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Friday, June 22, 2012

Royal Enfield t-shirt recalls glory days of the brand

Royal Enfield t-shirt from the glory days of the Interceptor.
It's a plain white t-shirt, emblazoned "Royal Enfield" on the back in a fading rose color. It's thin from washings and stained by use.

The tag says it's a Russell product, 100 per cent combed cotton. It claims to be a Large, 42-44, but it wouldn't fit a large child. That tells you it has shrunk some but it also tells you that it was made before clothing sizes inflated to fit inflated modern people.

Another clue it's old: it's not marked "Made in China." And there is no "clothing care label," required on clothing sold in the United States since 1972.

So it's old, much older than my 1999 Royal Enfield motorcycle. I think it probably dates from the 1960s. You'd have wanted a Royal Enfield t-shirt then, because Royal Enfield was back trading under its own name in the United States, after half a decade of supplying motorcycles to be branded as Indians.

But you probably would have lost interest after 1971, when Royal Enfield stopped making motorcycles in England, leaving you no brand to support. (The made-in-India Royal Enfields weren't officially imported to the U.S. until 1995.)

Advertisement for Royal Enfield Interceptor used similar logo design.
Do you see the similarity between the Royal Enfield logo on the shirt and this vintage advertisement for the Royal Enfield Interceptor? I'd say they're from the same college of design. The Interceptor shown is the Series II of 1969-'71. My guess is that if you bought an Interceptor in 1970 the dealer would have thrown in this t-shirt.

I spotted the t-shirt for sale in a CraigsList ad out of Columbus, Ohio, in July, 2011. The seller didn't seem to know much about the shirt except that it was old. I pointed the ad out to Chris Bartlett of Her Majesty's Thunder, designer and seller of t-shirts with Royal Enfield and vintage motorcycling themes. I thought it might make a reference point for him.

In September a soft manila envelope arrived in my mail. It was from Chris and contained a t-shirt of his design and the t-shirt from the CraigsList ad.

"That old white shirt is the vintage one you pointed me to a while ago. It belongs in a shadow box or something. I figured my favorite Enfield friend would give it a good home," he wrote.

I haven't worked out a shadow box for it, but the shirt is certainly the star of my collection of memorabilia. This public "thank you" note to Chris is almost a year overdue.

Even so, I don't think he'd mind if I shared his doodle of a Royal Enfield from the outside of the manila envelope. It's in my collection, too.

Note I received from Her Majesty's Thunder.


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