WASHINGTON — Fred Fillah has been designing sports fan t-shirts for 51 years. His company, Fans Only, is based in Lanham, Maryland, but they make fan gear for teams across the country.
For the first time since he started the business, Fillah said he is able to design World Series gear for his hometown team: The Washington Nationals.
“It’s a big plus and it's a lot of pride in your hometown and, of course, then that relates to the team itself," Fillah said.
Fillah’s designs are a little different than typical fan gear. Fillah said his company is a licensee of players and the Players Association benefits.
"Everybody's already got their curling W's, and everybody's got already got all their gear," Fillah said. "What our forte is, is, since we have the endorsement of the players, is we match the players to the slogan."
Over the last few weeks, Fillah has designed Stay in the Fight shirts, Baby Shark shirts, and World Series shirts with every single player’s face on them.
"I had this shirt idea and I said, why don't we put every player that's on the roster in the playoffs on a shirt," Fillah said. "The value of this today, it's great. The value of it 20 years from now? It's going to be unbelievable to have a shirt with every player."
Fillah said he expects to sell 20,000 to 30,000 pieces during the course of the National’s World Series run. He’s selling the novelty fan shirts at Banner Hallmark stores across the DC area. One of the store’s managers said they’ve already seen a boost in sales.
"Well, because we have them displayed in our window, yesterday we had people stopping in," one manager said. "They say oh, I saw the shark shirt in the window I want to get one of those."
Fillah has had his business for five decades. Looking back on how it all started, he said it was a single conversation that changed his career trajectory and that he still feels that same passion today.
"I actually had a surf shop and had a kid come in my store and he had a shirt on and it looked just like his surfboards logo," Fillah explained. "I said 'where'd you get that shirt?' and he said, I made it. When he said he made it ...I mean, it's just I had that feeling that I got, and I never, never lost it."
Fast forward more than five decades, and Fillah said he’s sold to generations of families.
"The people that we sell these National shirts to have been buying shirts from me, probably since their parents were children," Fillah said. "So, I have a lot of pride, it’s a personal thing."