuse each other. The “Some Blood For Oil” shirt was the first one we ever ordered, and other people seemed to agree with us, so we decided to start selling them.

None of us knew anything about t-shirts, web or graphic design, finances, or marketing, so it took awhile to get going. Actually, we still don’t really know that much about any of those things. We do have pluck however. Pluck in spades.
What do you do when you’re not making T-Shirts?

A couple of us work at Capitol Hill Books on the weekends and at non-profit orgs during the week. One of us has a moving business, and another works at a bike shop.
What are your favorite Cap Hill/H St. haunts?

One of the alienating things about running an insurgency is that security risks often prevent the insurgents from hanging out in the same place at the same time ala Supreme Court Justices… Also, Aaron has to walk Kodiak, so he can’t hang out anymore.

We’re regulars at 18th Amendment and we all hit up the Argonaut on H Street on a semi-weekly basis. We would like to add that those places suck and no one else should ever, ever go there and kill the vibe for us.
What’s next for the Insurgency?

Lou Dobbs has been in our sights for some time, so he’s about to get insurged upon in our next design. After that, I’m guessing we’ll come up with a Bela Karolyi appreciation shirt of some sort.

Not satisfied with a few answers changing hands across the internet, I spent Wednesday evening with the Kyle, Matt and Aaron, following them around and witnessing their display of knowledge of many things trivial. We met at the bookstore for a quick photo session where a fair amount of time and discussion was given to the new mural on the side of the still-under-reconstruction Eastern Market. Of particular interest was this gentleman:


For reference, he’s a part of these murals on the south side of the Market:


From there I followed the guys to the Argonaut for Trivia Night, where it was quickly apparent that they were regulars. (I should tell you – I’m not much of an interviewer. My notes from this adventure say things like “popular with neighbors” and “togetherness,” so I’m just going to go ahead and share my impressions of the evening.)

Choosing to call themselves Francis Bacon’s Pneumonic Chicken Discharge, I looked on and occasionally participated in the 7 Rounds of Trivia that followed. I’m pleased to report that the FBPCD were the winners of that evening’s bout. Their knowledge of things that win trivia contests is pretty formidable. And, this is what Insurging looks like:

What Insurging Looks Like

Things I learned while hanging with Insurgents:

They met canvassing for PIRG and bonded over not quite being the most invested in the cause.

They would someday like to form their own synchronized swimming team.

Matt loves manatees. And wore a lot of turtlenecks in high school.

Aaron’s favorite Olympic sport is the Modern Pentathlon.

Kyle has quite a cache of South American bus stories.

They have two new T-Shirts coming out within days; one is the aforementioned Lou Dobbs shirt, the other is something else entirely. Please check their site hourly for updates. (And buy some existing designs, like the most popular Guantanamo Bay tourist shirt, while you’re waiting to see what the future holds.) You can also head over to Capitol Hill books on Saturday and Sunday and meet the Insurgents and buy your goods in person.

I had planned on playing the ________ or __________ game with them on Wednesday evening but kind of forgot, so I sent them an email this morning. The answers I received were:

Coke or Pepsi? Well, we appreciate that Coke uses the Trujillo variety of Coca which is actually the most potent.

McDonalds or Burger King? Umm. Checkers. They got the Big Buford burger.

Heidi or Lauren? (that’s for Kyle, who I think accidentally confessed to having knowledge of “the Hills”)

Neither, I think, I like that dark haired one with the unnaturally white teeth…

NE or SE? SE, but we ain’t hatin’ on NE either.

SVU or Criminal Intent? C’mon.. be serious.

Front or Back? We can only guess what this refers to….

Green or Brown?

Dogs or Cats? Meerkats and Manatees.

Beatles or Rolling Stones? Beatles when we’re stoned, Stones when we’re drunk.

PBR or Schlitz? (High Life is an acceptable answer to this question) Whichever’s cheapest…

As a final note – the guys really are trying to reach across North Capitol St. and bring their shirts to all of you in NW, particularly at some of the upcoming street festivals and whatnot. However, for some reason that they didn’t understand, their permit request for the Crafty Bastards Fair in Adams Morgan was declined (despite their recent participation in the Silver Spring CB Fair). If anyone can help out with this and/or getting the guys set up at a booth anywhere else this fall, please email them at: [email protected].

That’s all for now from the East Side. Now, go and buy some damn shirts and support some homegrown irony. (And by homegrown, I mean Matt is actually FROM DC, so it’s a legit homegrown, not a fakey faker transplant homegrown.)

48 Comment

  • One word, three syllables: Jackasses.

  • I know that jackasses comment was you, Linda! Thanks!

  • Oh, maaaan. Pabst and kooky irony is for hiptards. Does this mean that high life is headed that way, too?

  • Something about that entry leaves me feeling… sad for the future of our country.

  • Perhaps my sadness stems from the post a while back about some great new Gatorade flavor. Sad that only a few months ago, high fructose corn syrup was apparently refreshing, delicious and a great way to work through a hangover.

    Come on PoP, don’t let the free flowing cheap beer suck you into this level of hipsterness. Because what comes next is a fixed speed track bike that costs $800 on craiglist, only to be ridden around town with a basket and streamers that match your leg warmers. And the world. doesn’t. need. that.

    And besides, Miller Lite is only $2 a can at the Red Derby, so, no excuses.

  • Eastern market looks good.

  • Okay- just read the title, which wasn’t coming up right on my reader–I was thinking this was written by PoP…. still, it makes me fear for our future.

  • If you don’t have anything nice to say….

  • I agree with all these entries. How dare they make goofy t-shirts and drink beer. We are all so much cooler than them, and they will wreck this country’s future.

  • Yeah… Why can’t they be more conspicuous with their consumption? You can’t just drink whatever beer is cheapest these days. Time to join the elite few who know what beer you should drink for optimal street-cred at any given moment.

  • Being a Hill resident I thought that was Capitol Hill book.

    I saw a t-shirt on someone that I have been trying to find it was black with white writing that said “go away.” Lower case letters and with a period. I want that shirt.

  • By the way, there is no difference between HFCS and sugar, not one remote difference.

    I’m old enough that not only do these dorks look like fools, so were half a dozen other Woodstock 99 fads.

    Look, I started my own company in college too. I thought I would make it big because I had a lot of customers in college and then I turned 22 and the company crashed and burned because all I did was capture something very specific to a very specific time and the new crop of 18 year olds were like, what the heck is this? We played Nintendo every day after school, we didn’t do THAT. Call it hiptardism if you want, but I know I annoyed my older friends and these guys are annoying me and those of us who have been there have seen novelty t-shirt companies come and go. These people are probably less interesting to interview than someone in Ocean City selling a t-shirt of a caterpillar having sex with a french fry.

  • I’d like to hear more about this “Kodiak.”

  • T-shirt guys – please stop ruining everything.

  • wow… everyone seems to be taking this all way more seriously than we take it… jesus.. not sure what the big deal is… we get drunk, we hand out the bookstore, we make absurd t-shirts that make us laugh.. we sell a few of them.. we don’t make any money… we don’t care.. we all have other jobs….the end…
    That said, all your comments have made us resolve to change our lives and use our free time to be cooler, more morally upright, productive members of society.. thank you all.
    T-shirt Insurgency is hearby disbanded.
    Also, we will bare-knuckle fight anyone who meets us and still wants to call us hipsters.

  • You Go T-Shirt Insurgency! I thought the post was quite funny. I’m not sure how anyone reading it feels “sad for the future of our country” and thinks the t-shirt guys are “ruining everything”. Like all the other posts in this blog, it is highlighting people/places in DC. You must be at some level of coolness to be that disparaging of what other people do with their time.

  • You must be at some level of coolness to be that disparaging of what other people do with their time.
    weren’t they making fun of the article, not the people? Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought the issue was “why interview someone with nothing to say?” This is like visiting your friend in the dorms at another school and everyone’s like “Did somebody say Strawberry waffles??” and everyone doubles over laughing and you’re like, what the hell are you drinking PBR for? Jesus, I knew these guys who listened to Steely Dan ironically because they knew a guy in the dorms who was a massive Steely Dan fan. You’d walk into their place and they delighted in singing Steely Dan lyrics which they thought were hilarious, but just bothered everyone else. I think that’s the concern here, not anything about these guys themselves, just that it’s not actually interesting to people outside their world.

    and I’ve been there too!

  • nice try easing your way out of a bare-knuckle boxing match, neener.

  • HAHAHA!…finally something funny comes from this post and its comments!

  • I agree with Neener for the most part- its the entire article, not just the subject. I don’t see the point in glorifying or highlighting a bunch of dudes who hang out, get drunk and or stoned and come up with t-shirt ideas. Not that we all haven’t done that, or “been there” at some point, but I guess its just not my definition of “the beautiful life.”

    I mean, if we want to profile some more drunk dudes who hang out, there are a few on my street that I’d be happy to interview. I don’t know their stance on corn syrup, but I’d be happy to ask.

  • Jesus..I want to hang out with Neener and take cold showers, watch David Lynch films and talk about important things like how they get those jellybeans to taste like real butter popcorn. Just you bathe in actual human blood or just boar’s blood? Because I am vegan. The latter is just unnatural.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Wow, everyone is very excited today. It’s a Friday in August so we gots to chill. Listen, PoP has always been a site that simply throws up interesting things from our neighborhoods. No more no less. PoP has never been an arbiter of cool, there are plenty of other sites trying to hold that mantle. Nor is PoP trying to be the New York Review of Books. It’s just a chill place that highlights interesting places, building, folks etc. Not everyone is going to like every post and that’s ok. I personally think the T Shirt Insurgency guys are hilarious and a very interesting bunch. No more no less.

  • Great post. Great tshirts. Crappy comments, but I’m glad my hood is too good for everyone else. I hope a new tshirt comes out of this nonsense – put me down for 4.

  • Wait? Does this mean we aren’t going to have a bare-knuckle brawl? I so wanted to be the ring dog.

  • yeah, i’m kind of disappointed too. only a hipster would try and stop a fight like that. so what beers am I allowed to drink?

  • I’ll bring the High Life and an ironic, hipster t-shirt for Celia.

  • yeah, geez. everyone is uptight today

  • Whoa – sorry, TSI guys. As the guy who helped kickstart the flaming, I want to unpack it a bit.

    I think that some of the reaction is due to the unique set of folks who choose to live in Columbia Height/Petworth, a neighborhood that my friends politely call “transitional”. While I love CH, I don’t think this site is cultivates a “cool” vibe. I like reading PoP because he has a serious eye for beauty and neighborhood culture that isn’t sardonic at all.

    There’s little to no snark here, but the site isn’t too earnest or focused on traditional community activism. Funny T-Shirts are cool and all, but to use your WaPo quote against you, the site doesn’t have any tinge of “we don’t think we can affect anything, so we just make fun of it.”

    I get the sense that PoP (and most of his readers) are trying to contribute to our neighborhoods in a positive way by living here, by exploring the beautiful and historic aspects of the hood, and by debating local developments and the ethical issues involved in being gentrifiers. And I don’t even own property here.

  • See, Oregonian – I think you’re jumping to conclusions. I was going to shut up and ignore all the insanity and ire that my little post inadvertently incited, but this just irks me. Over here on the Hill, what these guys are doing IS actually unique. Our neighborhood takes itself VERY VERY seriously, and to have guys like this not letting their day jobs overtake their lives is pretty impressive. What I saw hanging out with them was a bunch of guys whose neighbors all really liked them, whose fellow local bar/trivia goers were genuinely happy to see them, and who really cared about neighborhood institutions (and believe me – Cap Hill Books is very much one of those). These guys are very much a part of our community, and managed to be despite being pretty different from the status quo in this neck o’ the woods.

    Your implication that they aren’t interested in contributing anything positive to their neighborhood is offensive and false. But just because they (or I, for that matter) don’t feel the need to answer every question with an earnest, heartfelt, hand-wringing, “feel my gentrifier angst” response doesn’t make them drunken losers. It means they have a freakin’ sense of humor. Lighten up, guys.

  • Well, shit. I think I’m right, but no insulting implications were intended.

    I think you point out an important difference in what makes a contribution valuable in a particular neighborhood. Unfortunately, I think it’s a good reason keep articles about the Hill out of a blog about Petworth and it’s near surrounds.

    Now, back to my hand-wringing.

  • oregonian sure is a wet blanket.

  • Oh, well gee – I thought we all lived in the same city which last I checked extends east of North Capitol St. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I was able to spend a whole day within the confines of my neighborhood – or wanted to. I love where I live and I am pleased as punch that the PoP has offered me the opportunity to share with others what’s going on over here – both on the Hill and up north on H St. Read it if you want to learn a little bit more about what goes on outside “Petworth and it’s [sic] near surrounds” or don’t. Just don’t sit there and judge people and neighborhoods you don’t know and are apparently unwilling to learn about.

  • Good Point Nichole- I honestly didn’t see it that way at all, so I appreciate that kind of explanation. It really is an interesting thing to see the different flavors of the neighborhood.

    I feel like I live in a neighborhood where the last thing we need are young-ish, able bodied people glorifying the lazy, slacker, intoxicated lifestyle, so that’s my perspective. Sorry if it has undertones of “in my day, we walked to school up hill both ways!”

    If we were surrounded by the kind of people who’s lives revolved around sound bites and photo-ops and ladder climbing and happy hours at Old Ebbitt’s in our neighborhood, I might see these guys as refreshing, but its a different scene up here. We need more, not less ambition.

    It will be interesting to see how this blog adapts to including such different neighborhoods.

  • I know these guys, and thought you’d like to know, Parkwood Person, that they each have 3 jobs, and the reason behind the T-Shirts is to save up money and buy Capitol Hill Books when the owner retires and keep a small, independent used bookstore going.

    So there’s that.

  • Starting a business, with an aim of buying another local (non-bar!) business seems pretty ambitious and neighborhood-centric to me.

  • the people freaking out are reading too much into this piece. chill.

  • Wait a minute. So there won’t be a bare-knuckle fight? If not I think I may take on Izzy. Someone was posting some negative stuff about me and I think she was behind it.

  • Nichole: calm down, yo. Keep in mind that Oregonian re-entered the fray with an apology, for f’s sake, and an idealistic attempt to explain why people have been leaving less-than-nice comments.

    This is spiraling into a character analysis and turf war. Jesucristo.

    (Note: PoP, I think that the neighborhood expansion thing is an issue).

  • I’m just going to be quiet now….

  • Glad they’re trying to buy the store to save a small business. I wish that would have been the tone of the article rather than which Hills star they liked and what like liked to listen to while stoned.

    See what I’m staying? They’re doing good stuff- I’d rather hear about that.

    Have a nice weekend everyone.

  • Umm. yeah.. they’re selling t-shirts in an effort to keep one of the only used bookstores left in the city open after the owner retires. And the place is kind of a Cap Hill institution. If someone doesn’t keep it open there would be many a sad Cap Hill resident. Perhaps that wasn’t emphasized in the article, but maybe the reason is that the guys aren’t all about saying “Look at us and this great community thing we’re doing cause we care and we’re good people..etc..”, they just went out one night and drank some beers. Then all of the sudden they were hipster slackers somehow…
    anyway, hope they’re able to keep the store open.

  • who’s the mover?

  • Jesus, we have some hotheads here. It’s a t shirt company. You’d think someone wanted to open another bar on 11th St with how much freaking out there is.

    Matt is by far the sexiest of the insurgents. Most beautiful goatee. Ever.

    Uff da.

  • this got really stupid really fast… kudos to the insurgency for doing some sincere work to keep an independent book store open…no kudos to nichole for the stupid fluff piece on them… if you remain a contributor to this great blog, i hope you learn to control your anger and aggression. pop gets his shit ripped open for things like ‘garden of the day’, so you should have DEFINITELY expected some backlash for this post…also, you cant present these guys like a 3some of burnouts hanging out in a bookstore with their cool tees, not mentioning their lofty goals and admirable aspirations, and then jump everyones shit for not feeling them. obviously the people who read this blog want to hear about efforts to improve the community, so why on earth would you down play this great group and not mention that part of them? you made your own bed, so you should just chill out and sleep in it for now. i would love to hear more about the hill, so hopefully you can step up your game and do better next time.

  • These guys are awesome and refreshing! Thanks Matt and Aaron for moving me into my house last year – BTW you guys were right about my “clutter problem.”

  • AND hilarious!

  • i hear they’re dope t-shirts.

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