Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Morris Mayfield III wants to help people start conversations, particularly ones that inspire the participants to be great — even if the dialogue starts from just seeing a motivational message on a T-shirt on an otherwise bad day.
The icebreakers come from his clothing line, Mokaciá. It features items that say, “You are above average” and styles called “What are you made of?”
The online shop officially opened in 2015, but Mayfield has been selling style much longer. The Marine Corps Systems Command program manager got his start in food service and used to sell shirts in the mess hall and barracks when he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, in 2000.
“I would go out to the stores and see which shoes were coming out, to see which colors would be popular,” Mayfield said. “Then when everyone was getting ready to go out on payday, I’d show up when everyone wanted something new to wear.”
As Mayfield matured, his goals for his side hustle changed. By his second stint in Okinawa, his target audience was people going to the beach or relaxing. People like him, who work hard and want to be the best at what they do, whether it’s being a dog walker, homemaker or serving in the military.
“We are all cut from a particular fabric, and we are all interwoven into this world. So, we all have a purpose,” Mayfield said.
He’s also designing for people who, like him, have felt like outsiders. Mayfield grew up in New Orleans, and said it seemed like his peers saw sports, music or drugs as a path out of poverty, instead of hard work and faith. Once he was in the Marines, it was the flair for life imbued in him by his hometown.
“Growing up in New Orleans is all about fashion and food,” he said. “The way we carry ourselves, we’re just a little different. Kind of made me a little bit of an outsider in the military.”
Mokaciá is a way for people like Mayfield to find each other. The brand’s website invites visitors to “join the movement,” and he refers to those who buy his wares as family.
“My ultimate goal is to create a community of people who can lean on one another and believe in one another and elevate themselves,” he said.
Mayfield sees the products starting conversations. In one real-world instance, a woman misread a shirt that has the words “I am” atop upward-pointing arrows, below which is the word “average.” “She was like, ‘Oh, sweetheart, you’re not average. You’re more than that.’” Mayfield said he told her he appreciated the comment, but that the shirt’s meaning was “I am above average.” She got it then, he said.
The designs could make someone who seems stand-offish more approachable or offer kind words to a stranger, he added.
In time, Mayfield hopes his kids see the brand as his legacy – evidence that hard work, positivity and kindness pay off.
“I want to have something my kids will be proud of,” he said.