When he's not running his marketing, advertising and PR firm in Shadyside, John Carpenter stands at the helm of Rude Pooch, a doggie T-shirt venture that's letting our four-legged pals have their say.
How did you get started with Rude Pooch?
It's a creation of my girlfriend, Christina French, and me. We came up with Rude Pooch as a counterculture response to all the cutesy little doggie shirts that you see everywhere. Something edgy and fun besides "Princess" or "Peanut." The first one out of the box was "Bitches Rock!" in pink for girl dogs. Then I came up with "Sniffin' Butts ... Takin' Names." Then, "Yellow Snow Maker" ... the list just went on and on. There were about a hundred we could choose from, and we narrowed it down to eight.
It's like a bar game: sitting around thinking up dirty T-shirts for dogs.
Well, we didn't want to have dirty T-shirts ... what we have is edgy T-shirts. They'll never be obscene, but they'll be "wink wink, nudge nudge," a little smart-ass.
What's the top seller?
The top seller started in last year, and that was even after it was introduced late. It will be big this year: "Santa's Little Humper" ... for the holidays. People are ordering that left and right.
Have people just had it with Christmas?
Probably, but I think the whole dog-humping thing is just universally funny.
Are your shirts for bad dogs, or for good dogs that want to appear bad?
They're for dogs with attitudes, dogs that deep down have a smirk, deep down if they're mad they'll chew your shoe. If they're at a park, they won't come whenever they're called.
Those sound like bad dogs.
Yeah, technically bad dogs. I like to think of it as the still-waters-run-deep dog, the dog that deep down inside wants to be a bad dog, wants to be heard. What the shirts do is they give the dog a voice.
Like the investment banker who rides a Harley on the weekend.
Right, that would be a parallel. It's a statement.
How do we know which dogs are harboring this attitude?
The owners know their dogs. Ask any owner, and they'll tell you for hours on end exactly what their dog is all about. People will see the shirts, see one in particular and say, "Oh, that's my dog."
These football ones ... "Rufflisbarker #7" and "Pawlamalu #43" ... aren't very rude.
No they're not ... that's why it's a product-line extension. It's still a little bit smart-ass, but it's about football. Obviously in this town, we can't keep those ones on the shelf.
But do dogs want to wear clothing?
When I first started looking into this, I noticed that dog clothing fell into two categories ... costumes or utility. It was either "He's a fireman for Halloween," or it's a hot-dog outfit for a dachshund. On the other end, it was "Fido is a pack dog, and we're going on a camping trip and we're going to take the tent and put it on the dog." So with T-shirts, they're light, comfortable. Once you get past the joke, then you have to think utility.
But why does a dog need to wear a T-shirt?
To express their inner voice. They can't talk ... well, there's the barking thing, but nobody truly understands that. Through their personality and the T-shirt, they're letting people know that bitches rock. They're the Joan Jett of the dogdom world. But this isn't like a costume ... they can still be a dog and wear these. They can be even more of a dog, since they can voice something doggie-ish, like "I'm a yellow-snow maker."
In the last decade, there's been an explosion of merchandising for pets. Your base shirts are from American Apparel, so now a major clothing company is manufacturing dog T-shirts.
America overall has become accessorized. When I was a kid, clothing for children wasn't as much of a statement as it is now ... now children are almost like an extension of the parents. So what's next? The dog. If you could get clothes on a fish, maybe that would be next too.
What about matching T-shirts for the dog owners?
That's the biggest debate right now. We've had requests for "Bitches Rock!" for human shirts.
Any for "Sniffin' Butts ... Takin' Names"?