Gabe Johnson

Growing up in Aberdeen, Washington, in the 1970s left Gabe Johnson with memories of girlfriends who smelled like bubblegum and vodka, a penchant for explosives, a taste for illicit cartoons—and a zealous sense of nostalgia for America. The “real” America, as he puts it; and specifically, the mom-and-pop treasures that dot the highways and byways of this great nation, in the form of watering holes, record stores, auto shops, and other legendary landmarks that locals hold dear.

The latest undertaking of Johnson’s company, Horses Cut Shop, involves sharing the stories of those local haunts via T-shirts—the sale of which benefits the small businesses themselves.

Shop a few of our favorite shirts at the bottom of this article. First though, join us as we trace the history and influences of Horses Cut Shop, in the words of “Professional Boat Rocker” Gabe Johnson himself:

Origin Story. “Horses Cut Shop was started as unincorporated meeting spot for artists, riffraff, musicians and people who wished to create their own ‘reality,’ if only for one day or night at a time. The world wasn’t giving me what I wanted in terms of community, so in 2009 I decided to create the conditions that would.” [Watch a video about Gabe and said meeting spot that we made last Christmas.]

Smells Like Home. “Horses Cut Shop, as an entity, was styled after the American Fraternal Orders (Moose Lodge, Elks Lodge, Eagles Club, Knights of Columbus, etc.), and the ’70s summers of my youth in Aberdeen. The Cut Shop was a fortified compound in upper Fremont [in Seattle] that smelled like smoky burnouts, farm animals, whiskey, gas, mayhem and the ever-present dangerous machine. (This Flickr link provides photographic evidence of three years spent just under the radar of Seattle’s Finest.)”

A New Hope. “The Cut Shop experience was anchored by a monthly Sunday Brunch that we managed to pull regularly, on a volunteer basis, without fail for three years before the shop closed due to sale of the property by the owner. Ultimately, money was needed to continue the experiment in another location and in a new way. Hence the foray into the T-shirt business. The sale of T-shirts that celebrate and support ‘real’ America, an America that’s hanging on by a thread, seemed in-line with my ultimate goal of preserving and shaping the kind of world I want to live in. The T-shirt business is a vehicle for storytelling and simply a cover for my illicit love affair with America and the riffraff that makes her hum.”

Core Beliefs. “I believe beauty and knowledge can be found in the soul of inanimate objects. I tend to worship things that were built for use, community and to outlast the maker. In this sense, a wrench is like a record store and an old tavern is like a worn-in pair of boots. These objects—these places—are constructed with deliberate intention; they’re the embodiment of the American Dream and the products of our country’s worship of self expression and individualism. I want to acknowledge them and celebrate the creators/makers behind the name and logo.”

Fun Facts:
– I was born and raised in Aberdeen, Washington, along with four generations of my family.
– My favorite place to be is either lost and/or in some type of trouble.
– I’ve been arrested and charged with “Mayhem” twice.
– I believe that if you’re respectful of the differences in disposition and avoid harming others, there are no rules and everything is permitted.
– I believe the America I love peaked during the summer of 1979. Specifically, the evening of July 26th, 1979.
– The slow death of my hometown (Aberdeen, WA) has had the greatest affect on me as person.
– I may or may not have founded The Comstock Commission in 2008.

—  —  —

Under the Influence. Gabe’s influences include, but are not limited to: 
Men of Substance. “The Bandit (Burt Reynolds’ character in Smokey and the Bandit), Hunter Stockton Thompson, Jack Tripper (Three’s Company character) and Steve McQueen.”

Wild Women. “Jane Birkin, The Runaways, Lynda Carter, Nancy Sinatra.”
Miscellaneous: “That poster of Farrah Fawcett, girls that roller skate, Evel Knievel, being put in/let out of handcuffs, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Apocalypse Now, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, skinned knees, cherry bombs. As is probably evident by now, I left my heart in the Aberdeen of the ’70s.” [See Gabe’s Tumblr for further odds, ends and vintage awesomeness.]

—  —  —

Made from America. A few of our favorite Horses Cut Shop shirts (which double as a checklist for your next road trip). All are made in the USA and benefit the independent businesses that emblazon them.

L-R: Comet Tavern, Seattle | Amoeba Music, SF | Wolski’s Tavern, Milwaukee
Twin Anchors, Chicago | Hole in the Wall, Austin

L-R: Moby Dick’s, Minneapolis | Kelly’s Olympian, Portland
Pete Paulsen’s House of Wheels, San Leandro | Sunset Sound, Hollywood | Baranof, Seattle




[Portrait of Gabe Johnson by Angel Ceballos. Still-life photos courtesy of Horses Cut Shop.]


You might remember Gabe Johnson—and his oddball Seattle event space, Horses Cut Shop—from our gift-guide collaboration with The Selby a few weeks ago. We heard a rumor that Johnson was taking his show on the road, and it turns out the Cut Shop landed at none other than our philanthropic retail boutique in NYC, Treasure & Bond. They’re having an open-house tonight, if you’re in the NYC area:

You can meet Mr. Johnson, sip a beer, and listen to live music. Find more details on the event here, and check out pictures of the havoc Horses Cut Shop has wreaked on the T&B ground floor here.

Perhaps even more admirable than Johnson’s knack for bringing people together for good, clean (-ish) fun, is his latest project: an homage to the dive bars, holes in the wall and small-town secrets that make America great. He’s done it all in the form of T-shirts emblazoned with the logos of legendary small businesses from across our great nation. Here’s a sampling of the shirt designs (see if you recognize a favorite haunt from your own hometown):

Pick one up tonight at Treasure & Bond. If you’re outside NYC, visit or call Treasure & Bond at (646) 669-9049 and they’ll get you taken care of.

One more thing: Check out this hilarious and highly descriptive Q&A with Gabe Johnson himself that we just noticed on the T&B website.


For our new Gifts with Personality gift guide, we invited The Selby to photograph some of our most inspiring fellow Seattleites. Our fourth and final male personality builds connections by defying convention—a true ‘Maverick.’

“We’ve created a community here. This is a place where people can take themselves a little less seriously, and inject some wonder and curiosity back into their lives.”
—Gabe Johnson, curator at Horses Cut Shop Event Space, Seattle, Washington.

We see Gabe as a cultural instigator who embodies the write-your-own-rules, frontier attitude that still exists in the west. He has a knack for bringing people together for offbeat exploration and unconventional fun. Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood (nicknamed ‘The Center of the Universe’ by its residents) makes a fittingly quirky home for Gabe’s gathering place, Horses Cut Shop.

[Update: Horses Cut Shop is on the move. Check back with their official website to find out what’s next for the home of ‘Genuine American Riffraff.’]

All photographs by The Selby.

Watch more ‘Gifts with Personality’ video portraits.


Start Shopping:
Gifts for the Maverick in your life | All Gifts

…or Read More:
– The Innovator, artist Preston Singletary
– The Independent, chef Cormac Mahoney
– The Modernist, librarian Marcellus Turner 
– Head over to our women’s blog, The Thread,
to meet our female Gift Personalities.