Appendix 1.19 – Schaak Electronics

I find this shirt pretty amazing. First, let me acknowledge that although in the photos, the shirt appears white, it is actually more of light tan, because shirts in the 70’s weren’t allowed to be white, apparently. I’m sure white shirts existed, but they were probably reserved for use as undershirts. An interesting thought, as of course the very nature of the T-shirt is as an evolution of a men’s undershirt, and so when originally worn without another covering was considered a somewhat scandalous (or at least low-class) showing of one’s undergarments at a time that undershirts were the norm (cf. Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire; observe the popular legend re: Clark Gable in It Happened One Night; compare the current usage of “wife-beater” to refer to a sleeveless undershirt). While T-shirts are common (nay, ubiquitous) today as standalone casual garments, perhaps the coloration I’m seeing repeatedly was due to a stage in the evolution of the T-shirt in which there were still a significant population who thought of them as undergarments and so color (as well as decorative embellishments such as ringed cuffs and collar) was a way to make distinct the separation between someone wearing a T-shirt as a standalone garment choice rather than a repurposed undershirt, a distinction which faded over time as the generation for which that held moral and class connotations declined and younger generations adopted it as the sartorial norm. Pardon my speculative pedantry.

If my assumption above is indeed the case, this shirt in particular is an ironic display of how little that mattered in practice as its design prominently features not only an undergarment, but one that would typically be considered even less polite than usual. On the front is what I dare say is a gigantic image of a jock strap, approaching life-size. Above it are the words “Thanks for your SUPPORT”, and on the area of what would be the label of the jock it says “schaak ELECTRONICS”. On the reverse are the words “Get your PIONEER at SCHAAK ALLIED.

The thing that amazes me the most about this shirt is that someone would think that it is a good idea to promote one’s electronics company by using a jock strap. The “support” joke is funny enough, but not what I would expect from a marketing department. This also raises some questions which merited some research on my part. For starters, whence goest Schaak Electronics? What did they sell? What is this “pioneer” connection? And what’s with the superscript “c”? There’s a pretty informative Wikipedia article on the now-defunct company, so I’ll let you do your own reading for the details, but the basics are that they were a Minneapolis-based audio and consumer electronics company that went under in the mid-eighties. And it’s pronounced “shock”. “Pioneer” seems to be in reference to the still extant audio electronics company, and that because Schaak owned and operated a chain of retail stores in the Midwest, they sold that brand there. I still haven’t figured out what is up with the superscript c, though. My first instinct since it was that way on the jock but not on the back was that perhaps it was mimicking the logo of an actual brand of athletic supporter, probably one that started with “Mc” as in an Irish surname. But further research indicated that it was the company’s standard wordmark style to use the same superscript c.

Also gathered in my research was the fact that this style of marketing was not unusual for them. I came across an old radio spot in which an older man and a young boy conversed about what products were available from Schaak which ended with the older man looking at a pornographic magazine.


One thought on “Appendix 1.19 – Schaak Electronics

  1. There’s something about this particular shirt that I really like. Mostly the font on the back, I think, but there’s something very cool about it…

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