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Dagger Custom Apparel a work of art

By Staff | Dec 28, 2016

Tom Yarnes, owner/artist of Dagger Custom Apparel, shows off some of his work. CHUCK BALLARO

Seeing Tom Yarnes apply his craft is like watching someone do calligraphy with an airbrush. For him, it’s the dream job to be able to do something he loves.

Yarnes, the owner/artist at Dagger Custom Apparel, can be seen at numerous public and charitable events airbrushing T-shirts for people. Doing that around the clock doesn’t quite pay all the bills, however.

Yarnes also does a whole lot more with his business that many in the public don’t see, such as silkscreen, embroidery, HD printing and much more at his shop at 891 Pondella Road in North Fort Myers.

Dagger Custom Apparel also does branding for businesses, schools, churches and organizations.

Yarnes started out in 2007 by airbrushing in his garage and built his craft. He started doing Fleamasters, built his clientele and decided to become part of the apparel decorating industry.

“My mom and I are partners. We have invested in it ever since and it has become a work in progress but a dream come true,” Yarnes said.

Yarnes picked up the airbrush late in life after work and back surgeries and having kids. He was 36 when he started and learned fast. His first female portrait was of Marilyn Monroe, which took him nine hours to complete.

He also understood that silkscreening would be a major part of any similar industry, so he decided to capitalize on that.

“I wanted to be an entrepreneur and do something for myself. I capitalized on a skill I had growing up,” Yarnes said. “Airbrushing is a Florida tradition so I knew I was I the right neighborhood doing the beach scenes for all the tourists is what it’s all about.”

Yarnes can airbrush a basic shirt in between 10 and 15 minutes at a cost of between $15 and $25. Custom pieces (which can be just about anything, he said) can take 10 hours and run up to $200 or more. The result has been worldwide exposure, having had people from as far as Germany ask for his work.

Yarnes has gotten heavily involved with charitable causes, especially Caleb’s Crusade Against Childhood Cancer, and will do as many local events as possible to give back to the community.

“We’re big into fundraising. We believe in paying it forward. My idea is to make this into a viral thing,” Yarnes said.

“It’s true that it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. Building a craft like this takes time. Apparel is close to a $50 billion industry and the traditional methods are what we’re providing,” Yarnes said. “Airbrushing is a passion and what I use to grow the business.”

Dagger Custom Apparel is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday by appointment.

For more information, call 634-3248 or go online to daggercustomapparel.com