Field Notes

The Man In The Arena - A Conversation With Artist Ben Douglass

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Teddy Roosevelt. TR. 26th President of the United States. 25th Vice President of the United States. 33rd Governor of New York. Rough Rider. Reformer. Darer of Mighty Things. Whatever you happen to call the former adventurer and current namesake to a lifestyle apparel brand, make no mistake about it—capturing his life onto a shirt is no easy task. Luckily, this is where professional artist, armature historian, and Jurassic Park enthusiast Ben Douglass comes in.

Ben is the designer and artist of some of the most iconic RSVLTS shirts, including but not limited to The Mandalorian "Layers," Ghostbusters "Ain't Afraid," The Reaper, and a personal President's Day favorite, Man In The Arena.

The Man In the Arena's design came from humble beginnings, drawing inspiration from The Ron Swanson Shirt of Greatness. While trying to keep the look simple for the holiday, Ben and the team aimed to put in historical elements and icons associated with Teddy throughout the shirt, filling in the gaps with historical easter eggs.

Looking at TR's life, Douglass built-in elements that are unique to the former President's story. The Rough Rider hat, bandana, and boxing gloves bring to mind obvious moments in his past. However, the design features other illustrations that remind us of some of his past's lesser-known parts. The New York City Police Badge calls to mind how he once served as the President of the NYC Board of Police Commissioners. The biplane alludes to how in 1910, shortly after leaving office, Teddy became the first president to ever fly in a plane. The design goes further and recalls how a few years later, Roosevelt survived an assassination attempt when the assailant's bullet was slowed down by the President's steel eyeglass case and passing through a thick single-folded copy of his speech. These artistic elements come together to remind us of how rich the stories we wear on our backs really are.

Ben is excited to keep designing RSVLTS Apparel! Both the real life legends and creative stories and works of art that were once passed down to him, are now passed down through him. The subtle designs in Ben's work help remind us why we wear RSVLTS shirts, to begin with. They remind us how a RSVLTS shirt is not only about how we look but how we feel. They remind us of how our shirts can recall a former president's greatness yet still teach us new things through its design. They remind us how the ethos of one man to "Dare Mighty Things" over 100 years ago still echoes in our classrooms, on our fishing trips, in our offices, through our weekend chug-trains, and maybe even our President's day parties.

Stay radical, RSVLTS Insiders. And Dare Mighty Things. Happy President's Day.