The MUG T-Shirt
T-shirts? Wait a minnit here, we sell guitars and the stuff that goes with them; we’re not a haberdashery. And we repair and restore fine fretted instruments, have been known for that far and wide since the early 1960s! But… after having had my store since 1969, and it seemed to be visited daily by everyone in the world, one of our staff could no longer ignore the mounting requests from our customers for a MUG shirt and finally convinced me of the coolness of making T-shirts available and I’ll have to admit, he was right. And over the years and decades, folks have been seen wearing them seemingly everywhere. I’ve gotten pictures emailed to me of bartenders across the country wearing them, band members of all kinds wearing them on stage, set designers of UK theater productions wearing them, folks playing baseball wearing them; it goes on. The Matt Umanov Guitars T-shirt seems to be ubiquitous, seen far & wide. Our original design was a version of the company logo, taken from our business card (and still there), which was taken from the beautiful porcelain enamel outdoor sign we had made in the 1970s. The font (and the sign) were designed by Sarina Bromberg, sister of guitarist David Bromberg. both of whom have been dear friends since about forever. That original porcelain enamel sign hangs proudly in my office to this day (see here for more about the porcelain sign and others). Over the years we’ve also used versions of that logo on gig bags, straps, our personalized shopping bags, more.
At some point in the 1990s a local artist came up with a new T-shirt design for us incorporating the “space cowboys” concept and it was so good that we’ve stuck right with it. Guitars and cowboys? Of course! Cowboys and guitar art? Forever! Add in some flying saucers and such? Perfect! It started out with a Martin Dreadnaught floating in outer space, surrounded by stars, space ships, aliens, horseshoes, cow skulls and horns, flying saucers and the like.The guitar eventually got changed to a classic 1950s Gretsch hollowbody electric, no idea why but it sure did take off and we’ve kept that look ever since. Little-known sidelight: When I finally decided to close the walk-in store part of my business in 2017 David Waters, who had been my Fender/Gretsch and everything-that-Fender-sold sales rep (and a terrific pal) since the 1980s, casually asked me one day about the guitar on our T-shirts and if I liked that model. Sure I said, and that was that. Until………. At the store's final closing, David presented me with a specially-made Gretsch Custom Shop version of that guitar as a thank you from Fender/Gretsch for all the help I had given them in getting their takeover of the Gretsch project off the ground. Nothing to do with all the Gretsch guitars I sold for them over the ensuing years mind you, but as a big THANK YOU! for all that stuff we did that just can’t be put in writing. Promotional stuff, great Gretsch displays in my store for all the local, national, and international visitors we had every day, and so many other small favors long since forgotten. And so the guitar begat the T-shirt, which later on begat the guitar. I have that Gretsch guitar still and I treasure it.
During all those years we did occasionally stock the T shirts in different colors: Teal Blue, Raspberry, Lime Green, even a few Lemon Yellow ones, which i'm told that some consider quite collectible today. But, eventually hewing to the wisdom of Henry Ford, who said that you could “...get his Model T cars in any color you wanted as long as it was black”, we followed suit. I did recently add the option of size XXL though. Today, online orders for the MUG T-shirt are strong and the shirts are also very popular with our Repair & Restoration Customers. I’ve even been told that some of our repair shop customers were so happy with how we brought their guitars back to life (and some beyond) that they’ll tell anyone who asks why they’re wearing them. Five years of little repair shops, followed by forty-eight years of one heck-of-a-great-time guitar store with a full repair and restoration shop, followed by the last four years of bringing guitars (and other fretted instruments) back to their best; I’m still getting so much enjoyment out of it all every day.