Indie Tee Spotlight #22: Go Ape Shirts

After a one month hiatus, the Indie Tee Spotlight is back! In the 22nd edition of the spotlight I feature Josh Perkins from Go Ape Shirts. If you enjoy fun tees, that are a little bit wacky, then Go Ape Shirts is definitely one to check out. Perkins, who resides in Tucson, Arizona, started Go Ape Shirts in May 2006 after having some success on the popular contest site Threadless. Since then, he has worked with a ton of brilliant artists and have delivered some of the most creative tees available on the Internet. 

Josh Perkins of Go Ape Shirts

Coty: How did you get started in the T-Shirt business? Do you have any formal training in graphic design?

Josh: I started off just playing around and submitting designs to threadless. I had a lot of fun trying to come up with creative ideas and seeing how much people liked (or disliked) them. I finally made a winner in April of 2006. Pessimistic or Optimistic was my first design printed there.

Several months before that, I decided that I wanted to print one of my designs and a few others that I liked. The winning money definitely helped fund that. In May, I launched Go Ape Shirts with four designs total. I do not have any formal training in graphic design.

Pessimistic or Optimistic by Josh Perkins

Coty: What’s the story behind the Go Ape name? What does it mean and how did you come up with it?

Josh: In high school I had some sort of weird fascination with apes. My friends and I would call each other ape instead of, say, dude or bro or something like that. One day at school, I walked into my friend’s class with an ape mask, ripped him out of his desk onto the ground, roughed him up a little bit, and left without anyone saying a word. I was a Planet of the Apes fan growing up. I even had the box set on DVD. I guess I just liked that they seem like goofier, animal versions of humans. To “go ape” is to get excited, go crazy, etc. To go ape shit is a step up from that. Go Ape Shirts is a play on that phrase.


Coty: Branding is important to any company, how would you define the Go Ape brand?

Josh: Interesting question. As you probably noticed, my shirts don’t have the company name branded across them or anything like that. I was never really into being a walking billboard. Now I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. In fact, I see those companies as much more of a “brand”, and I have a huge respect for what they do. I really consider Go Ape Shirts to be more of a store or a shop where people can just go to get cool shirts. I do go ahead and put my proud mark on each inside tag with the logo and url. The downside is that you can’t just look at a shirt and say, “Hey, that’s a Go Ape shirt.” However, I feel that the Go Ape name is more about the high quality of shirts and art. It’s almost a gallery of my personal taste, and I just go out and hope that people share the same interests. I hope that made sense…

Who Watches?

Who Watches Tag

Coty: You’ve featured many amazing artists on Go Ape. How do you go about selecting artists? Who would you like to work with in the future?

Josh: What goes to print is really all just based on my personal taste. I contact most of the artists to see if they want to work with me. Sometimes they have a piece that I am already interested in. Some like to make something new. I often get contacted by different designers, and I always will take a look at their work. I am really blessed in that I get to work with such talented and amazing people. Right now, however, I’m really backed up with designs to print, so I’m not taking any new submissions at the moment. Off the top of my head, some artists I would love to work with in the future are Little Friends of Printmaking, Oliver Hibert, Dan Sheffield, Emil Kozak, Sonmi, and loads more. I could really go on and on, but I have to hold on for now.

Coty: What has been the most challenging part about running Go Ape?

Josh: Go Ape is really a side project for me. When I first started, I was still finishing my bachelor’s degree. It got a bit rough when a ton of orders would pile up and I had an organic chemistry test that same week. I managed to find a balance though. This fall, I’ll be starting optometry school. I think this transition will be the biggest challenge in that I have to put order fulfillment and customer service in someone else’s hands.

Go Barbarian

Coty: What is favorite Go Ape tee and which is your best selling?

Josh: They’re all my favorites! Really, though, I think I wear Killovision and Evolver the most. Boo Boo Walker is the top seller since the beginning.


Coty: And finally, for those interested in starting their own t-shirt brand, what are three things that they should expect by being in this business? What is one bit of advice that you would give them?

Josh: I see so many t-shirt companies popping up all the time. Seriously, don’t go into this just to make money. Do it because it’s fun and something you would love doing. There is a lot of competition out there, and people are spending less money nowadays. Don’t go into it trying to make a quick buck. Also, a lot of people don’t realize… it is a LOT of work. As always, anyone can feel free to hit me up with any specific questions.

I’d like to thank Josh for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with me! Check back next week for the next Indie Tee Spotlight and in the meantime, go buy some tee from Go Ape Shirts!


  1. says

    Hi fred, yeah, Josh really puts out some amazing tees at Go Ape! Definitely check out their online store for the whole catalog!