Who Would Wear an Ollie North T-Shirt?

In college, my love of absurd t-shirts was well-known, and I received some really strange ones as gifts from friends. This was one of the more controversial ones:


Ollie North, notorious for his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, was not a popular guy after that scandal broke. Apparently, he he must have had some fans, or at least that’s what the printer of this shirt was hoping. I think they may have over-estimated the size of that pro-North demographic, though. Soon after receiving this, I went back to the Salvation Army where it was purchased to find an entire rack of these shirts. I’m not sure who was originally selling them, but obviously shirts are only given away when it becomes apparent that people aren’t willing to pay money for them. However this was the early 90’s, which may have been the peak of the “ironic appreciation” phenomenon. A shirt like this was gold to hip college kids who wanted their clothes to be conversation starters.  I’m not sure if other people actualy bought the rest of them, or if the Salvation Army eventually got rid of them some other way, but those shirts were gone within a few months. It’s too bad the shirt makers couldn’t have found these customers directly, but they likely took the shirt’s message too seriously to consider that people might actually find it amusing. These were the days before stores like Urban Outfitters were trying to artificially re-create the ironic sensibility, before film-makers tried to re-market bad movies as intensionally funny, before anyone wanted to make an actual effort to appeal to this demographic. But many of us see such an effort to be phony anyway. It’s not real nostalgia if it was made last week. Also, we don’t wanna pay more than $5 for shirts like these.

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3 Responses to “Who Would Wear an Ollie North T-Shirt?”

  1. Bill Coffin says:

    Actually, North was a lot more popular than a lot of people realize, even after the Iran-Contra Scandal broke. He may have been the fall guy, but there were a *lot* of Americans who saw him as simply a hardcore soldier willing to engage in dirty tactics for a greater strategic purpose, all at the behest of political leaders unwilling to cop to what they had in mind. I’m not saying he was a good guy or on the right side of the law, or that I approved of what he did, but the whole “Ollie for President” thing actually had some play for a while in the more down-home parts of the country.

  2. gorilladuck says:

    It’s possible he was unfairly scapegoated. At the time the scandal broke, I was too young and self-centered to really know what was going on. All I can attest to is the general reaction I got when I would wear the shirt. Most people thought it was funny, which I interpreted as them not having much respect for the man. One older guy, though, seemed angered by the shirt, stating that he hoped I wore it as a joke. Of course I lived in very liberal-minded Boston, MA at the time, so I don’t actually have an unbiased sample.

  3. JDug says:

    sweet! i never knew they made shirts like that! i gotta get one! GO OLIVER NORTH!!!! and i am not being sarcastic!!!! great guy!!! unfairly accused!!!