Walk Like a Man, Dress Like a Monkee at Penney’s

In 1966 Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork (better known as The Monkees) had became pop music idols, television superstars, and international sensations. The boys were also becoming fashion icons with their English-Cowboy-Mod styles. Kids wanted to look their idols on TV and needed an outlet find these new fashions.

Monkees JCPenney Photo Shoot
The lads looking quite dapper in the JCPenney “Monkees Collection”.

Seeing the demand for this new fashion JCPenney teamed with Screen Gems to launch their new “Monkees Collection”. This new collection would feature double breasted vests with coordinating wool hats, tapered floral print shirts, buckled shoes, and of course super-tight trousers.

Monkees JCPenney Catalog
The Summer 1967 Penney’s catalog offered kids the chance to look like their favorite Monkee.

Also in 1966, producers were putting the finishing touches on the new Monkees album “More of The Monkees”. Penney’s thought that the release of the new album would be the perfect time to release their new clothing line. Hoping to cross-promote, Penney’s hired photographer Bernard Yeszin to do a photoshoot of the boys wearing clothes from the Monkees Collection.

The photos were supposed to be used exclusively for promotion of JCPenney however one of the pictures ended up being used for the cover of the new album. This was great for Penney’s, as kids could go to the store and get the exact clothes that their idols were wearing on the new album. The Monkees however weren’t very especially keen to the new album cover. They had hoped to use the album to help project their cool and eccentric look. Instead there they were, dressed in somewhat ordinary clothes from JCPenney.

More of the Monkees album cover
More of the Monkees would spend 18 weeks at number one.

Mickey and Davy were especially upset with the album cover. Davy later said in an interview that he had never seen the album until a young fan presented it to him asking him to autograph it. A confused Davy asked her what it was and she replied that it was his new album.

JCPenney Monkees newspaper ad

Either way it worked out for The Monkees and Penney’s. The album would spend 18 weeks at number one which would be the longest of any Monkees album. The clothing line enjoyed initial success and plans were made to develop a new section of the store known as Monkee Corner. This new section would see the addition of more Monkees styled clothing such as shoes and wallets. There was even plans for a girls line of Monkees clothing by legendary London designer Mary Quant.

But alas it wasn’t meant to be. By fall 1967 Monkees merchandise sales were plummeting and the plug was pulled on Monkee-Mania. There’s not even a mention of Monkee anything in Penney’s 1967 Christmas Catalog.

The monkees love Kellogg's
The Monkees shill for Kelloggs from the classic TV show.

Though the Monkees could be considered sellouts from the beginning, I still love them none the less. The music is great and just hearing the theme from the show instantly puts me in a good mood.

“Everything is as it is in this world and we either accept it or frustrate”
-Peter Tork


External Links

Monkees Live Almanac – Great Monkees fan site with lots of fun things Monkee related.

Monkees on YouTube – A playlist of all the classic episodes.

The JOX JAG by Thom McAn

When you think of shoes made for BMX biking you probably think of Vans, Vision Street Wear, Airwalk, or maybe even Converse All Stars. But it was actually Thom McAn who in the late 70s introduced the first ever specialty BMX shoe.

JOX – The shoe named just for you!

The company’s JOX brand had already been around for a few years and was mostly known for making low-cost and somewhat low-quality athletic shoes when they partnered with Renny Roker, a BMX promoter and owner of the JAG BMX team to help design the JOX JAG. The shoes were completely constructed with the rider in mind, featuring sturdy soles and a special mag wheel style tread to help keep grip of the pedals.

Renny Roker – Legendary BMX promoter would lend a hand in creating the JOX JAG.

Riders loved the shoes, if not for their quality then for fact the Thom McAn company showed genuine interest in the BMX sport. In addition to Team JAG, the company would soon become a sponsor and official shoe of Team Schwinn. Thom McAn would also be an official sponsor of the BMX World Championships.

The JOX JAG would be one of Thom McAn’s top selling shoes every year it was produced, though in the mid-80s the JOX brand changed gears and began trying to  market to actual jocks by making knock-off’s of hot selling basketball shoes with their own JOX “pumps” and Jordan look-alikes. Needless to say this would be a failed venture and soon the JOX brand would fade.

JOX JAG High Top Shoes
Soon the company would add high-tops to their JOX JAG line

It’s a shame really. It really seemed like JOX were on to something with their JOX JAG. If you look at the models pictured above they look strikingly similar to the Vans, and Airwalk shoes that would be wildly popular a few short years later.

An interesting side note the JOX JAG would be the first and only product ever produced by Thom McAn that would be named after an outside person or company.

Jox JAG BMX shoe
The JOX JAG shoes featured a special tread to help riders keep a grip on their pedals.

“There’s not a lot you can say about a good tennis shoe. I guess that’s what I like about Jox, I don’t have to think about ’em.”
Anthony Sewell – Captain of Team JAG and wearer of JOX JAGs

Deperately Seeking, Shoes?

Surely anyone who has seen the 1985 movie Desperately Seeking Susan remembers the jacket. After all it did pretty much hold the “key” to the entire movie. But don’t forget it was Susan herself that decided the boots were indeed worth trading the jacket for.

Madonna Boot
“The Boot” – Available exclusively at Bakers Shoes.

By the time the movie was released the Madonna craze had already begun and thankfully for us pieces could be found in the local shopping malls. Frederick’s of Hollywood was seeing an increase in the sales of the Merry Widow, the longline bra that Madonna frequently wore. Baker/Leeds, a leading shoe store popular with high school and college aged shoppers, was also able to jump in on the trend by introducing “The Boot”. Cause what else would you call it? Each store was given a limited stock of boots, and when those were gone stores were able to take individual orders. The boots were produced in Missouri so it really wouldn’t take too long before your order was ready. But for some teens that was not satisfactory. Just like Susan they wanted their boots now.

madonna seeking susan
“Susan” is desperate for these boots.

Surprisingly to this day it seems the poor boot is the least sought after. It might cost you several hundreds of dollars to get your hands on The Boot originally sold at Bakers/Leeds, but it will cost you thousands to get one of the promo jackets briefly sold through MTV. Julien’s Auctions has auctioned off a movie worn jacket for over $250,000, and even one of the earrings was able to fetch $12,500. Yet when one half of the original movie worn boots went under the hammer, the right one, the left was donated to Hard Rock Cafe, it sold for just over $5,000. The (original) Boot deserves a little more than that if you ask me.

The Great Department Store Mini-Bike Craze

In 1959 the Michrina Brothers would deliver their first mini-bike prototypes to former Indianapolis 500 winner Troy Ruttman to sell at his car dealership. These first prototypes were known as “Lil Indians” and they would spark the craze that had little kids begging their parents for a mini-bike. Other brands would soon follow, Taco, Bonanza, Arctic Cat, and Rupp, just to name a few, and soon the major department stores would be selling their own mini bikes as well.

Montgomery Ward Mini Bikes
Advertisement showcasing the 1970 line of Montgomery Ward Mini Bikes.

Montgomery Ward’s offerings into the market included the “sassy” 323 which at only 3hp was no speed demon but certainly still looks like a lot of fun, the “lively” 424 which came with shocks and a 4hp engine, and the “swingin” 525 which packed a full 5hp, 2 speeds, and racing wheels.

Penney’s offered similar bikes, but with slightly cooler names like Big Blue, El Tigre, Swinger, and the super cool chopper inspired Duster with its high-rise handlebars and backrest.

JCPenney Mini Bike
JCPenney had a solid selection of mini bikes.

And Sears? Yeah well, Sears was Sears. Though as a kid I would have been absolutely delighted beyond belief to have woken up on Christmas to find myself a new owner of a Puncher, it’s also quite obviously the least cool of the bunch.

sears Mini Bike
The complete Sears mini-bike lineup featuring “The Puncher”.

In 1973 mini bike sales peaked at 140,000 units from over a hundred different manufacturers. There was even a new sport “Mini-Bike Soccer” which had racers from both teams merging at center field at full speed for the opening kick-off (I hope they were wearing helmets). Just a few years later in 1976 the craze was over and mini bikes fell out of favor with kids who now wanted dirt bikes. Blasphemy.

JCPenney – The Fox

In the late 70s and early 80s the “preppy” look started to become all the rage and if you wanted to fit in with the in crowd then you better have yourself a nice polo style shirt. Preferably one with an alligator on it. But, if you were either cheap or just couldn’t afford it you would have to settle for one of the many knock-offs available.

The Fox Shirt by JCPenney 1982
1981 advertisement for The Fox by JCPenney – A good looking shirt that wont cost the shirt off your back.

Enter JCPenney. Who needs an alligator when you can have a fox anyways? At a full five dollars less than a genuine Lacoste one could get the same look, feel, comfort, and quality with The FOX! Offered in both his and hers models, The Fox shirt was available in a variety of bright colors. Paired and tucked into a pair of pleated pants with a nice thin belt and one might look as if they were headed to the yacht club.

I’d like to dedicate this to the well-dressed man.

Truth be told, I really want one of these. A quick check of eBay shows several really nice ones that can be had for less than twenty bucks, which is right around the same price they sold for in the 80s, and that seems like a steal in todays nostalgia crazed fashion market.

See ya later, alligator.

Chess King Rocks

Chances are you probably already know what I’m about to tell you, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway. Chess King Rocks. And in 1987, Chess King Rocked extra hard when they recruited Lou Gramm (Foreigner), Julian Lennon, and Dweezil Zappa to help them get their point across. Chess King already touted themselves as being “The store for men who think young” so in all honesty hiring a group of still cool, but aging rock stars made perfect sense.

Chess King Store Rocked in 1987
Former Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm looking like a Juke Box Hero rocking his Blue Zone apparel from Chess King.

Chess King looked to fill the gap between pinstripe suit and jogging suit, catering to young fashion forward men with brands like Code Bleu by Bugle Boy, Torque, and Blue Zone which were also much more affordable than big name brands such as Calvin Klein or Perry Ellis.

Some of the top fashions for Chess King in 1987 included bomber jackets (inspired by the movie Top Gun), acid washed jeans, bolo ties and suspenders, oversized sweaters, pleated pants, and derby hats.

Chess King Fashions 1987
Older men “thinking young” and looking good doing it.

“I don’t think acid washed jeans are ever going out of style”

Debbie Deloach, Assistant Manager at Johnson City Mall Chess King

retro styled chess king shirt

Did you miss your chance to rock in the 80s? Perhaps you just want to think young. Untitled Colours has you covered with this amazing Chess King Rocks shirt.

Rolling Acres Mall – Bubble Elevator

It was a pleasant surprise to come across this old Dover Elevator ad while recently thumbing through an old Architectural Record from 1979. I always thought the elevator at Rolling Acres Mall was special, but I’m glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Dover Elevators apparently thought so highly of the elevator that they featured it in this ad which ran for several months in multiple trade publications.

Elevator Rolling Acres Mall
1979 Dover Elevators as featuring the “Bubble Elevator” at Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio.

With a design similar to what one might expect to find in a big city hotel, The elevator at Rolling Acres Mall was touted as “Akron’s First Bubble Elevator” and would serve customers as they traveled from the main level down to the Promenade Level.

This Beacon Journal clipping from 1976 points out that the mall’s bubble elevator was supposed to be yellow.

Though the ride on the elevator itself only lasted 15 seconds, it was definitely worth waiting for to take in the the beautiful fountains and and the French-styled greenscaped Parc from above before gliding to a smooth landing at the Promenade level.

Rolling Acres Mall Promenade
A 1978 Beacon Journal Ad featuring the Bubble Elevator promoting the opening of the Promenade Level at Rolling Acres Mall.

The elevator was a hit with shoppers, especially children. It was claimed that the because of its novelty the elevator had probably carried nearly as many shoppers up and down as the double escalators that it compliments in the Court of Lights.

promenade court rolling acres mall
A late 90s view of the still dazzling elevator in the Court of Lights at a Rolling Acres Mall in decline.

Head over to The Court of the Twelve Trees or take a video tour of Rolling Acres Mall from 2003 where you can see the bubble elevator and the escalators running.


Advert-Reaction – Merry Go Round

What could possibly be better than denim on denim? When it’s IOU denim from Merry Go Round of Course! The pastel accent down the leg, the soft blue denim, stone-washed to perfection with pegged pantlegs, and a matching denim jacket to boot. I’m not sure if a more timeless look has ever been created.

IOU denim from Merry Go Round

As amazing as their women’s fashions were, Merry Go Round also found success in selling trendy high-fashion clothes to young men with brands such Skidz, Z. Cavaricci, Major Damage, Get Used, Cross Colours, as well as in house brand IOU.


“They’re just rad”

– Clayton Phipps, Merry Go Round customer, Owings Mills Mall -1991