Cleveland company sells shirt that looks like shirtless J.R. Smith

ByDarren Rovell ESPN logo
Monday, June 27, 2016

You can now look like a shirtless J.R. Smith while still wearing a shirt.

Cleveland-based T-shirt company Fresh Brewed Tees has struck a deal with the Cavaliers guard and one of the tattoo artists who decorated part of his body so that the company can sell a front and back tattoo body sleeve shirt that matches Smith's tattoos.

"We did a mock-up of what the shirt would look like as a joke and it went viral," said Fresh Brewed Tees owner Tony Madalone. His Friday tweet of the mock-up, which featured the tattoos on the front of Smith's body on a shirt, garnered 6,300 retweets on Twitter.

Given the response, Madalone said he had to do something. So he called J.R.'s marketing team at New Generation Management to see if a deal could be struck.

"People were talking about how he didn't have his shirt on in Las Vegas, and then he comes off the plane with no shirt and social media explodes," said Andrew Hoenig, co-founder of New Generation. "And it continues when he doesn't wear a shirt to the parade, and then Obama calls him out. So there's no argument that J.R.'s shirtless streak isn't a part of this championship story."

Madalone agreed. Needing to continue the buzz as the competition aimed to cut in on his share of the market, he worked quickly.

By 11 p.m. on Friday night, Madalone was at Smith's house having a photographer take pictures of his chest and back so that his company could produce a high-quality shirt featuring all the detail of his tattoos.

Madalone said he gave Smith a higher percentage of sales than he has given any other player in his company's history.

"It's going to do well, but the truth is, we would have been happy to have broken even here."

The shirts, which will go on sale Monday afternoon, are made out of polyester and will cost $34.99 each.

In order to pull it off, Madalone had to get permission not onlyfrom Smith but also from Jayme "Bone" Faulkner, a tattoo artist at Flaming Ink Tattoos in Los Angeles, who did most of Smith's chest. Faulkner was recommended by Smith's ex-girlfriend, who has a full bodysuit of tattoos, and he did the work in a couple of sessions in 2010 and 2011, Faulkner recalled.

"We have a cool relationship," Faulkner said. "He paid me thousands of dollars for my work so I try to support him whenever possible."

Smith's back was done by another tattoo artist, but Smith said that artist has died.

Another artist did his arms, wrists and knuckles, but since that wasn't included in the shirt, permission was not needed. Two logos did have to be obscured. The Jordan Jumpman logo on Smith's chest and the New Jersey Devils logo next to it were slightly altered.

"A simple Cavaliers championship T is nice, but for those who love J.R., this will be perfect," Hoenig said.