« Scott Nonnenberg

Woot Shirts!

2014 Aug 29

the stack

I’m pretty much obsessed with woot shirts. If you know me, you most certainly have seen them in action: goofy, artsy, brightly-colored, muted, whatever. I’ve got so many I had to come up with a system to make it easier to choose among so many favorites.

But the key is that they solved a problem for me.


I’ve always hated shopping for clothes. I essentially binge-shop to get it all over with as fast as possible. I wait until the last possible second, and then rip the band-aid off as fast as possible.

Two separate times I went on a last-minute tour of stores in search of some sort of formalwear right before a wedding. But that was on the high end of the urgency scale. Most of the time the consequence of an unsuccessful binge is just to continue wearing something with a hole in it for a little bit longer.

My standard technique was to spend an afternoon in a mall or downtown Seattle, someplace with a lot of stores. I’d try on as much as possible, and then when I found something that fit me well, I’d buy several. A few different colors, maybe some slight style variations.

But I needed to stick with what worked, because I had some fit problems. My arms were frequently too short for the long-sleeve shirts, and a lot of the t-shirts I tried were too long in the waist. Pants weren’t very fun either, since I’m on the low-end of the bell curve. Those panicked searches for formalwear often required a tailor, too. Stressful.


Buying clothes online??

Flash forward to July 2007, when a crazy little tech-focused discount retailer called woot started selling shirts. The news made its way to me through the tubes, and after some distressing clothes-shopping flashbacks, I broke through my negative associations. It was only $10, right? And so, I made my very first shirt.woot purchase on September 15, 2007.

I waited the four weeks for delivery, forgetting about it entirely. That’s the curse and blessing of SmartPost. From my perspective, it just appeared out of the blue! A nice surprise in a custom-printed plastic pouch with perforation down one side, enabling access to the shirt within via one smooth movement.

And the shirt fit! It actually fit on the first try, thanks to some measuring tape, a sizing chart, and the springiness of cotton. Not only that, but they used American Apparel shirts, so I didn’t have to feel guilty about the labor used to make the shirts!

shirt.woot packaging

A growing addiction

After that first positive experience, I was hooked. I was getting an email with a new shirt available every day, and I’d often click through just to read their cheeky product summaries. They employed real humor and real effort in writing those non-summaries. They were a new beast in the retail world, certainly.

Since I had proven my worthiness by buying a shirt, I could now vote in their weekly derbies, helping to choose which user-submitted designs were printed that week. A fun experience for me, and a brilliant business model for them. Rabid fans choosing which user-submitted design they will very likely buy? Printing money. And shirts.

I bought a shirt every time I encountered one I liked. And it was good. Without much effort, and certainly with no panicked trips to the mall, my wardrobe was expanding! I actually got excited about clothes! I bought socks to match the colors in my shirts. I coordinated like only a true geek can.

me and Danielle in tahoe, penguin/orca

The beginning of the end

Unfortunately, woot was bought by Amazon in 2010. It retained its character reasonably well for a couple years after that, but recently their daily emails were feeling a little more like spam. As if to confirm that thought, Matt Rutledge, the founder of woot, left Amazon this spring and started a statement of a company and new daily deals site. Seems there was a bit of a culture clash.

So, without much fanfare, this last June I decided to unsubscribe from the daily email. But I still proudly wear my collection. I take my shirts to multiple countries!

startup weekend lima and bird/branch

And my girlfriend even wears the woot shirt I got her, amazingly. :0)

Danielle and couldn't care less bear

The Future

Over the last seven years, I’ve bought 41 shirts from shirt.woot. But as the years wear on, the shirts will be worn, and will become worn. And I’ll need to find a new solution to my clothes-shopping problem. Maybe I’ll shop the shirt.woot archives, or maybe I’ll find something new. We shall see.

The shirts featured above:

I won't share your email with anyone. See previous emails.
Posted: 2014 Aug 29
Tags: fun
On GitHub: posts/2014-08-29-woot-shirts.md


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It's me!
Hi, I'm Scott. I've written both server and client code in many languages for many employers and clients. I've also got a bit of an unusual perspective, since I've spent time in roles outside the pure 'software developer.' You can find me on Mastodon.