Sunday, May 3, 2020

1973 advertisement for Roach Studios T-shirts

This colorful full-page advertisement appeared in the December 1973 (Volume 1, No. 15) issue of Marvel's "The Tomb of Dracula". Roach Studios, through mail order, offered both iron-on designs and T-shirts with those designs already ironed on. These were a huge fashion fad in the 1970s, allowing customers an unprecedented ability to have shirts showing off their groovy and/or nerdy fandoms. Comic book and cartoon characters were a big part of the fad, so it made sense to advertise in comic books. (Note, too, the iron-on for Budweiser's Bud Man and a lot of motorcycles and dirt bikes.)

On the blog Long Island 70s Kid, author Eric remembers those times fondly:
"Most malls had a store that specialized in iron-on transfers, their walls lined with dozens, or even hundreds of options. ... The most popular rock bands of the day were all represented, as well as automobile logos, sports teams, television and movie celebrities, and plenty of humorous and risqué messages. ... Of course, you would soon learn that the process wasn’t exactly permanent. With every wash of your beloved creation, no matter how much care you exercised, the t-shirt decals would inevitably start to peel and crack. A few months down the road and you might not even be able to read what the shirt once said."
Roach (or RoAcH) Studios started in 1962 and is still around, now doing business on the internet. It offers vintage designs, including a "Disco Sucks" T-shirt.

On it history page, Roach details its rise ($20 million in gross sales in 1978) and its fall (bankruptcy and closure in 1987). Its downfall was licensing:
"Licensing was not a part of the business in the early days. Most companies just saw the T-shirt as a good bit of free advertising. As that changed, Roach changed with them. The problem was the iron-on transfer did not allow for the licensors to control the apparel business. The iron created more problems for the licensors than it solved. Soon the business had a real problem. With no licenses for hot TV shows, movies, bands, and other popular subjects, Roach's core customers started to loose [sic] margin and have inventory problems."
But the company was revived in 2010 after a "deep sleep" and is back in business.

You could say it rose from the dead, like Dracula.

Speaking of Dracula, this panel from that 1973 Marvel issue sure seems prescient...

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