Alum finds ‘Love at First Cut’

Adam Saaks is famous for his live t-shirt cutting gigs


Photo courtesy of Adam Saaks.

Adam Saaks poses for his promo shot with two pairs of scissors.

Abby Prywitch, Editor-in-Chief

Adam Saaks, Parkway Central class of 1990 alumnus, knew that he loved creating fashion, but didn’t know that his real gift was in destroying fabric. Saaks is known for his live t-shirt cutting performances.

Before he found his forte in live t-shirt cutting performances, he was a stylist based in San Francisco for 11 years.

I quit because I was really tired of doing it,” Saaks said.

After being out of a job for around four months, he ran into a friend of his who offered him a new opportunity. His friend suggested Saaks design some t-shirts for a new t-shirt company that he was launching. His designs would appear at Magic, a tradeshow in Las Vegas, and he would earn 10% of the profits. Since he was not doing anything else at the time, Saaks agreed to it.

I showed up the next day with a bunch of slashed up t-shirts…,” Saaks said. “I knew the 80s were coming back and cut up t-shirts were kind of becoming a trend again…so I came up with these really intricate cuts and they were mostly like stringy, sliced, drapey stuff with none of the twists yet.”

At the booth in Las Vegas during the trade show, they were giving away promotional logo shirts to girls passersby.  One girl asked Saaks if he could cut the promo tee like a t-shirt that was hanging on the rack.

“I was like ‘sure,’ so I scrambled around to look for some scissors like in a toolbox in a booth. I wasn’t carrying scissors yet in my life and so I found some scissors and I started prepping the shirt on a table,” Saaks said. “I laid it down and I was starting to cut and open the sides a little bit and I looked up and there was a crowd. It got really muffled and I was like this feels weird.”

After noticing there was a crowd surrounding him he decided to put it on her and they went to a walkway in the convention center. Eventually, the wall turned into a big circle that kept growing.

“I put it on her and I tied up the sides and they applauded it. I hadn’t even started cutting it yet, I was like, ‘oh my God.’ I remember very clearly, I just looked at her and she was like, ‘what’s going on’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know. Just breathe. You and me. Let’s go,’” Saaks said.

Saaks did various techniques like scooping the neck, capping the neck, cropping the shirt and then he slashed it. This was the moment when Saaks realized this is what he was made to do. 

“That moment I knew that I was supposed to do this. It’s all I wanted to do. I wrote about that moment called ‘Love at First Cut’ and it’s a great book about finding your love and how I found mine from that moment and how the strange things happened after that,” Saaks said.

In those four days, Saaks ended up cutting 189 shirts, which taught him a lot.

“I could have done it 24 hours straight, but at 5 p.m., the show ends. They were like pulling scissors and were like ‘dude you got to go,’” Saaks said.

After arriving back in San Francisco he called his family to tell them that he was going to cut shirts for a living. His parents were confused about how he was going to make money that way.

“I was like ‘you don’t understand how it makes me feel, I know I’m supposed to do this,’” Saaks said.

Now, Saaks is well known for his t-shirt cutting live viewers. With 164,000 followers on Instagram and 245,000 subscribers on YouTube, he has a huge following. The largest live viewing Saaks has had for one of his performances in Turkey that was viewed by 50 million people, broadcasted in four different countries. He loves having a lot of viewers. 

“It’s like Jay Leno of Turkey… I love it. The more people, the more comfortable [I am],” Saaks said.

Saaks also has a series called “Shredded” which aired 40 episodes on television and can be watched on his YouTube channel.

Saaks has gotten the opportunity to work with various Hollywood stars. He says it feels the same working with them as it would any client. The whole time he has to be aware of the person he is cutting the clothes on and make sure they are listening to him. So whether you’re famous or not, you receive the same treatment.

“The process is incredibly dangerous first and foremost because I have blades, doing really detailed work and I got to be in control over the situation like 1000%. You don’t realize what’s going through my mind when I am designing live, but it’s safety first,” Saaks said. 

Each design is so different from the next, which is one thing that makes Saaks work so unique. He finds his inspiration for each design fairly quick because of his background in wardrobe styling. Before styling and cutting the wardrobe he looks at the person’s physiques. Saaks compares this process to biomechanics. He studies their physique to see if they have any blemishes, scars, bone structure and the occasion of where the piece will be worn.

“It’s all these elements that come into play and I just go with those pretty quietly and quickly so I just dig in based on their self-esteem level, character, personality, the occasion, their physique so the things I’m working around,” Saaks said. 

Most of the time Saaks works with clothing that he provides, but once in a while, people will bring their own if it is for something like an NBA final they might bring a jersey.

“Which is just painful. I like to cut on what I use and I [have] used American Apparel since day one, but now the owner has changed companies to Los Angeles Apparel…it’s the same body style and same deal,” Saaks said. 

He normally uses 95% cotton, 5% lycra blend, but in Bali, he gets 92% cotton, 8% lycra blend which makes it a little thicker. Now that he is currently living in Bali, he has run out of the clothing the owner has given him so he has been producing locally there, but the fabric is a little different. “It’s kind of a bummer but it is what it is. Bali is really good about sewers and fabrics and really big on production here,” Saaks said. “It’s really local, like 4 minutes away. So I don’t have to deal with shipping or anything right now.”

The thing Saaks remembers most about his time at Parkway Central are his neighborhood friends who he still keeps in contact with through Facebook. 

“We were all tight… Dairy Queen was our spot,” Saaks said.

Saaks did not know he wanted to do live t-shirt cutting performances from a young age, but he always stole the show beginning in fourth grade. At his talent show, he lip-synced Journey with a band.

“It set the tone when I was in fourth grade they were like ‘there’s Adam Saaks’. I had my first fifteen minutes. It was so natural to be in front of the audience,” Saaks said. 


*Correction from print version: Adam Saaks is class of 1990.