And if 27-year-old entrepreneur Brendan Burke had his way, there’d be no plastic derby hats or shamrocked t-shirts that are worn just one day a year.
He’s offering as a substitute American-made high-quality light-weight tagless t-shirts.
“We want a more authentic approach,” said Burke, the founder of Wild Rover Clothing (www.wildroverclothing.com). His first line of t-shirt designs, for example, has one that quotes James Joyce.
The line, designed by friend Barry O’Meara, is named Johnny Odie, which is the name his maternal grandfather, a County Roscommon coalminer, answered to in life.
Said Burke, who was raised in Mamaroneck, N.Y., and now lives in Woodlawn: “I’d like to connect street wear with traditional Irish culture.
“If I wanted to sell a few t-shirts, I would have done that by now,” he said. “The focus is on the long term, building a brand.”
Burke, who has a degree in communications from SUNY Oneonta, got his idea when listening to the Pogues on his iPod and reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point.”
Gladwell uses the example of the revival of hush puppies in the 1980s as to illustrate his concept of an “epidemic.”
Burke thought: why not a fashion epidemic that is inspired by and promotes Irish culture?
“I’m not an artist,” he said. “And I don’t come from a fashion background.”
But the entrepreneur’s role is to marshal a variety of talents.
“I’ve been very lucky that I’ve family and friends that made significant contributions in design, promotions, photography, and the web site,” he said.
He cited in particular O’Meara’s design work, Danielle Devito’s photographs, and Darren Meaney’s help with marketing and other aspects of the fledgling business.
Members of his large extended family, which is solidly blue collar, like to point out that he’s something of an oddity. “I couldn’t swing a hammer,” he said.
“My parents worked hard so I could do something different,” added Burke whose brother and sister are 13 and 10 years his senior.
He works in high-end security solutions in the financial sector. He’s in sales, which is what he likes and is good at.
“But building your own business – all the different aspects of it — that’s what gets me excited,” Burke said.