The Untold Story of the First-Ever Yooper Steez Shirt

If you’re in the Upper Peninsula, there’s a good chance you may have seen this photo circulating on Facebook in the last week.

Talk about a throwback! That photo has been around since 2008, but not many have seen it until now. Seeing it myself had me reminiscing and I thought I would share some details about the photo and the humble beginnings of Michigan’s original Upper Peninsula apparel brand.

The photo is of yours truly (formally I’m Justin Sailor, but most call me Bugsy), taken in 2008. I hadn’t seen that photo in a long, long time. Little did I know my face was being plastered all over Facebook. It turns out the photo was used in a blog post titled “29 Things People From The Upper Peninsula Have To Explain To Out-Of-Towners.” On top of that, it was promoted to just about everyone on Facebook who likes the Upper Peninsula.

Movoto listicle

In a span of 36 hours no fewer than fifteen people sent me a message about seeing me on their Facebook feed. Here are a few messages I received…

  • I see your photo in the ad for the Upper Peninsula on Facebook. Pretty cool! How did that come about?? (this one is from my mom, more to come on this later)
  • You made the cover! Nice work!
  • Dude, you are everywhere!
  • You’re on Buzzfeed homie
  • Thought that character looked familiar.
  • Whatttt?
  • You see this?

It is a little awkward when you unexpectedly become the cover photo of something you didn’t know existed, especially when thousands of people see it. There is no way of knowing how many people saw the photo, but as an Ambassador of the Upper Peninsula these things tend to happen. Though, some are better than others (disclaimer: I was not actually quoted in this article, but they sure made it look like I was).

It all started with an epic road trip

In the fall of 2007 I had finished my year-long 50-state road trip. I returned home to Baraga to figure out what was next in life. There were two key things:

First, without effort, I nearly collected a t-shirt from every state in the union (read more here), which inspired me to think of an iconic shirt of the Upper Peninsula. All I wanted was a shirt with the silhouette of the Upper Peninsula. I looked near and far and it simply didn’t exist. The idea was that without the text, if people knew the Upper Peninsula, they “got it” (it works nicely). If they didn’t recognize what it was, they’d ask.

Secondly, while traveling across America learning about people’s hometowns, they in turned asked a lot about Michigan, the Great Lakes, and the Upper Peninsula (here’s one of my favorites). I enjoyed taking on a role of ambassador of the Upper Peninsula and wanted to continue to do so when I got back to Michigan.

Humble beginnings

On January 6th, 2008, I purchased My mom was generous enough to contribute $100 (I’m not sure my dad knew), and Yooper Steez was started with $536 for the first batch of the Upper Peninsula Silhouette shirts. They arrived on February 22nd, in red, blue, black, and green.

What you see in the photo is the first ever Yooper Steez shirt. I busted out the first medium I could find (I’m a size large now), and asked my mom to grab her camera. We did an impromptu photoshoot and the first “steez photo” was born. The photos were uploaded to Flickr and, to this day, they are still being used by anyone who finds them. I’m cool with it. However, it is a good time to point out Creative Commons Licenses, listicles, and clickbait for those who are new to them. Remember to cite your sources when blogging! So we appreciate Movoto doing that. As for the content, that’s UP for you to debate.

Further down the post, they also include a photo from our friend Betsy with the first batch of buttons we made in 2010. I still rock one of the last original buttons on my laptop bag.

Upper Peninsula Buttons

Some outtakes from the 2008 photoshoot, thanks Mom!

There were 37 photos taken in that photoshoot, here are a few others that almost made the cut. And just in case anyone else wants to use them, go for it!

Upper Peninsula Outline
The Yooper Scooper

The photo also brings back to a few Hometown Invasion Tour memories. First off, a big shout-out to my friend Molly who knitted me the awesome hat while staying in Breckenridge, CO. Secondly, those are the original 574s! As for the sunglasses, they were purchased at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet in Honolulu.

For the photography geeks like myself, here are the specs from the photo seen around the world Upper Peninsula.

CameraCanon EOS 30D
LensEF 28-90mm f/4.0-5.6 USM
Capture DateFeb 22, 2008
Capture Time16:08:39 PM
Dimensions2336 x 3504
Exposure1500 @ f/11
Focal Length38 mm
FlashDid not fire
The fun continues

Since 2008 we have shipped shirts to all 50 states and have had customers submit photos from all seven continents. It has been a blast to bring you the Bracket of Steez, 906 Day, Lake Superior Sharks, and Yooper Singles. And there’s a lot more to come!

Stay awesome and do all the fun things.

Still fits today!

It still fits!

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