Isac Walter of Echo Park, Los Angeles is a blogger and a very good one. The best bloggers, like most successful products, establish an identity, a brand that immediately communicates its personality to its target audience.
Isac Walter’s blog started with a name that attracted attention—with a cheeky sense of humor and a generational dog whistle—a semi-secret code that meant something to those in the know. That name, minor thread.com. was a light-hearted pun based on the name of one of his favorite punk bands, Minor Threat. Isac was a punk rocker (or at least a big fan of the rebellious music he loved to listen to and watch) and the name gave his brand an “attitude.”
A name alone, however, is not a brand. A brand has to have attributes to have an identity and Isac came up with one of the best ways to communicate what his blog was all about. Rather than just catalog and curate his collection, he would wear a different band t-shirt, rock t-shirt, music t-shirt, or some related item every day, photograph it, describe it, tell readers how he acquired it, and why. Every t-shirt tells a story. It’s not just a matter of data entry. His postings are interesting and fun to read.
His passion for buying and collecting band t-shirts kicked in when he 15, and started regularly attending concerts. Now it has become something bordering on an obsession that is so grand it may be concept art.
Walter not only collects band t-shirts, concert t-shirts, rock t-shirts, and a handful of other pullovers, but he wears them. He dons a different music t-shirt each day and never wears the same shirt twice. He may aim for wearing 5000 unique t-shirts in a row before he is done. He is currently at about 2200 shirts worn as of the last ten days of July 2017.
Organizing them is a challenge but he has managed to avoid losing track of which shirt he has already worn since July 18, 2011, the day he began his blog. He says he has worked out a system that keeps the t-shirts he’s worn out of his fashion rotation. The blog provides him with a record the of the shirts he’s worn and he chooses a new unworn t-shirt from among those he has not yet worn.
Most brand names and logos fill out the brand’s image with a tagline. Minor Threat’s is “Out of Stock.” Apple’s tagline is “think different.” Steve Jobs didn’t want anyone to think the company he and Steve “The Wiz” Wozniak founded was a rigid bureaucratic dinosaur like IBM. The brand story should offer some insight into its philosophy and either be fun and memorable or something abstract that can be filled with the brand’s attributes—like The Beatles or Google.
It’s not just about what an enterprise does, but how they portray themselves to their target audience. Isac Walter’s “brand” is based on his concept. It was what interested Forbes Magazine in writing a story about him and what he did. Other publications followed suit. He now has his own channel on Vimeo that allows him to communicate with thousands of viewers.
Walter has spent much of his adult life in the music business. After beginning as a label manager for Big Wheel Recreation,1999-2001, he worked in product marketing for Capitol Records 2001-2005; he worked as the marketing director at MySpace (now Myspace with a lower case s)2005-2011 as editor-in-chief, music; he was in charge of music supervision and consultation for Hallraker on a variety of feature films, television, and web-based programming where his responsibilities included working directly with film and TV directors, networks, and record labels to curate soundtracks and negotiate music licensing.
He is currently the owner of Project Mersh, where he specializes in handmade screen-printed merchandise. He is responsible for apparel and logo design, color consultation, artwork reproduction, screen printing textile and paper goods and maintaining the company e-commerce site.
Walter also makes band t-shirts recreating vintage items. He does this to make them affordable to people who may not be able to spring for shirts that may sell for something like $500 or more on eBay. He also has the option of wearing the vintage design recreations as part of his daily quest.
Occasionally, his choice depends on his mood. He recalls that one day he wore a band t-shirt from the San Francisco-based “slowcore” group Red House Painters: "Today I feel very Mark Kozelek. It feels very slow, sepia toned and relaxing. So I popped [on] this shirt."
"I always have been a music fan," says Walter. "I worked at a record store when I was 20." He also collected CD's, but when CD's eventually became more difficult to find, he started paying more attention to his rock t-shirt collection. He sees it as a way to help out the groups he enjoys.
"There's that side of me that's always a punk rock music fan that wants to say thanks to the bands," he says. "A lot of this collection comes from me wanting to support bands."
It does help support bands find a way to increase their income as the music industry’s business model shifts. No one has yet found a way to download a shirt.
“When I wear a shirt of a band I'm really proud of what I'm wearing," Walter says, "It's just like the analog version of posting something on Facebook or tweeting about it." He calls buying and wearing a band t-shirt "the human version of social networking." Tumblr, Boing Boing and Spin, sometimes re-blog his Minor Thread postings. He posts regularly on Twitter.
Here is a sample of the kind of writing he posts on his blog: “This shirt today was bought straight off the back of someone at a club. I think I traded the guy a vinyl version of whatever band was playing for it. He took his friend’s button up and walked in to the bathroom and swapped it out, and viola, I am the proud owner of a Morrissey shirt from my fav era, Southpaw Grammar.”
When asked in a Q & A on the blog.Light in the Attic, which shirt he most wanted to add to his collection, he responded, “I don’t know. I mean, I love shirts, but I would think it’s probably a shirt that I don’t even know exists, you know? Like some one-off shirt the Smiths made for a Meat Is Murder one-off show, you know?"
When the question was what is the most embarrassing shirt you own and do you get rid of or trade shirts for bands you don’t like any more, or do you keep them as reminders of that confused time in your life, like regrettable tattoos? his answer was: “Hands down it is a Lily Allen shirt. But in my defense, it was for a show that I put on while working at MySpace. And I only made like 20. So maybe somewhere out there, there is a Lily Allen fan who is jealous of that one.”
Urban Outfitters pays tribute to Isac Walters and minorthread.com on its own blog this way:
“Collectors of anything are usually broken into two categories: enthusiasts and scum. Some collect things with the intention of flipping them for profit and others have an attachment that stretches beyond the object. The true collector owns the feeling of something, not the thing itself. Isac Walter has thousands of band t-shirts, but infinite memories connected to finding them, buying them, and listening to the bands silk screened on their cotton frames. For Walter, the t-shirt tells the story of his life. But it’s not just a nostalgia trip, it’s about wearing his tastes and broadcasting his excitement about a sound.”