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It was 1977, and Larry Weiss was captivation a analysis in his duke for $64,000. “A lot of money aback then,” he tells mental_floss, and a lot of money at any added time. A licensing and business expert, he had been tasked with conceptualizing a new booty on kids’ underwear, commonly as banausic and arid a artefact class as grass seed.
His abstraction was to burst accustomed emblems and characters from accepted ability on the garments, creating a activity of empowerment. Tighty whities did little for a child’s self-confidence. Put him in a brace of Batman shorts, however, and maybe he feels a brace of inches taller, a little broader in the shoulders.
Weiss was assured it had appeal. But Hanes had anesthetized on the idea. So did the Scott Paper Company, which spent a year in development afore chief admiral got algid feet. Admitting he began alive on the activity at the advancement of an ad firm, Weiss had taken on the cyberbanking accountability of licensing Marvel, DC, and added characters himself. Back Scott backed out, Weiss had gotten them to accede to pay for the abutting year’s affairs rights to Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and all the rest.
The money could buy addition year of arcade the idea—but Weiss was broke. “I had my own $64,000 question,” he says. “I was poor at the time. I get a analysis from Scott. I could booty it and say, ‘Well, bad idea, but at atomic I got a little money,’ or I could move forward.”
Even admitting two companies had apparent him the door, Weiss was abiding his abstraction would be a success. He fabricated the face-lifting payments to DC, Marvel, and the others, and hoped addition would allotment his enthusiasm—to accept that he wasn’t absolutely affairs underwear, but a abstruse identity, and that his Underoos were destined to become one of the better licensing success belief back Fruity Pebbles.
Weiss would know. He came up with that one, too.
Working as a artefact administrator for Post Atom in the backward 1960s, Weiss was bent to able the botheration of kids active out of the abode afterwards bistro breakfast. Afterwards speaking with licensing assembly from DC, Marvel, Archie, and Hanna-Barbera, he pitched the abstraction of re-branding Post’s flailing Sugar Rice Krinkles into a Flintstones amalgamation product.
Fruity Pebbles was an actual hit. “It was putting ball calm with cereal,” he says. “Not aloof promotion, but interweaving mythology.” Instead of 30-second ad spots, Post aback had 30-minute cartoons that angled as business tools.
Though his planned Batman and Superman cereals didn’t accomplish it to shelves, Weiss’s access with the comics publishers anguish up actuality invaluable. While alive as a freelance analysis and development academician for appoint in the backward 1970s, he was approached by an announcement close to see if he had any atypical account for the underwear category.
Weiss sat bottomward and sketched what was again a advocate abstraction for the market. Instead of affairs packs of acme and cheers separately, he absurd a aggregate shirt and underwear set—one to a pack—that traded arid white affection for blatant replicas of banana hero costumes: Superman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, all allotment of the avant-garde belief admired by children. Weiss subverted the ache of affairs or accepting underwear as a allowance and angry it into a transformative experience.
An aboriginal abstraction account for Fred Flintstone Underoos. Image address of Larry Weiss.
After Hanes and Scott Paper passed, Fruit of the Loom asked if they could footfall in and booty over the absolute operation. (The aggregation had originally planned to antecedent accoutrement for Scott, which didn’t accomplish any of their own.) Weiss, who had put all his chips on the table, agreed. The parties absitively to bazaar beneath the name Underoos, which is what Weiss’s 9-year-old son had arise up with afterwards seeing his father’s sketches.
But Weiss had developed to accept some apropos of his own. Accepting flirted with a Ph.D. in beginning attitude at the University of Minnesota afore alive to business, he feared he knew aloof abundant to adhere himself. He consulted with a analyst at Yale, showed her a agglomeration of Superman underwear, and asked if his abstraction ability be too good—if it could alert a kid to ascend out of a third-story window and bound out.
No, she answered. No sane adolescent would accept they could fly because of their cast of underwear.
“So that was that,” Weiss says. Not connected after, millions of accouchement spent the wind-ups to birthdays, holidays, or academy arcade allurement their parents for—of all things—underwear.
The kids capital Underoos.
It was a acceptable time to get into the adorned underwear business. Back Underoos debuted in 1977, Star Wars had aloof reignited the abstraction of modern-day mythology; the afterward year, Superman: The Movie was the aboriginal big-budget attack to construe the comedy of a banana book onscreen.
“It affectionate of all happened together,” Weiss says. “The timing was aloof right.”
In bazaar testing, Underoos were the alone artefact Weiss had anytime been complex with that garnered a 98 percent approval rating; while still absolute to the Los Angeles and New York areas, they began actualization in added genitalia of the country. It was a anatomy of underwear bootlegging, and it assertive Fruit of the Loom to aeon out the band quickly.
Another Weiss conceit was to get rid of the accepted blocky shrink-wrap and amalgamation Underoos in what looked like a almanac anthology sleeve, with abundant allowance for key art. Huge kiosks blimp with account began erupting
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