The actor turns philanthropist with a new company, This Shirt Helps

By Kate Hogan
Updated December 21, 2011 06:30 PM

Courtesy Wilmer Valderrama

Wilmer Valderrama is putting his laidback style to use, helping change the world one T-shirt at a time. The self-proclaimed “black T-shirt guy” sits on the board of advisors at This Shirt Helps, a new clothing brand that aims to give back in the style of TOMS Shoes.

“It’s one of those really feel-good brands that I think could really, really help,” Valderrama tells PEOPLE. “The common goal is to create a somewhat global-helping approach to business.”

Proceeds from every T-shirt sold at go toward the buyer’s choice of charitable act: to the ASPCA save a single animal; to provide clean water for one year via Waves 4 Water; allowing Plant with Purpose to plant three trees; or funding one month of school via Pencils of Promise.

“I’m one of those guys who’s like, ‘OK, what is the money really gonna go toward?'” says Valderrama of the brand’s decision to show contributions in measurable amounts of help provided per shirt purchased, rather than percentages of profit donated. But there’s a method to the madness.

“We’ve found that what motivates people to act and become involved is their knowledge of how their purchase specifically and tangibly affects something or someone,” says Valderrama’s longtime pal Joe Huff, founder of This Shirt Helps. “There is no conversion of money or percentage someone has to calculate. You buy a shirt, you impact a life.”

The brand will eventually expand to include other accessories like scarves (currently available for $29), bracelets, necklaces, hats and bags — and even experiences like concerts. “It could really be anything,” says Valderrama. (They also hope to expand the number of charities benefited by the collection.)

For now, the shirts are available in only a few simple designs and colors; some are marked with a small “This Shirt Helps” logo, too.

“We made it very simple because we don’t like wearing crazy brands and wearing big names across our chests or anything like that,” the actor says. “Eventually the shirt will have a nice, really effortless, simple branding that you’ll recognize among the people who have helped. So if you don’t know what that symbol means, then you haven’t necessarily been a part of it.”

Adds Valderrama, “If you really want to help, if it’s really within your heart to help, you don’t need to be telling the world you did.”

Not surprisingly, the plain designs are already fixtures in the Awake star’s wardrobe. “I’m pretty simple,” he says. “The black T-shirt is my favorite.” To learn more, visit

–Jessica Wedemeyer