A weathered basket clings to the side of a crimson barn, the barn’s paint chipping in a way that’s meant. The kid hurling a basketball at the hoop is Larry Bird-like. Lank. White. And the cornfield behind him blurs into the afternoon, because this is Indiana. A place where people answer to Hoosier, even though no one knows to what they’re answering. After the cornfield comes the city: pharmaceuticals and sinus-cleansing shrimp cocktail. Brick kissing, milk chugging, and Vonnegut’s sardonic prose. The blue fog of industry and blue-collar politics. They say it’s no mean city, but what exactly does that mean?
The short answer: nothing.
United State of Indiana isn’t here to appropriate our state’s myths and folklore. Things are different now, and I recognize that. This isn’t our parents’ Indiana. Real folks are struggling. There’s no time to fetishize a selective narrative of how we got here. That milk-pale jump-shooter doesn’t represent all of us. That landscape isn’t all of ours. Being the boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln doesn’t do a damn thing to fix the opioid crisis—at least that’s how I see it.
Where I’m from, Indiana’s as much famine as farmland. I started this company in Anderson. That city has heart. It’s got soul—brains and ingenuity, too. For decades, Anderson built its families and futures on good jobs provided by gigantic automotive corporations. But, when the work could be done cheaper elsewhere, the factories were shuttered and the citizens were shook. Poverty rose and hope rapidly disappeared.
That’s an Indiana story, too.
I spent a few formative years in the midst of Anderson’s post-industrial struggle, during which I started a band called Anderson’s Most Wanted. The band’s lyrics were my manifesto. They allowed a younger me to yell into a void, to scream at the forces of despair haunting Anderson. I hated General Motors, but loved my neighbors who drank cheap beer and spoke fondly of the GM days. I hated politics, but loved the idea of transforming that space into something better. And I sang about all of that. Each Anderson’s Most Wanted song attempted to recognize a part of Indiana that desperately needed recognition.
Every band needs merch. The design that is now USI’s logo was originally the logo of Anderson’s Most Wanted. It said everything I wanted to say about the state. It was both love song and battle cry. It was Indiana. All of it. That’s when the name came along: United State of Indiana. Nothing could’ve captured the project better, so it stuck. I started giving USI shirts to anyone who would wear them, never imagining that the design would launch a business and eventually pay my bills.
Over the past five years, little has changed. I started USI because I chose to stay in Indiana, and because I chose to stay here, I have a personal obligation to make it better. USI is here to give voice to the entire state—to bring people together as we build a better community. In that way, every USI shirt is the décor of a larger movement, one that despises clichés and seeks real change. You can’t pick and choose your Indiana, but you can do something to make this state better than it was yesterday. I hope you’ll do so in one of our shirts.
Keep it up,
United State of Indiana