Uncle Reefa, Underground no more.
In the mid-1960’s during the onset of the T-Shirt Revolution in America, Fred Fillah began his t-shirt endeavors in the dining room of his apartment. First making shirts for friends, it was not long before he was designing, producing, and selling the shirts. He named his company, Corporation Tea shirt, a phrase Fred picked up from the ‘I am the Walrus’ song by the Beatles.
By the late 60’s most of Fred’s contemporaries had experimented with pot, or had adopted the high lifestyle, Fred was no exception. He imagined how cool it would be to develop a line of t-shirts that he and his friends would enjoy, the designs would be a fun, and eclectic series that would reflect the lifestyle of the marijuana culture. He would begin marketing those shirts under the business moniker, Uncle Reefa’s local Produce. His crop would consist of a colorful array of t-shirts brilliantly emblazoned with Marijuana artwork that reflected his lifestyle. Since Fred’s illustrations skill were limited, he set his sights on hiring some of the ‘highest’ freelance art talent he could find. The result was a series of weed shirt graphics that he could be proud of. In doing so, Uncle Reefa was being elevated to the forefront among early originators of Marijuana shirts designs.
Like many successful entrepreneurs, Fillah grew his endeavor in his basement. During the day he took orders for his newly minted Uncle Reefa shirts and made personal deliveries in his VW bus to boutiques and head shops in the Washington D.C. metro area; at night he produced more to replenish the retailers shrinking stock. The counterculture was just beginning to mushroom in America and Uncle Reefa designs were in high demand. Nevertheless, Reefa's T-shirt graphic images were taboo in schools and in other places where polite society gathered. It was an era when rock stars were denied visas into the U.S. for conviction of possession.
At the time, possession of pot was not only frowned upon, but it was also illegal and punishable by jail time. Legalized or not still the herb shirts sold like hotcakes," he remembers. “At first I was afraid that kids wouldn’t buy them because they didn’t want to advertise their use of an illegal substance” said Fillah, but everyone loved them.
Expanding out, Uncle Reefa with a growing crew of talented employees attended boutique tradeshows around the country and sold to stores around the world. Uncle Reefa was a hit everywhere! They were one of the originators of the marijuana t-shirt and their work was so appreciated the marijuana generation consumed it like secondhand smoke. Another highlight for the fledgling company came in 1970 when Fred’s company became the official shirt printer for a newly formed, Non-profit advocacy group, NORML. Fred clearly saw eye to eye with their leadership on the top issues of the day.
In some areas Uncle Reefa T’s became a cult classic, recently a vintage Uncle Reefa shirt from the early 70’s was listed online for more than two ounces of mighty fine weed.
In the ensuing years, Fred drifted away from his Uncle Reefa roots and entered the world of Rock and Roll tour t-shirts. He got noticed as he honed his skills at designing and producing tees, when concert marketing giant, Brockum International, contacted him to see if he would be interested in designing and printing Rock Tour shirts for them. For the next few years, Fred designed and printed tour shirts for The Who, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, U-2, Queen, Kansas, Billy Joel, Clapton, and a long list of rock icons.
To expand on their opportunities, Fred teamed up with the NFL and their players association, NHL and its players association, MLB players association, as well as colleges across the country. Through our designing and marketing, we became an advocate for pro athletes, generating $100’s of thousands of dollars for them and their charities.
A choir of voices were telling Fred that he needed to make those Uncle Reefa tees that he had created decades before. Most recently, Fred’s encouragement came from friends and family, his daughter Carol (21) finally told him, “Dad all of my friends want you to start making the Uncle Reefa t- shirts." Apparently, her friends were seeing vintage shirts on the internet, and everyone wanted one. A little research proved her friends were right -- the Reefer days were still alive and doing very well! The only thing that was missing was a reboot on Uncle Reefa t-shirts. While enduring covid Fred reached out and assembled a diverse group of the industries' top names in graphic design; through their talent and mind-blowing creativity together they created what Fred likes to call 'Uncle Reefa 2.0.'
Fred is making plans to hit the trade show circuit with his most recent strain of Uncle Reefa shirts. According to Fred, the current crop of Uncle Reefa tees is just the beginning of an ever-expanding line of graphics some of which are available online now at, UncleReefa.com and soon will be available at a retailer near you. The wealth of opportunity to create new graphics is virtually endless. So many ideas, with so many directions. Marijuana is very cool again, and this time for the right reasons, the legalization of recreational Marijuana use.
Fillah is extremely excited, having an opportunity to once again be a part of the cultural revolution as Marijuana becomes an acceptable part of American life. For Fred, many doors are opening now that were once closed to him while marketing in the 60-70’s. To relive some of his fond memories would be a dream come true especially experiencing that feeling again and sharing it with family, Fred’s wife, Jody, Grandson Fred IV, and youngest daughter Carol will be a big part of Uncle Reefa’s reemergence. This journey is really a wonderful topping to a life that has been exceedingly kind to Fillah in almost every way possible. As Fred moves forward, he looks to make many new contacts and maybe rekindle some of the old ones as well.
Waxing poetically, Fred likes quoting one of his favorite musical artists, Brent Dennen. “I don’t want to be someone who can’t live up to what I’ve already done. Here comes the comeback, the kid is back, back on track. Everybody loves a comeback!”
With both humility and appreciation Fred Introduces his latest series of Uncle Reefa T-shirts, available to retailers at wholesale pricing and to individuals online; www,UncleReefa.com