Bert & John Jacobs Remind Us That Life Is Good

by Laura Beans

One company is combining positivity with charity, and the results are inspiring
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Of all the aphorisms to recite about the human condition, few convey—so poignantly and in so few words—what the optimistic lifestyle brand, Life Is Good, has been able to capture in their simple designs for the past two decades.
The iconic imagery of the company’s illustrations—which are printed on everything from graphic tees and hoodies to hats and mugs, tire covers and much more—have created a unique sub category of wearable, contemporary art. The child-like sketches evoke a sense of whimsy, and coupled with a positive pronouncement, the end result is a wholesome, wildly popular product. And beyond the aesthetic of each and every one of the brand’s designs lays optimism, a force to reckon with.
Founded by brothers, Bert and John Jacobs, the Life Is Good Company has humble roots. The namesake phrase stems from their mother, who, regardless of any challenges the family was facing, would retain focus on the positive by requesting of her six children at the dinner table each night, “Tell me something good that happened today.”
After graduating from college Bert and John wanted to try their hand at making art for a living, and started selling screen print t-shirts up and down the East Coast out of the back of their van. After years on the road, trying to make ends meet, the brothers developed Jake, the character who adorns much of the line’s apparel, and everything changed.
Fast forward 21 years and Life Is Good is in the last leg of their first-ever eight-week, nationwide fundraising tour to rally communities in more than 40 cities across the U.S., helping them discover, embrace and spread the idea of optimism.
Partnering with organizations like St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital and Pencils of Promise, as well as celebrity nonprofits like Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and the Zach Brown Band’s Camp Southern Ground, the #GROWtheGood tour hopes to raise more than $1 million for kids in need. One hundred percent of sales from the official tour t-shirts and other merchandise will benefit children battling the effects of poverty, violence and illness.
Even if the tour didn’t make a stop in your hometown, you can still join in on the fun and do your part for charity by simply snapping a photo and telling the world something good that happened and include the hashtag #GROWtheGood. For each #GROWtheGood moment shared on Twitter or Instagram, Life is Good will give one dollar of support to help kids in need.
The tour—and the brand itself—is all about fun. Events have included interactive photo booths and “Bad Dancing Contests” and, in fact, fun is one of the 10 “superpowers” that the brothers lay out in their new publication, Life Is Good: The Book: How to Live With Purpose & Enjoy the Ride (National Geographic Books), which the tour is also promoting.
Giving back is nothing new to the company, whose charitable nature has lent its voice to various causes over the years. One of the most recent campaigns was born after the Boston Marathon bombing, when the company raised over half a million dollars for the Boston One Fund from a custom t-shirt that read: Nothing’s Stronger Than Love.
“We’ve learned from our own customers over the years, from their stories, that optimism is most powerful in the darkest times, and that’s when its needed most,” says John Jacobs.
Over the years, the Life Is Good company has donated more than $11 million through charitable causes, including the Life Is Good Kid’s Foundation.
As for the future, the company has big plans, including expanding on their live events and music festivals. They are also looking into other artistic mediums to spread their message of optimism, and are excited about collaborations.
“Bert and I look at this as our baby,” says John. “We held it very close for so many years—everything was produced internally and now we’re kind of opening it up and looking to collaborate with artists outside the company and inviting people to use their own voice to spread the power of optimism.”
“Nothing unites and inspires people like art,” concludes John.

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