Be The Sign is giving quite a literal meaning to the phrase, “wear your heart on your sleeve.” Whether food, politics or science are your passion, the new business probably has a saying or a shirt for that.
Politics became the dominate theme of conversation for friends and Founders Paula Katz and Alisa Becker. Then two historic days occurred: the presidential election on November 8, 2016 and the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2017.
Their feelings went from shock to this is really happening, and conversations turned from words to actions. Katz says they started thinking about their role in the current political landscape and what they could do to help. Katz headed for the Women’s March on Washington. Then the first travel ban made waves. Becker was moved by the women that not only found a way to get to Washington, but lawyers and others that dropped what they were doing to head to the airports amid travel chaos.
“I don’t see this slowing down if this is week one,” Becker thought.
Then she had an idea: many an amazing and witty protest sign had come out of these situations, “What would it look like if you wore your protest?” Becker asked.
She stayed up all night writing down literally hundreds of slogans. With a fresh list of ideas Becker met Katz for lunch, and kicked off a whirlwind of three weeks that transformed a list of slogans into the business of Be The Sign. It would be their way of giving back.
The protest wear company launched on February 22 with a lineup of 20 iron on slogans. The duo opted for iron ons for many reasons.
“People love that they can put their own style into it,” Katz says.
Wearers can up-cycle an old t-shirt, add a slogan to a sweatshirt or tote bag, place the letters down the sleeve, etc. At $6.50 each, the iron ons are also affordable. Be The Sign has since added made in the U.S. t-shirts, tote bags and buttons, but find the irons to still be the best seller.
Be The Sign says their slogans aren’t about “we hate this person,” but a more a positive, witty spin on a protest. Some of the sayings are obviously directed at certain individuals without explicitly mentioning names, leaving an element of interpretation.
Katz says people have been responding positively to that point of view that balances politics and other areas of passion. Be The Sign’s best seller is #IMWITHHUMANITY, followed by Scientists Put The Awe In Awesome, Alternative Is For Lifestyles Not Facts and But First, Feminism. Resting Impeach Face is on of Becker’s personal favorites and Fries Over Lies has proven to be accessible to a younger audience.
If customers are wearing their hearts on their sleeves, Becker and Katz are “putting their money where their mouths are.” Be The Sign donates 100 percent of its profits to organizations that support their beliefs and values.The business’ current lineup includes: Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign, HIAS, ACLU, Natural Resource Defense Council and Sierra Club.
In today’s heated political climate, folks may not always agree with the sentiments of a Be The Sign slogan, but Becker says the mostly non-aggressive tones of the shirts have generally elicited shrugs from those with different beliefs. While not immune to a social media comment here or there, the positive spin has kept the reception more positive.
Becker and Katz serve as walking billboards for their new business, often sporting Be The Sign slogans.
“It’s amazing how many people approach us when we’re wearing them,” Katz says. “I think that people just want to engage and it gives them an open forum.”
Find Be The Sign online at bethesign.org.