Learning from a 20-year old T-shirt

Learning from a 20-year old T-shirt

This is a real conversation I had in Lisbon a while back.

Did you really do the shoplifter T-shirt?’

The man asking the question worked for Airbnb.

I was in Lisbon to speak at Monocle’s Quality of Life conference.

I laughed as it was nearly two decades ago.

At the time, lots of skateboarders were always getting bag checked in shops because of the way they looked.

The real shoplifters dressed smartly so as not to draw attention to them.

So to make a point, I put the barcodes that you used to find in Library books in the sleeve of some T-shirts and printed shoplifter on the front.

Then I gave them to our skate team.

The next day, they brought Oxford St. to a standstill.

The police phoned me up and asked if I was responsible for this T-shirt.

They advised me to stop making it straightaway.

I put the phone down.

Then I phoned every bike and skate magazine to pull the t-shirt from the next month’s editions.

Of course, the story they printed was about being banned.

We only made 100. But it became folklore.

Now, the next part of the conversation gets even more interesting.

….He was pleased that it actually did happen.

Knowing that he then proceeded to show me his side-project.

Travel bags with a difference.

He showed me the bag.

It was made from one of the toughest materials on the planet.

A material used by the special forces for their bags.

You couldn’t put a knife through this and steal its contents.

With Airbnb, he had to travel to lots of countries with lots of cash.

This is why he came up with the idea.

The small bag was designed to fit $500,000.

And the bigger version, you guessed it, held a million dollars.


The thing I love about ideas is that they separate you from the herd.

They get you talked about.

And remembered.




David Hieatt

David Hieatt

Bankrupt at 16. Thrown out of college at 18. Joined Saatchi + Saatchi at 21. Started howies in 1995. Sold it to Timberland. Left. Started The Do Lectures. Started Hiut Denim Co.

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