Rebecca Maxwell couldn’t leave it at the thrift store.
As a devout Clevelander who grew up cheering on the Guardians and Cavaliers but especially the Browns, she could
never wear it. Yet, the vintage Pittsburgh Steelers crew neck with print down its sleeve was too cool to forget.
“They don’t make sports clothes the same as they used to,” says Maxwell, who “fell in love with the hunt” during secondhand store escapades with her grandma.
Maxwell figured she could gift it to a Steelers-fan friend. Then curiosity struck: How do I make it cooler, more desirable?
Maxwell grabbed the sweater and a bottle of bleach and marched to her apartment roof. Drizzling the chemical manipulated the shirt’s colors into a slow fade of tie dye and speckles. The stunning result propelled further upcycling experiments.
“I put a tweet out with a picture of a few shirts, and they all sold within the day,” Maxwell says. “I was like, Oh wow, I should do this.”
Just like that, Two One Thrift was born. Since making that first sweater in August 2019, she's sold more than 2,100 items on Etsy and amassed almost 40,000 TikTok followers by sharing gameday outfit ideas and promoting her gear to millions of viewers in Cleveland and beyond.
“I never intended for it to be a full-time business,” admits Maxwell, who bartends at the Velvet Dog.
Maxwell still makes each piece herself. When the weather flips, she moves the studio to her bathroom — at one point having to invest in a gas mask. Now, a spray bottle helps with precision.
“I’ll make as many pieces as possible within one day,” says Maxwell, who dabbles in embroidery and vinyl printing. “My apartment floor is like lava. Clothes are laid out everywhere.”
If Maxwell doesn’t love a piece immediately, the veteran thrifter lets it sit.
“I know that I may find something different to pair with it,” Maxwell says.
That said, Maxwell admits Cleveland sports and thrifting have one thing in common.
“Unpredictability,” she laughs.
“My favorite part about it is that no one’s going to have the same shirt as you,” she says. “It’s never going to be exactly the same as somebody else’s.”
Star Sleeve ($45-$60)
Maxwell used to painstakingly hand paint the solid stars across her cozy sweater finds using a stencil. She’s since graduated to screen printing. “They’re my favorite. I probably wear one every week.” A subtle, embroidered patch of a team logo typically accompanies each sweater, a nod to the game even if you’re just there to tailgate with friends. “They’re my favorite. I probably wear one every week.”
Flannel Finesse ($30-$45)
“Partly inspired by tie dye’s comeback, Maxwell fell in love when she made her first Cleveland Browns flannels. The causal look is perfect for football’s chilly season. "They're nice because you can kind of dress those down with leggings and boots,” Maxwell says. “I do some that are bleached, the ombre. Some I just keep basic.”
Skyline Sleeve ($30-$40)
“Anytime I travel I always have to wear a Cleveland shirt,” Maxwell laughs. “I love our skyline. I’ve always been very obsessed with Cleveland.” For those cheering on the CLE without a stadium pass, Maxwell’s line of sweaters with the skyline slipping down the sleeves is another way to root for the underdog this fall.
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