In the city of Tacoma, Washington lives the Westberry family. Josh Westberry is the man behind the merch for a handful of punk bands in the United States but recently has started his own line of t-shirts. If you look at his Instagram page for Wallace & Jack, many of your favourite punks and skinheads around the world have been showing their support for this line. I know Josh from his associations with one of the punk bands I listened to from Tacoma because he does their merch and I’ve harassed him on several occasions buying shirts. When I had the opportunity to speak with Josh about his own line I took full advantage and fired off some questions to him which he graciously answered for me (thank you, Josh)!
Ehrin: How old were you when you decided that you wanted to start printing shirts? What is the story leading up to you buying your first screen printing machine and starting Destiny City Screen Printing and Design?
Josh: I first learned how to screen print when I was a kid. My uncle Greg is a jack of all trades being an entrepreneur himself. He has a shop in north Georgia where I would spend a couple of weeks each summer. I learned the basics of screen printing there with him. Over the years between getting a beer belly, fighting, ex-girlfriends and moving, I’ve lost or outgrew several of my band shirts, most of which I couldn’t replace. My son was coming out to visit for the summer one year and I thought it would be fun for us to have a cool father/son hobby for the summer. Plus I hated my real job and was hoping that maybe I could make a living with printing. I found plans online to build your own printing press out of wood. The guy who had the plans was also selling pre-cut kits. My folks helped out and got me started with the essentials and me and the boy spent that summer researching printing to fill the gaps of my memory. Took about a week of trial and error but we nailed it and printed our first design which was the NOI!SE Sounders design. At that point, I got with Matt and the guys and offered to help with the merch. They only had a few designs and you could only get them from a handful of websites. I wanted to be able to help my brothers out as much as possible and be able to offer more merch to fans.
Ehrin: You are involved with merch for several bands in the US punk and skin scene, like Antagonizers ATL, Noi!se, and Bishops Green. What motivated you to expand into your own line of shirts?
Josh: To be completely honest it was by accident. It was beginning to get cold and I needed some long sleeve shirts and sweatshirts to wear to work because I refused to wear anything with my now previous employer’s name on it. But the back story is about a year and a half ago I had gotten caught up with merch for the guys and began messing around with some clip-art I had gotten. I made one shirt. The design was very turn-of-the-century and had two portraits of guys wearing top hats. It was too generic and I just didn’t care for it. I got busy with everything else and put it on the back burner. Earlier this year, I was printing a mess of shirts for the guys one weekend and had been drinking all day. My buddy Vince was with me lending a hand and we got to talking about it. I had a bit of a designer’s block with band shirt ideas and started working on W and J stuff again. Knocked out about 4 designs over the course of a month. When I found out that the guys were going back to Vegas for PRB and taking me with them again to work the merch, I decided that if I was going to do this that this would be the best time to launch. So I took about 20 shirts to PRB, made up some postcard flyers, set up the Instagram and the Big Cartel store. I was surprised at well they did. Sold all but about 3 of them
Ehrin: The inspiration behind Wallace and Jack is your grandfathers, both of whom fought in WWII. What branch of service were they in? What did each of them do while on active duty?
Josh: So Wallace is a bit of a mystery to me. He was my mom’s dad. He and my Nana got divorced when I was little. I don’t really know much about him other than he was in the Army as a cook. Now, Jack, I know more about. He was in the Army as well. He enlisted in 42′. He was a mechanic and was part of either the 2nd or 4th Armored Division. Went through Normandy, The Ardennes, all over Germany and the rest of Central Europe. While in Europe his unit was part of a raid to liberate the POW camp OFLAG XIII-B near Hammelburg which held Patton’s son-in-law. He was Honorably Discharged in December 45′ and was a Sargent at the time of the discharge.
Ehrin: What was your biggest fear taking on your own line?
Josh: The biggest fear I have/had was it being a failure. That only my close friends and family would be the ones to wear the shirts and that people would just think that I was just trying to make a buck using anything from the scene. But I’ve been fortunate and people seem to really like them. Not only do my friends and family wear the hell out of them, people all over have been supporting W and J worldwide. It’s also been very surreal and an honour to see some of my favourite musicians wearing them. It’s a very gratifying feeling to see something you’ve worked hard on be appreciated by people, especially by those that have had an impact on you in some way.
Ehrin: What was your mission at the outset?
Josh: Again this whole thing was kind of an accident that I ran with. I didn’t know exactly how/where I wanted to go with it. The Skinhead and Punk scenes have been a part of my life for over 20 years. Those of us that are familiar with the scene probably have closets that look the same. We all have our band shirts, Lonsdale’s, Fred Perry’s, Ben Sherman’s and so on. But now that I am older with kids and getting more involved with teacher meet and greats, dinners with the wife’s boss and things of that nature, I’ve gotten a bit more attentive as to what I am wearing. I want W and J to have designs that represent who I am, who my friends and family are and those who inspire me are without dishonouring my grandfathers.
Ehrin: What are the core values that you feel drive Wallace & Jack?
Josh: Integrity, Respect and Discipline. Those three values can make or break not just a business but an individual as well. Too often they fall between the cracks of society and thus adding to the never-ending cycle of hardships that we face on a daily basis.
Ehrin: Growing up during the Great Depression and both being from big farming families, they had to work hard to survive. I’m sure they would have had a different appreciation for the value of an honestly earned dollar than most people do these days. Is that appreciation something that you feel you have as well being an entrepreneur?
Josh: Yes and no. For them, it could have been the difference between eating or not. Hell its a different time now from when I was a kid. My dad is a Physicians Assistant. He’s been doing it my whole life. Growing up my brother and I never went without the things we needed. We were your typical middle-class family. We weren’t wealthy by any means but we never had to go without. But dad pulled long hours and was always gone in the mornings and was late coming home. May of missed a birthday or two as well as boy scouts and things of that nature. Mom was always there as support and did her best to play both parts when needed. The two of them were a great team and I am privileged to have them as parents. He had and still has a strong work ethic which I’m sure came from his father and has passed it on to me and my brother. I gave 110% every day working a job that I hated for a paycheck that was typically gone before I cashed it. Living paycheck to paycheck is a horrible way to live. When I started printing shirts with the hopes of doing it for a living, I mainly wanted to do it so I could be in control. I never want to be in a position where the job will dictate my life.
My family comes first. Printing t-shirts is something I do in my basement and has allowed me to have certain freedoms. Now yes, money is something we all need to live but what’s the point if your life is nothing more than working to make the money. I value my time with my family and friends more than anything and I’m trying to eliminate as many expenses and debt that I have. The fewer bills I have the less money I have to make. I think the difference for most is that during the time of the great depression people had to work to survive and not working could have very well meant the death of a family. Today there is still a problem with unemployment but we are extremely better off and there are more ways and easier ways to make a dollar. Sadly its been a double edge sword. Most of the generations to come will never understand the hardships that most have gone through to pay the bills.
Ehrin: Were you close to your grandfathers growing up?
Josh: Not really. They were both out of the picture when I was really young. Wallace and my Nana divorced when I was 3 or 4. only saw him a few times after that. Jack died when I was in second grade. There were a few trips to the beach and camping trips with them when I was little but I really only have a handful of memories and pictures with them growing up.
Ehrin: Do you find that your personality traits are similar to either of your grandfathers?
Josh: From what my parents say I’m a pretty good mix of the both of them.
Ehrin: As people can see on your social media pages, ‘Wallace and Jack’ has become a well-loved line. To what do you attribute your success?
Josh: First and foremost my wife Allie. Every single drunken idea I have had for the past 15 years, she’s been right there and said “Ok I trust you” and just strapped in and held on. She has been my biggest supporter and groupie. Hahahaha. Secondly is definitely my parents. They have helped me out tremendously with both the setup cost of getting the printing up and running as well as creative input and ongoing support. Finally, all my friends who have supported me. Especially my brothers in NOI!SE as well as Vince and James. My brothers in NOI!SE have taken me on so many amazing adventures and have introduced me to so many people over the years which has helped get my printing and the W and J line out there to the public. Vince and James are two of the best shop assistants, sounding board, and drinking buddies that I could have asked for. Couldn’t have done it without all of them.
Ehrin: Do you do all the designs for the shirts yourself? What is that process like for you?
Josh: I can’t draw to save my life and rely on clip-art for the backbone of the designs. I do everything myself but I typically have one or two of the guys at the house when working on a new shirt to bounce ideas off of. As for the process it really depends. Right now I’m in love with the whole “casual” clothing and Soccer, sorry Football, Hooligan subculture and W & J just sounds like one of those clothing lines. That being said, I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into one style. Not everyone is going to like what I like. I’m trying to keep it diverse but without being all over the subculture spectrum.
Ehrin: What is the fan favourite right now? Which one is your favourite?
Josh: As of right now the “Acta Non Verba” is the best seller but my least favourite to print. It’s one of those designs that always looks like its crooked to me even when I know it’s not. I think my favourite is a coin toss between the “Keep It Casual” scooter design and the “Don’t Bite The Hand” design. The “Keep It Casual” print just turned out super clean and bright and the “Don’t Bite The Hand” was fun because it was one that my dad and I worked on together.
Ehrin: Right now, you have 10 shirt designs available in your webstore. Do you have any more in the works or are you happy with the ones out right now?
Josh: I’ve always got the wheels a turning trying to come up with the next design. I want to do more and plan on it. For those that don’t follow me on the social media, I was let go from the real job back in April and have been unemployed for the past few months. That being said, the Great State of Washington is helping me go to school. I start Graphic Technologies in less than a month. Once I start school, most of my printing merch and W & J designs will slow down a bit. I’ll still be doing them but just a slower pace. School first.