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For threadless headsets, see Headset (bicycle part).
Threadless logo
Type of site
Founded 2000
Headquarters Chicago, United States
Key people Jake Nickell (founder, CEO)
Jacob DeHart (founder, CTO 2000-2007)
Thomas Ryan (CEO, 2008-2012)
Jeffrey Kalmikoff (CCO, 2003-2009)
Harper Reed (Lead Engineer, 2005-2007; CTO, 2007-2009)
Industry Retail
Products Apparel/prints
Employees 100
Parent SkinnyCorp LLC
Slogan(s) Make Great Together
Alexa rank 15,267 [1]

Threadless (stylized as threadless) is an online community of artists and an e-commerce website based in Chicago, Illinois founded in 2000, by Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart.[2]

Threadless designs are created by and chosen by an online community. Each week, about 1,000 designs are submitted online and are put to a public vote. After seven days the staff reviews the top-scoring designs. Based on the average score and community feedback, about 10 designs are selected each week, printed on clothing and other products, and sold worldwide through the online store and at their retail store in Chicago. Designers whose work is printed receive $0 cash, 20% royalties based on net profits paid on a monthly basis,[3] and $250 in Threadless gift cards, which can be exchanged for $200 cash.[4] Each time a design is reprinted, the respective artist receives $500 cash (reference missing).

History of the company[edit]

Co-founders Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart started Threadless in 2000 with $1,000. Threadless began as a t-shirt design competition on the now defunct, a forum where users experimented with computers, code, and art.[5] Nickell and DeHart invited users to post their designs on a dreamless thread (hence the name Threadless), and they would print the best designs on t-shirts.

Shortly after the first batch of shirts was printed, the founders built a website for Threadless and introduced a voting system where designs could be scored 1 to 5. By 2002, Jake Nickell had quit his full-time job, dropped out of art school, and started his own web agency called skinnyCorp, with Threadless continuing to build under the skinnyCorp umbrella. The company moved from his apartment to a 900-square-foot office.

A new batch of t-shirts was printed once the previous batch had sold out. In 2000, Threadless would print shirts every few months. By 2004, the company was printing new shirts every week. By 2004, Threadless was big enough that skinnyCorp did not need to continue outside client work. The company moved to a larger warehouse space. In 2004, profit was around $1.5 million, and in 2006 it jumped to $6.5 million.[6]

In a 2006 Wired article, Jeff Howe coined the term crowdsourcing.[7] Jeff Howe soon associated Threadless with crowdsourcing.

In 2008, Threadless was featured on the cover of Inc. as “The Most Innovative Small Company in America.”[8] Though Nickell did not disclose revenues for the article, Inc. estimated $30 million sales and a 30% profit margin. "Threadless completely blurs that line of who is a producer and who is a consumer," said Karim Lakhani,[9] a professor at Harvard Business School who was quoted in the article. "The customers end up playing a critical role across all its operations: idea generation, marketing, sales forecasting. All that has been distributed."

In 2010, Abrams Image published Threadless: Ten Years of T-shirts from the World's Most Inspiring Online Design Community, written by Jake Nickell. The book features a decade of Threadless designs, interviews with many of the designers, and a year-by-year breakdown of how the company has grown and evolved.

The company is using a Marketing strategy called Co-creation which is allowing it's customers to be the product developers or designers.

Printing techniques[edit]

Screen printing[edit]

Most Threadless t-shirts are printed with the screen printing technique. Plastisol or water based inks are applied to the shirt through mesh screens which limits the areas where ink is deposited. Threadless printing techniques include gradients and simulated process, UV color change, oversized printing, puff, belt printing, vinyl, super glow, flock, embroidery, suede, metallic, blister, foil, and high density.

Direct to garment printing[edit]

In September 2011, Threadless announced Threadless Labs on its forum.[10] Through Threadless Labs, the company will begin experimenting with new products and printing. The first Threadless Labs experiment is Direct to Garment (DTG) printing, a process of printing on textiles and garments using specialized or modified inkjet technology. Threadless now prints four new DTG t-shirts each week in addition to the week's 10 new screen printed shirts.

Retail locations[edit]

Threadless store in Chicago

In August 2007, Threadless announced the grand opening of a retail store.[11] The Threadless store,[12] located at 3011 N. Broadway St. in Chicago, Illinois, carried the newest two weeks' worth of designs. LCD monitors displayed information about each tee that was sold. Customers could also shop the whole catalog at Threadless HQ, located at 1260 W. Madison St. in Chicago. In January 2014, Threadless announced it had closed its Chicago Lakeview neighborhood retail location. The Threadless headquarters and warehouse are now located in the West Loop neighborhood of Chicago.[13]


In October 2010, Abrams publishers released a ten-year retrospective of Threadless t-shirt designs and the company's history.[14]


  1. ^ "". Alexa. Retrieved November 04, 2015.
  2. ^ Lawton, Jenny (11 December 2006). "Web T-Shirt Company Builds a Community, Business". NPR. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  3. ^ Submit a Design to Threadless |
  4. ^ Submitting a Design on Threadless |
  5. ^ Chafkin, Max (2008-06-01). "The Customer is the Company". Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  6. ^ Nickell, Jake (2010). Threadless: Ten Years of T-shirts from the World's Most Inspiring Online Design Community. Abrams Image. p. 50. ISBN 0-8109-9610-3. 
  7. ^ Howe, Jeff. "The Rise of Crowdsourcing". Wired. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  8. ^ Chafkin, Max (6 June 2008). "The Customer is the Company". Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  9. ^ Sipress, Alan (2007-06-18). "T-Shirt Maker's Style, Drawn From Web Users". The Washington Post. ISSN 0740-5421. Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  10. ^ Introducing Threadless Labs and our first experiment! |
  11. ^ Threadless to open Chicago retail store in September | The Social - CNET
  12. ^ Threadless Retail |
  13. ^ "Threadless closes store, lays off a quarter of its staff". Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  14. ^ Threadless book

External links[edit]

See also[edit]