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KPBS Producer Andy Trimlett Goes T-Shirt Hunting in San Diego

Recently, I grabbed my friend Lee and embarked on a grand quest to find cool t-shirts in San Diego. In normal times, shops that sell artistic t-shirts appear and disappear at Whack-a-Mole speed. But this economy has turned the San Diego t-shirt industry into a horror movie. The casualties we recorded Monday -- Waffo, Future of Style, and the Rags store in Hillcrest -- gone, gone, and gone. Waffo still lives online and Rags is open in Ocean Beach, but still, ouch.

But fear not! Many a fantastic t-shirt can still be found without resorting to a cold, faceless internet purchase. One of the first stops on our hunt now ranks as one of my favorite shops in town -- FeeLit. This place sells records, wire sculptures, jewelry, and clothing -- all from local artists. The t-shirts come from Stiska, who comes up with his particularly awesome designs over in Bird Rock.

Directly across the street from FeeLit, a faint hint of airbrush mixes with the sound of hip hop to bring you Kleen House. If you have the talent to be a b-boy or b-girl (which I assure you I don't), then Kleen will outfit you with locally-designed apparel.

Our last downtown stop brought us to Armory Survival Gear. First of all, what a fantastic name. Second, while they bill themselves as a hip hop store, they have some brilliant shirts that appeal to a far larger crowd than just the connoisseurs of funky beats.Third, Lee was very excited to find shirts that actually fit his body, which firmly qualifies as hefty. A lot of the artistic t-shirts seem to only come in sizes of small and tiny.

Jumping back in our truck, we headed over to Material, where we found a fun collection of shirts, my favorite of which featured a flying mouse with a patched-up wing. It's so sad when mice get their wings hurt.

Next stop: Pop! the shop. This place had clothes for guys and girls, but I particularly dug the girls' selection. Sitting on Lincoln, about a block from 30th, it's probably not a place you'd walk by if you were just sauntering around North Park, but it's really only about twelve steps off the beaten path and well worth those steps.

We ended our tour at Enclothe, which is like the LA bar of t-shirt shops. There's no sign anywhere, not a single Yelp! review,and it's hidden in a little alcove next to the Rubber Rose on Ray Street, so you will feel super-deluxe cool just being able to find it. The guys that run it design almost all of their own shirts and print them on a screen press right there in the middle of their shop. It's worth the visit just to see that crazy contraption, but they also have some of my favorite t-shirts in town.

I've already got a few good destinations for our second t-shirt adventure, but I'm looking for more.If you've got a recommendation, please post a comment.

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Photo by Amy Isackson

The Stiska selection at FeeLit. I am now the proud owner of the shirt on the right.

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A big fat tank from Kleen House.

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Killing Them Softly with his shirt at Armory Survival Gear

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Genetically modified mouse at Material

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Singing jazz at Pop!

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Abe Lincoln, Zombie Hunter at Enclothe

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You have to check out the screen printing press at Enclothe


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