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Sleevecandy's 'accidentally ironic' thrift-store T-shirts

November 2, 2011 | 11:00 am

SleeveCandyExxonMobilThe way Reed Hushka sees it, the biggest problem with thrift shops isn't the lack of cool clothes but the hit-or-miss selection and sizes at individual stores. "I live in Chicago," Hushka said, "but my perfect T-shirt might be sitting in Austin, Texas."

And so a business was born. Calling them "accidentally ironic" and "ridiculously unique," Hushka is now exploiting his taste for questionably themed, collector and vintage T-shirts with the online business,, which Hushka founded earlier this year in Evanston, Ill., with three grad-school classmates from Northwestern University. Whether the shirts were made by a corporation or a community group, Sleevecandy sells all the ridiculously awesome T-shirts its shoppers are able to find at Salvation Army stores in Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit, where 30% of each T-shirt's sale price is donated back to the national charity.

Just half a percent of all the T-shirts sold by the Salvation Army are ridiculous or interesting enough for Sleevecandy, the 28-year-old Hushka said. And not all of them are fit to be resold. To make sure they're clean and in good condition, the shirts are washed at a Chicago warehouse and inspected for stains and holes before being photographed, tagged with search words and uploaded to the website, where they're sold for $16 to $52 a pop. The upper end of the price range, Hushka said, are usually of an '80s vintage and reference a major force in pop culture, such as Coca-Cola's switch to a new formula.

SleeveCandyCokeThe site has about 2,200 T-shirts for sale at any given time. Some go faster than others. An "Exxon Mobil Helping Hands" shirt sold within a few days. A "Striving for the Best -- Summer Camp 1996" "has been on the site forever," Hushka said.


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Photos: T-shirts found at Salvation Army and resold on Credit: