Reid Carleton, owner of Carleton Clothing, came this close to putting his life on an entirely different trajectory.
The Brookhaven man behind the now-widely circulated logo that depicts Long Island as if it were a filleted fish — its bones exposed from Mineola to Riverhead — had once tried to sell his prize graphic for just $100.
“I actually emailed it to Newsday to see if they would buy the logo for $100,” Carleton recalled. “At the time I wasn’t doing anything with it, so I figured why not sell it and try to make a hundred bucks?
“They never got back to me, thank God.”
That was 2008 or 2009, and the logo, which Carleton had created as part of his senior year portfolio at New York City’s School of Visual Arts in 2005, sat on the shelf until 2010.
That’s when Carleton gave it another try, creating a couple dozen T-shirts emblazoned with the Long Island Fishbone and trying his luck at area surf shops.
They went over well.
Less than four years later — and after a three-month misadventure in Hawaii — demand for his Carleton Clothing-brand of T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, onesies and accessories, would grow to the point where the graphic designer decided to quit his day job working at an apparel company in Bay Shore.
It was in 2013 that Carleton knew he had something special on his hands. That spring, in the run up to Memorial Day, he’d come home every day from work, have supper and then make T-shirts — every night, well into the night.
“I had to [work around the clock] just to keep up with the demand,” he said.
So when the busiest time of year for Carleton Clothing rolled around once again in 2014, Carleton knew he had to tackle his fledgling business full-time.
“I don’t think I could have stayed up any later,” he said.
Today, the logo can be spotted in one form or another across Long Island. Carleton’s got clothes in shops from Long Beach to Greenport and Montauk, and spends much of his days during the summer traversing Nassau and Suffolk in a merchandise-laden hatchback to monitor and stock inventory.
He also spends much time in his studio creating new designs and concepts that foster pride in Long Island and a respect for its heritage and environment. For instance, this spring Carleton Clothing teamed up with the Long Island Farm Bureau on a joint project that marries Carleton’s fishbone design with the advocacy group’s Grown on Long Island image.
Carleton explains the philosophical meaning behind his popular logo — referenced on social media using the hashtag #lifish — on his website:
“There is a term often used in Hawaii called a Waterman. The definition of a Waterman is someone skilled in all aspects of the water (swimming, surfing, fishing, boating). The LI Fishbone is my symbol for a Long Island Waterman. It is for people who respect and enjoy all parts of the water.”