Boasting a beautiful waterfront deck, a menu packed with flavorful Lowcountry favorites, regular live entertainment and a lively island atmosphere, the Salty Dog Cafe is one of Hilton Head Island's most popular dining spots. It's not just the location, menu and great atmosphere that keep patrons coming back again and again — the restaurant's colorful T-shirts have proved immensely popular throughout the years.
The T-shirts started out as a uniform of sorts for Salty Dog staff members, but it wasn't long before customers began asking where they could purchase their own Salty Dog shirts. In response to the high demand, the owners of the Salty Dog Cafe opened the Salty Dog T-Shirt Factory, where they lovingly silkscreen the shirts for eager customers.
“The Salty Dog T-shirt was born in 1987, about a month after we opened the Salty Dog Cafe,” said owner Bob Gossett. “We originally printed a few shirts for the staff members, but it wasn't long before our customers asked to purchase their own. The Salty Dog T-shirt proved to be an instant success and we opened the Salty Dog T-shirt Factory the following year. We brought the silkscreen process in-house in 1989, and every Salty Dog T-shirt is printed, with love, at our facility on Hilton Head Island.”
The Salty Dog offers several T-shirt designs, with the original design — which features the restaurant's logo, a profile of Jake the Salty Dog wearing a smart-looking sou'wester hat — ranking as the most popular. Variations on the design include Jake wearing seasonal hats, such as a red Santa cap, a ski-style hat and a pointy witch hat for Halloween. Patrons can also scoop up Salty Dog shirts featuring Jake captaining his very own boat or behind the wheel of a racing vehicle.
“Our logo seems to possess an intangible quality that appeals to a wide range of the population,” Gossett said. “We offer several designs and prices, and the original is still our most popular. Our shirts are available for purchase online, at our three stores on Hilton Head Island, in Bluffton at Tanger II, and at our newest store in Key West, Florida.”
Available in a wide range of styles, sizes and colors, there seems to be no limit to the popularity of the Salty Dog Cafe's sassy shirts. According to Gossett, the shirts have made their way to every state in the United States and are often ordered by folks who have never even been to Hilton Head.
“The Salty Dog T-shirt has been worn by newborn babies, and several people have worn them as they were laid to rest,” Gossett said. “We have shipped our shirt to every state in the Union and to several foreign countries, often to people who have never visited Hilton Head Island. As we enter our third decade with the Salty Dog, we hope to continue serving our customers in the Salty Dog tradition.”