Behind the Design: "Brotherhood & Loyalty"

When an extreme situation takes place at a federal prison, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons relies on a highly trained group of special operators to get it under control quickly, known as S.O.R.T. This design was created exclusively for the S.O.R.T. of USP Atwater, a high-security federal prison in California. 

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Every Custom Unit T-shirt we design here are Reloaded is unique, and each one is treated as its own work of art, made with a specific aesthetic in mind. This one, made for Atwater U.S.P., is a perfect example of our custom design process coming to life. 

When we were approached to do a t-shirt for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons S.O.R.T. Team at USP Atwater, they requested the design to be a classic American tattoo-style interpretation of their existing unit logo.

The existing unit logo was a cool design, but overly simplistic and lacking character, so we couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into this project and show them what we could do.



The layout we created uses the elements from the original logo, but rearranged to work well for a t-shirt design. Many great t-shirt designs tend to be tall, and wider at the top than the bottom in order to accentuate the body’s natural V-shape, a technique we used here. 

We then looked through dozens of photos of Bald Eagles to find one of this powerful bird of prey diving downward on the attack, to convey aggression and dominance. The eagle is grasping a waving banner in his beak with the words “Fortuna Favet Fortibus”, Latin for “Fortune Favors the Brave.”

Behind the eagle are a lightning bolt and a sword, each elements from the original logo that represent discipline, force, and a warrior ethos. Finally, the words “Brotherhood” and “Loyalty” round out the design, concepts important to this tight-knit specialized law enforcement team.



To capture the true “tattoo look,” we drew this design 100% by hand using traditional American-style tattoos as references to create an aesthetic that looks vintage and distinctly American.

Though we offer full-color prints at no additional charge, we chose to make this one one-color, similar to classic “black-and-gray” tattoo design. This worked perfectly for Atwater S.O.R.T., as they requested a design that was somewhat “low-key”, and didn’t  immediately identify them as being in law enforcement.



For the front, they requested a simple logo with inside meaning to the unit - a kind of "secret handshake" for those in the elite unit. The “SH”, spade, and knife are all part of this inside meaning – but, while looking for a knife with an extra distinctive look, we chose to use the classic U.S. Model 1918 Trench Knife, an unmistakable historical knife with a brutally aggressive silhouette.



Though most of the designs we create here at Reloaded feature full-color prints, we love to use single-color prints at times as well. Understated and elegant, single-color designs force all the attention to the quality of the artwork and the overall design, and are also easily wearable with just about any outfit!

This t-shirt for Atwater S.O.R.T. was a fun project that really shows off how good a single-color design can work when it’s designed properly.

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