Part One : B.T.S.M. ( Before That Space Movie )
Four or Eighty-four?
I share, dear friends, this historic example of my aged apparel circa May 1973 ( age 4 and a half ) to set the stage for the strange tale to follow. Button up sweater, straw hat, baggy slacks and non-TV or Movie related t-shirt appears to have been the norm for my parent-chosen clothing in the years before the explosion of licensed t-shirts of the 1970s.
Sure, children have been wearing clothing emblazoned with the likenesses of their favourite radio, movie and T.V. stars for decades before that. From Buck Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy to Mickey Mouse and Davey Crockett many licensed characters had appeared on cowboy outfits and pajamas as early as the late 1930s. T-shirts as outer wear had been gaining in popularity since WWII as well, but it wasn't until the 1970s that the silkscreened, printed or ironed-on T.V. or Movie t-shirt took off in a big way.
So it was serendipitous for our purposes that this trend coincided with my newly won right to choose, at least to some degree, the shirts I got to wear.
Enough with the furshlugginer history lesson professor - let's see those goofy pictures!!!
Ahh... Good Times, Good Times......... literally! This shot, cropped down from my 1975 - 76 bowling league team portrait ( there's hip for you! ) prominently features one of my favourite shirts from the period. Jimmie "J.J." Walker was the star of teevee's "Good Times" and also the "Dyn-O-Mite" star of my shirt collection. Many is the school lunch hour or recess that I entertained my classmates with witty repartee as voiced through my Senor Wences-like hand movements underneath Jimmie's polyester visage.
For well under seven figures I could feel a little like television's Six Million Dollar Man wearing this stylish two-toned piece. Slow motion sand hill jumps, 60 yard per hour runs and super-powered lifts of seemingly heavy but actually quite light objects were all favourite activities while garbed in this short sleeved Steve Austin number.
Apparently Bionic Ear Cleaning was one of the lesser-known abilities.
Ooh-ooh-ooooh! Unfortunately the angle and clarity ( not to mention the much too obvious Helmet Hair - meaning a hair style that looked like a helmet, not a hair style affected by wearing a helmet ) on this one leaves a lot to be desired, but what we have here is an example of the unexplainably popular "Sweathogs" from television's Welcome Back Kotter. Those saucy characters Epstein, Horshack and Boom Boom Washington are visible arrayed around the top of what I presume is Gabe Kaplan's head ( hmmm... just forming emo-core bands feel free to use that as a band name ). One can only guess that unpictured up-and-coming actor and singing star J. Travolta went on to lead a quiet life away from show biz.
We jump ahead to sometime around Christmas 1979 for this blast from the frighteningly geeky past and find and the always rebellious 11 year old me dangerously decorating Christmas cookies with my little sister. On closer inspection ( should you choose to do so ) if you look reeeeaaaal hard, sort of squint, and pull out your handy-dandy tunneling electron microscope, you can see that the funky, metallic leaf iron-on I'm wearing in this swanky pic is from T.V's "Wagon Train" in space, Battlestar Galactica. Despite it's many faults I was an avid fan of the show at the time. It seems I was also a fan of multi-coloured sugar sprinkles.
Here's the same iron-on from an ad on the back of an early 1979 Marvel comic. "Be the first on Earth to wear these authentic "Galactical (sic ) Shirts." You'll be the envy of everyone. Only $4.99 each!"
Sadly, photographic evidence of some of my best remembered t-shirts no longer exists. I most certainly had other television and movie related t-shirts but the two that I recall most vividly are the Fonzie / The Fonz / Arthur Fonzerelli / Henry Winkler from Happy Days shirt I had ( circa 1977 ) that bore a striking resemblance ( in style at least ) to the previously mentioned Jimmie Walker shirt. The best image I could dig up of this lost treasure is from artist Burke Paterson, ( thank you Burke ) who posted a picture of himself in the self-same shirt on a trip to Florida. Get out the magnifying glass for this one.
And to end today's installment of this sartorial saga I finish with what was possibly the last T.V. themed shirt I owned. Likely from around 1980 it featured the late Andy Kaufman as garage mechanic Latka Gravas ( in a photo not too dissimilar to the following ) from Taxi. With "Thank you Veddy Much!" emblazoned below his smiling mug this taxi-toned yellow shirt was well loved.
Vintage iron-on dealer Retro Duck has a few Taxi designs, likely from the same series as mine, at the bottom of this page.
In Part 2 of "The Glen Mullaly Super-Terrific Licensed Television and Motion Picture Shirts & T-Shirts of the 1970s I owned Razzle Dazzle Retrospective Spectacular!" we actually start to get to the good stuff! Large, high quality images of the some of the original iron-ons, more ads for the shirts from magazines and comics of the time, super links to other 1970s t-shirt goodies plus 36% more geekiness as we venture forth into the world of Star Wars teeshirtery!