fashion du jour

How I Think You Should Leave Created the Shirt of the Summer


The sartorial equivalent of having a seizure snuck up, up, up, and away on us during I Think You Should Leave’s second season, with one of Tim Robinson’s many characters tyrannizing his colleagues with a web of kaleidoscopic chaos in a tale of two sketches. Here he is, a starving man away on business, who refuses to spend his per diem on anything other than Dan Flashes shirts “because the patterns are so complicated and rightfully so.” What is Dan Flashes, you ask? Exhale and wait ten more minutes into the episode to find out. It’s a coffin-free store down by Shops at the Creek that sells high-end menswear with distinctively aggressive crisscross lines. You may get thrown down the stairs fighting over the $1,000 — sorry, $2,000 — shirts, but that’s simply a risk you’re going to have to take in the name of fashion. Bill Murray has even taken the brand to international waters. Are you following now? All right, let’s continue.

Monica Chamberlain, ITYSL’s costume designer, worked closely with Robinson and co-creator Zach Kanin to create the custom shirt that Robinson wears in the sketch, a defining look that has since started a mini Flashescore revolution on discernible corners of the internet. “Tim kept telling me that he wanted it to be really crazy and really wild, and there would have to be so many patterns that you can’t even see all of them,” Chamberlain tells Vulture of the shirt design. “Tim wanted it to be something that you wouldn’t be able to find in a store or something you hadn’t really seen before. Not in a cool way, but in a wild way … Every time I gave Tim an idea, he’d be like, ‘Make it crazier. Let’s add more.’”

There was no particular label that served as inspiration for the shirt — not even the eyesores over at Robert Graham — but Robinson had a trend vision of sorts that he made sure to punctuate. “He talked about being in Palm Springs and there was a menswear store that he saw that sold really ridiculous and crazy-printed tops,” Chamberlain recalls. “He also talked about printed, crazy-patterned dad polos.” A style barometer for what was off-limits soon emerged, too: “Tim wanted to stay away from Guy Fieri’s look. That’s why some of the shirts fell off, because they started getting into that territory.” (On this show, they respect the jurisdiction of Flavortown.)

Photo: Netflix

Thanks to Netflix’s generous budget, Chamberlain was able to design five different shirts and send them off to a fabric store in Los Angeles, Silvia’s Fabrics, to be printed, which she estimates cost around $500 each. “I started out by laying the patterns down on an illustration software and doing mock-ups, and Tim picked what he liked from those,” she explains. “I Googled random prints and patterns.” Designs that wound up becoming fabric finalists included “a cartoon character animal with leopards and flames; a bunch of blue orbs; and tiny nachos that referenced the nacho sketch from the first season,” but there was something visually striking about Robinson’s eventual Dan Flashes winner. “In the ’90s, there was a Microsoft screensaver with all of these random tubes,” Chamberlain says. “I thought there was something weird about that and not cool. And moons are just basic.”

Initially, the silhouette of Robinson’s shirt was going to take on a bowling aesthetic, but it was vetoed for being too “common” of a style. “He was like, ‘No, we see that too much. Let’s make it weirder.’ Then we landed on the long-sleeve polo, which he thought was weird in a good way,” Chamberlain explains. “Tim’s character in the sketch doesn’t have the craziest level of Dan Flashes yet. He’s still trying to get there. It’s wild, but not all-the-way wild.” That craziest level would indeed be unlocked later in the episode, where a bunch of cocaine-eyed men descend upon the flagship Shops at the Creek location to fight over — and attempt to buy — as many shirts as possible. The store’s dozens of shirts were sourced by ITYSL’s set decorator, although a few of Chamberlain’s final designs (look closely!) snuck in.

“Tim called me a few weeks ago and told me, ‘People are really going to like these shirts,’” she says.I was laughing. But I’ve been proven wrong.”

How ITYSL Created the Shirt of the Summer