Joel Bridger founded Socially Conscious Shirts, a company dedicated to raising awareness and providing funds for national protests.
As Occupy Philly enters its third week, protesters continue to stand in solidarity and gain supporters. In light of this, one student decided to join the cause by taking a stance outside the physical movement.
Joel Bridger, a senior education and social studies major owns a shirt business, Socially Conscious Shirts, and uses it to sell his first products: Occupy Philly and Occupy Wall Street shirts.
Its mission statement “Help us, help others” aims to align with the principles of the Occupy movements.
“The purpose of the shirts is to have each one that is sold benefit someone else,” Bridger said. “By helping me continue my business, this ultimately will contribute in my efforts to help fund other socially conscious causes, businesses, organizations, groups and people.”
As many people refer to themselves to be “sneaker-heads,” Bridger said he considers himself to be a “shirt-head.” He said he has always had a strong appreciation for shirts and the power they have to represent something of substance.
“Wearing specific shirts is a great way to wear art and wear what you are proud of,” Bridger said.
Bridger prints his designs on Gildan soft-style shirts, which is a wholesale brand he said he chose specifically because of the company’s fair trade and labor practices.
When he decided to come out with a socially conscious shirt-line, it was at the same time Occupy Philly began. The Occupy Philly shirts, which feature different sayings, are Bridger’s first product.
One slogan “The People United Will Never Be Defeated #occupyphilly,” speaks directly to the movement, as it represents a chant repeated during the early days of the movement.
In addition to taking from first-hand observances of the movements to make the slogans, he asks the protestors what words they want the shirts to read.
“The second I heard the chant start up I knew this was a cause I agreed with and a slogan that just fit perfectly,” Bridger said. “It’s like the idea ‘united we stand, divided we fall.’ If we can’t find some way to come together on basic human interests or need, then we fail as a nation and this is not the world I want to raise kids in.”
SCS is Bridger’s way of supporting and fighting for progressive change. In alliance with his mission statement, Bridger decided to give all proceeds from his shirts to the Occupy Philly movement.
“It’s the right thing to do. I’m able to provide them with not only shirts, but also with funding and services that ultimately drive more awareness to their cause,” he said. “Movements like Occupy Philly need money to support themselves and further their progress, and that’s where I come in. It’s an invaluable opportunity.”
During the past month, SCS has done well with building its name, Bridger said. Although the company is still in its beginning stages, he said he is constantly thinking ahead for what he wants his business to evolve into. His goal is to be the main supplier of socially conscious shirts specifically for on-campus events and fundraisers that seek to address socially responsive causes.
“For causes like breast cancer awareness, sustainability or anything along those lines, I want to be the go-to person for shirts that showcase peoples support and cause,” he said.
But Bridger said he also wants to make shirts available to those who aren’t within his vicinity. After the shirts are made, he plans to host them on his website so people unaffiliated with Temple can have shirts for the cause they support, as well. Bridger said he wants to provide movements with funding and therefore wants to collaborate with organizations on-campus and negotiate a set percentage of the proceeds for them to harbor from his sales.
“Ultimately, if my Socially Conscious Shirts business grows, whether I’m making five or six shirts, or 50 or 60 shirts, I will be satisfied because these causes need as much support as they can get,” he said. “I will be advocating support both financially and through bringing about awareness.”
Bridger said he hasn’t always been as socially conscious as he is now and credits this change to the 2009-10 school year at Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus. There, he was working with ninth grade students struggling with single based addition and subtraction. From then on, Bridger said his social construct changed and consciousness expanded. He said he knew something had to be done and developed a bond with the students in the school and the urban community it was located in.
“This is one reason why I respect and support the Occupy Philly movement,” Bridger said. “They are fighting for social and economic disparities that long standing institutions have ultimately created and that must be addressed.”
He said he believes Occupy Philly protesters are leading by example. They want to see a change made and said they believe they can find ways to make it happen.
“Occupy Philly is an organic form of how democracy should be handled. They are working to form a majority consensus and make changes that are in the their best interest,” Bridger said. “People can always write their congressman [or] woman to evoke change, but if you don’t gather thousands, your voice won’t be heard.”
He said he believes America needs more businesses like his to, “create positive economic and social change which would make the world a better place.”
Bridger sells his shirts in the midst of the Occupy Philly movement in Center City at least twice a week between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. He is most likely to be there on Tuesdays and Thursdays and on select days of the weekend, as well. Online purchases are $15 dollars and on-site purchases are $10.
Bridger’s website SociallyConsciousShirts.com sells the shirts he has made thus far.
Shanell Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.