The newest T-shirt from 1771 Designs honors the memory of longtime Tampa Bay Rays play-by-play radio broadcaster Dave Wills, who tragically passed this March. 100% of the proceeds from the shirt are being donated to Buddy Baseball, a non-profit he was dedicated to and supported in Tampa.
As more and more attention is being put on preserving the character and charm of St. Pete, a born-and-raised native of the Burg is doing his part to help keep St. Pete, St. Pete. Matt Shapiro founded 1771 Designs in 2020, and the locally-themed t-shirt and apparel company has already become a cult favorite.
While Shapiro’s designs span the entirety of Tampa Bay – including some extremely popular hockey shirts – the majority of 1771 Designs’ output is centered on St. Pete. One of the best sellers is their “No ‘S’ in St. Petes ” design, alongside shirts featuring everything from the skyline and the St. Pete Pier (both old and new), to the Skyway and the city’s unofficial mascot, the pelican.
For those looking for deeper cuts, we’re big fans of the “I Climbed Thrill Hill” t-shirt, ourselves. Sports-themed shirts cover everything in the area, with football, baseball, hockey, soccer, and even grand prix offerings filling out an extensive lineup. Those who lived in the area before Champa Bay became part of the local nomenclature may enjoy the “I Supported Our Teams Even When They Sucked” shirt. Tough, but fair.
1771 Designs celebrates all things St. Pete
The inspiration for these shirts came from what Shapiro saw as a lack of high quality shirts that represented St. Pete well. The wide variety of designs ranges from retro to niche to classic St. Pete looks.
“I wanted some cool graphic shirts that showed off our city without being touristy or tacky,” he explained. “And I was tired of seeing all these graphic tees of other cities that aren’t St. Pete.”
With some time on his hands after covid temporarily shut down his family’s gallery, Shapiro got to work. First, he made sure he found high quality material – good shirts that can be worn seven days a week, and will last. Then came the designs, followed by hand-pressing the designs into the shirts themselves.
And after that, a bit of good fortune came into play. As the Tampa Bay Lightning were in the middle of a run to the Stanley Cup, some of the players’ wives discovered his shirts and not only bought shirts for themselves, but caught the interest of some of the players, as well. As a result, it’s no surprise that some of the most popular shirts from 1771 Designs are the sports-themed gear.
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And even still, as the company has taken off, every shirt is pressed by Shapiro himself.
“I make every shirt with lots of love,” he said. “My goal is to make a badass shirt that people are going to want to wear. Seeing someone wearing my shirts is a huge thrill for me.”
In the two+ years since getting started, Shapiro has put together an impressively large selection of shirts, including double-digit collections. In addition to the sports collections, 1771 Designs also offers city-themed gear for both St. Pete and Tampa, sun protective shirts, tank tops, youth/baby gear, women’s apparel, and a host of retro Tampa Bay shirts. And with each of them, Shapiro remains committed to his focus on high quality.
“I learned really quickly that cheap shirts are cheap for a cheap reason,” he said. “I picked a high quality, soft poly-cotton blend, so that they’re a little lighter as well. You can wear it as much as you wear any big brand shirts. That’s my goal is to replace those shirts with my shirts.”
All of the shirts, with a rotating lineup of designs, are available at 1771designs.com.