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 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.