Earlier this year, my literary journey led me to Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Some critics have unjustifiably judged the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel as nothing more than a story about a young, fat boy chasing tail. But I saw it as a story of a young Dominican man struggling to find the link between his literary (nerdy) interests and his culture. With JavaWoods, founder Rick Ortiz has set out on a similar journey in the fashion world. Except this time, he’s connecting the dots between Puerto Rico and tech.
Ortiz’ Puerto Rican heritage is a blend of Taino Indian, Spaniard and African roots. When he created JavaWoods, the self-proclaimed cool geek wanted to translate his roots into binary code. For those scratching their heads, binary code is a coding system that uses 0s and 1s in place of letters, other digits or characters. The task sounds difficult but Ortiz has pulled it off, creating three unique and stylish tees that are just as fashionable as they are educational.
The Boricua Code DNA t-shirt is the result of his binary code experiment. Centered around the distinctive Puerto Rican flag, the shirt features the words Taino, Spaniard and African. Each word sits atop its binary code translation. The circular design finds the balance between style and cultural pride. It comes in black, navy and white.
With the Capicu tee, the tribute is simultaneously subtler and more specific. Capicu is a popular term used in Puerto Rico during games of dominoes. It’s a term that indicates the hand that wins the game. Though it relates to dominoes, even those who don’t play can find some value in the sleek and simplistic tee. It’s a shirt for winners in all aspects.
JavaWoods’ third tee is its most impressive and comprehensive. Over the course of several months, Ortiz worked on a design that incorporated the names of every Puerto Rican town into a single graphic. The result is the Puerto Rican Gold t-shirt. The black tee prominently features the large gold letters “P” and “R”. The interior of each letter is filled with the names of the Puerto Rican towns. It’s an impressive feat that allows every Puerto Rican to embrace their roots regardless of where they’re from.
All three t-shirt styles are available in men’s and women’s sizes.
With JavaWoods, Ortiz has managed to blend the worlds of tech and fashion in a bold, new way that encourages a dialogue about Puerto Rico. It’s a prime example of how style can be used to lead a bigger conversation about diversity. It’s also a reminder that what you wear can offer an intelligent representation of who you are, where you come from and what you stand for.
In the same way that the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao forced two opposing worlds to clash, JavaWoods is bringing that same disruption to our personal style.