Saturday, August 22, 2009

Have a Shirt Idea?

Creative Consultant, Joey Mandeville, with Burlisons. Tory Watkins on far left.

Last spring I asked my seniors to help me decide which shirts should be launched first. Given I'd been making a list for years, there were many fun choices. Narrowing them down to just five styles for the first run was tough. It became even harder to choose when students began throwing out their own ideas. Senior Braden Anderson, honors student and school quarterback, nodded with his signature smile and confidently said, "Party at Gatsby's." We knew we had a winner.

Later friends began to brainstorm. While tailgating outside the Vanderbilt stadium before a Dave Matthews concert, I asked for ideas for an Atticus Finch shirt. Greg Burlison, a Public Defender, was excited about his personal hero who has inspired so many law school students to pursue legal careers. What about, "Atticus Finch for Chief Justice"? he asked. Another star of our shirt collection was born. Later his wife, Sara, one of my best friends, a former student and English teacher herself, called excited saying we had to do a line of Onesies. While spoon feeding her baby, Trent, she thought of the perfect quote for our prototype: Oliver Twist's plea, "Please, Sir, I want some more."

How fitting that three of our shirts in the premier collection were contributed by former students and friends. Talking books affirms that lit is life... and that many heads are better than one. We'd like to get you into the act, too. Send us your ideas in the comments below. If we bring your brain child to life, we'll feature you on Classic Coup wearing your free shirt. We not only meet at the round table to discuss rich reads and foster global education. We meet at the drawing table for creative collaboration to move the world with cool shirts--one book at a time.

Braden promises to sport his shirt at the University of Tennessee this fall.

High school buds Trey and Jordan congratulate him on his Great idea.

The Burlisons, UT grads themselves, pass their love of reading to the next generation.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Great Expectations...A Testimonial

Jennifer King Payne graduated from high school in 1991. She's now a firefighter/paramedic/health and safety officer in Virginia. With her permission, I've reprinted her message to me on Facebook:

I checked out the Classic Coup website and wanted you to know it's brilliant and has reminded me of why it's important that my children get excited about the classics. I will be using the site to buy teacher's gifts and encourage them to go to the site as well.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for being a total inspiration to me in high school. You taught me to think outside of the box and to develop a real love for reading, writing and the arts in general. Unfortunately, that love didn't surface until long after I graduated. Still, I knew that you were the one that planted that seed.

Back then, I turned in sub-standard work and thoughtless projects. I was the hot mess with no drive and no parental support. It's difficult to look back at times in your life that were so painful, where you make horrible decisions that leave a path of destruction a mile ride. As I reviewed your website, I remembered the love for those books and characters that you taught us to embrace. I was amazed how I was instantly taken back to my Junior and Senior year, where you were able to bring those literary collections to life and taught us to compare them to present day works of art.

On my trip down memory lane, I found that I identify with the characters of Great Expectations. In high school, I was two characters, young Pip and Miss Havisham. As young Pip, I was ashamed of where I came from and longed to be someone else. At the same time, I was Miss Havisham, as I fell for the man who everyone warned me about, only be left in shambles, memorializing that moment which only left me bitter and unable to move past my own agony.

At 20, I was Estella, having a man like Pip love me only to marry Bentley Drummle, where I resigned myself to a life of misery with someone as miserable as I was.

As luck would have it, at 26, a reformed Miss Havisham appeared, bitter-free. I had let go of the past and came to grips with the pain that was caused, not just to other people but to myself. She saved my internal Estella. No, Bentley Drummle didn't physically die in my story, but he did make an official exit from my life and waiting for me was Pip.

Though I was an uninspired kid full of shame and regret, I have certainly grown into an adult full of great expectations to instill into my own children. Thank you for reminding me how to do that and for teaching me to embrace the classics to begin with.

The classics not only connect to our individual lives. They connect us to each other as parents and children discuss books beloved by all ages.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Photo Shoot

These are some of our favorite pictures shot August 6th for the Classic Coup catalog. Soon you'll be able to order the shirts online. Stay tuned...

Thanks to Julie Freeman of Phat Bites for the location. More on our Phat Bites connection later...

Also thanks to Photographer Jenny Mandeville and Joey Mandeville, her assistant, for incredible work. And to our models who stayed cool despite blistering heat--Ben, Sarah, Emily S., Jonathan, Greg, Sara, Trent, Lauren, Emily L., Abby, Taylor, Cole, Zach and Jonah-- Great job!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Classic Coup Heathcliff and Gatsby/Jenny Mandeville Photographer

Consider Johnny Depp. While he endeared women as Edward Scissorhands, J. M. Barrie, and Gilbert Grape, he made them downright swoon in Chocolat and Blow. And this summer when Johnny D played John Dillinger, like his love interest in Public Enemies, females everywhere found him to die for--literally. Even those of us who hate violence sacrificed a piece of our hearing and all of our hearts to a convicted criminal. We sat through over two hours of machine gun rapid fire solely to see the love story of an outlaw whose weakness was a hat check girl.

The allure goes so much deeper than Depp. It's not just about a pretty face or his being one of the greatest actors of our time. Classic movies, like books, are character-driven. So what’s the appeal of a gypsy drifter, a boy-next-door drug smuggler, and a bravado-slinging bank robber? It’s the edge-thing…A combination of danger, intensity, and confidence (if not swagger). But it’s also the belief women have been clinging to since Beauty and the Beast whether they read the classic or saw the Disney movie--that under the rough exterior is an ultimately good heart. That with the right woman, the diamond-in-the-rough will shine. That when a bad boy finds his soul mate, he’ll be tamed. Or when a tortured soul-- like, say Edward of the Twilight series--meets his match, he'll be humanized and whole.

It’s an old story.
So where did this obsession with bad boys on the screen, in literature, and in real life begin? In Wuthering Heights… with a character so large he’s known by a single name: Heathcliff. The original rebel and prototype for characters later played by Marlon Brando and James Dean, Heathcliff is the smoldering, mysterious outcast-- the strong silent type who is volatile with enemies but undone by the woman he loves. Mistreated as a child, he acts out as an adult. Rebels love and hate hotly. They’d rather burn out than rust out which seems far more exciting. They are passion incarnate. Thus Heathcliff loyally loves the same woman from the time they are four until beyond the grave. Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting, Brad Pitt’s in Legends of the Fall, and Matt Dillon’s in The Outsiders all descended from Heathcliff. Most rebels are laden with baggage and have women waiting to carry it for them. Women who think they will rewrite Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” but fail. Mostly because they are more Isabella than Catherine. Seemingly it takes a strong woman to handle a strong man. And maybe it's in the story of June and Johnny Cash.

One thing is for sure. Readers of
Wuthering Heights either get Heathcliff or they don’t. They love him or hate him. They deem his actions as righteous anger or base revenge. They see him as a victim or victimizer, an underdog or an overlord. They see Catherine and Heathcliff as peerless lovers or pathetic codependents. How do you view Heathcliff? We want to know. Give us your comments on the book or tell us about your own Bad Boy Binge. And check our our Heathcliff shirt--in honor of my first bad boy crush.