Monday, June 27, 2016

7 Questions With Rob Calabrese, Founder of HistoryTees

Rob Calabrese lives on Cape Breton Island, Canada and is the proprietor of  Being a radio DJ, Rob lived all over Canada before settling down on the east coast.  Summers are spent on the water with his partner Erika and kids Frances and Charlie.  If you want to find out more about the t-shirt biz, or just chat about Julius Caesar's war journal, he can be contacted at

1.      How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?

I have always an interest in history. In school here in Eastern Canada, our history classes were jammed with wars of European monarchs in the new world, the fur trade, loyalists, and the Plains of Abraham.  

But when I was in my late twenties, I came across a book in a used book store by historian and illustrator C.B Falls called 'The First 3000 Years.'  It was a sampler of the rise and fall of civilizations in the Middle East and Europe.  I devoured the book in no time. That was a real turning point. 

2.      What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

In a way, ancient history has ruined me for popular entertainment.  Frodo's adventure in Lord of the Rings is exciting, but not as exciting as Alexander's journey east.  I'll never get into the Game of Thrones because it just can't compete with the triumvirates in ancient Rome.  
I think this is partly because fiction has to be plausible. Ancient history does not. 

3.      How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?

I'm not sure its played a specific part. I work in radio and do find myself often looking for interesting facts or stories to share with listeners. I know from time-to-time my love of history has seeped into my show. There are sagas or battles or ways of life that I find so compelling or spend so much time thinking about that its hard not to share. 

4.      Why is studying/knowing history important?

It has been my experience that knowing history adds texture to today's world. One thing that any student of history can tell you is that people keep doing the same things over and over again.  We've been making the same mistakes, following the same leaders, and using the same tactics to gain influence for thousands of years. When you can recognize these similarities it gives you a special insight to the likely outcome. It also gives you a better understanding of world events and helps you make more informed opinions.

5.      What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

I am definitely an ancient history guy.  The haziness of our understanding leaves so much open to speculation.  In many ways it was like a different planet, in terms of what was normal to these people, what was scary to them, and the things to which they were indifferent.  But then you read their own words, and you discover that in so may ways, they're just like us!

6.       What is HistoryTees and how did it start?

Around here hockey is king, and sports fans always seem to have a tonnes of ways to show their team pride. For us history folks, though, there was precious little.  I thought it would be neat to have sports-styled, or fun history themed shirts for people who take as much pride in ancient civilizations as some do in baseball or hockey. I made some for myself to wear at first, then some friends wanted some as well, and the next thing I know, I am in business!

7.      What are your inspirations for tee ideas and what is the creative process like?
Initially, I was really inspired by both a sports-jersey styled shirt and the civilizations I was most familiar with. As the business has grown, a lot of suggestions for specific shirts have come from people who've found my store. I let my customers know on my site that I'm open to suggestions: if there is a particular civilization or people they really love, send it along. 

I also want the shirts to be stylish. Something that will reflect a love of history, but also be appropriate for casual Friday at work or a night at the pub. I think you can see this in the quality of the shirts, the fonts, the images, and the colour palette.

I know my inspirations will continue to change as my own knowledge of history changes and through conversations with customers. And that's one of the great things about this business - the sky's the limit really.

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