How an off-kilter Front Range costume company landed its very own show on MTV.
From left: Shinesty’s Jens Nicolaysen, Allie Thielens, Chris White, Michelle Frey-Tarbox, and Drew Wyman. Courtesy of Paul Laiken/Daily Camera
Some might consider it strange to base a reality show on Shinesty, a Boulder company that sells novelty clothing (everything from the Notorious V.I.P. Ugly Christmas Sweater Vests to the Trouser Snake Boa Boxer Briefs). Others might even call it bad business. Then again, the 2013 premier of Duck Dynasty, which followed the hillbilly high jinks of a Louisiana family as it ran its duck-call business, was the most-watched nonfiction show ever on cable. So perhaps Shinesty, a six-episode “docu-comedy” premiering this month on MTV, makes sense. In fact, maybe it’s brilliant.
Chris White and Jens Nicolaysen started Shinesty in 2014, while students at the University of Colorado Boulder, after realizing that millennials didn’t abandon their love of theme parties post-college. What started as a novelty has exploded into a business whose sales have doubled every year. Much of that revenue comes from Shinesty’s party suits: traditionally cut suits bearing elaborate patterns, such as cheetah print. In October 2015, one of those suits (a blood-spattered, zombie-themed one) found its way onto the shoulders of a producer at Critical Content, a Los Angeles production company. He had a hunch the people behind such unique products might make a cool TV show and filmed a demo in February 2016 at Shinesty’s headquarters. The staff figured that was the last they’d hear about the project. “Then, three weeks later, [the producer] sent us the sizzle reel, and we were like, ‘Holy crap, this is really good,’ ” says Drew Wyman, Shinesty’s business development director. MTV purchased the show, and Critical Content shot six episodes in July and August.
Wyman is afraid that if he reveals too much about Shinesty, MTV will sue him. He will say that each episode revolves around a loose story line, such as a conflict over, um, office-bathroom etiquette. But like other reality shows, Shinesty’s success will depend on its characters, and Wyman’s early favorite to become a star is handlebar-mustache-sporting copywriter Ben “Smooches” Lauderdale, who has a knack for countrified one-liners.
With all due respect to Smooches, one demographic will be watching for a different reason. Shinesty is hunting for capital right now, and investors might not be enthused about pouring money into a company that, at least on TV, appears to be run by “degenerates,” to use Wyman’s descriptor. Yet questionable behavior probably draws more millennials, and if they like the show, Shinesty’s sales could explode. Either way, it should make for good TV. (See? Brilliant.)