Food & Drink

Meet Macklemore’s T-Shirt Guy

Graphic designer Sam Bledsoe’s eclectic style is catching the attention of hip-hop’s heavy hitters

By Andrew Hoge July 17, 2018

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This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of Seattle magazine.

This article appears in print in the July 2018 issue. Click here to subscribe.

If there were ever someone who embodies the Seattle “cool kid,” Sam Bledsoe would be it. The graphic designer applies his artistic eye to his work at Seattle-based clothier Tommy Bahama and credits his creative outlook to growing up in the Seattle rap and graffiti communities. Bledsoe calls his personal style “Garth Boi,” a look that combines Garth Brooks’ rock country swagger and the emo rap stylings of Goth Boi Clique. In Bledsoe’s closet, you’ll find an eclectic mix of vintage statement pieces and skater essentials (think black Levi’s and Vans), accented with unexpected high-fashion elements. “Gucci is my favorite,” he says. “And they are designing some of their pieces to look more bootleg, so it fits me.”

What’s in a Name
In December, Bledsoe launched his own T-shirt company, Samborghini, a play on his first name and the luxury car brand. The shirts feature colorful pop music lyrics and in-your-face graphic imagery. Shortly after launching, the brand received a celebrity nod on Instagram from Seattle rapper Macklemore, whom Bledsoe has known since high school and calls a friend. The post resulted in an order spike, and in the short time since, Bledsoe has received further celebrity attention, including from the hip-hop trio Migos, whose fashion merchandise he ended up designing.

Thrill of the Hunt
Bledsoe was a fan of baggier clothing in his youth, but his style has evolved since attending Nathan Hale and Roosevelt high schools and working in the fashion industry. He finds inspiration in the oddness of things, such as an imperfectly drawn image or the details of old packaging. The vintage flare favored by Seattle’s underground rap community also influences his creativity. “It’s totally acceptable to wear something you found in a vintage store, and people will think that’s cool,” he says. “Because it’s all about ‘the hunt’ when looking for special pieces, which makes the find even more unique.” His favorite places to hunt? Hall of Fame Vintage in Tacoma, Vintage Ty’s booth in the Fremont Vintage Mall and Value Village in Lake City (some of the same stores where Macklemore filmed scenes for his video, “Thrift Shop”).

Island Life
A self-taught graphic designer (“I learned a lot on YouTube,” he says), Bledsoe currently designs the familiar tropical prints of Tommy Bahama.

“My favorite technique I’ve learned is gouache [a method of painting with opaque watercolors] that gives the prints that flat, classic Tommy Bahama look.”

WEB EXTRA: See more photos from our shoot with Bledsoe below. Photos by Alex Crook.

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