Posted on

The most iconic T-shirt of all time.

The most iconic t-shirt of all time
iconic t-shirt

It is just our humble opinion, but this seems to be the most iconic t-shirt of all time.

According to the Smithsonian,

In the 1994 Robert Zemeckis film, Forrest Gump stumbles into the history books as he runs across the country.

At one point, he meets a poor T-shirt salesman who, Gump recalls, “wanted to put my face on a T-shirt but he couldn’t draw that well and he didn’t have a camera.” As luck would have it, a truck drives by and splashes Gump’s face with mud. He wipes his face on a yellow T-shirt and hands it back to the down-on-his-luck entrepreneur, telling him to “have a nice day.” The imprint of Gump’s face left a perfect, abstract smiling face on the bright yellow t-shirt. And thus, an icon was born.

Who Really Invented the Smiley Face?

It’s supposedly the 50th anniversary of the original design of the iconic image, but its history since then is surprisingly complex with millions of dollars at stake
By Jimmy Stamp
smithsonian.com

In the 1994 Robert Zemeckis film, Forrest Gump stumbles into the history books as he runs across the country.

At one point, he meets a poor T-shirt salesman who, Gump recalls, “wanted to put my face on a T-shirt but he couldn’t draw that well and he didn’t have a camera.” As luck would have it, a truck drives by and splashes Gump’s face with mud. He wipes his face on a yellow T-shirt and hands it back to the down-on-his-luck entrepreneur, telling him to “have a nice day.” The imprint of Gump’s face left a perfect, abstract smiling face on the bright yellow t-shirt. And thus, an icon was born.

As you probably expect, that was not how the iconic smiley face was created. There was no cross-country runner or struggling t-shirt salesman, there was no truck or mud puddle. There was, however, a graphic designer, some devious salesmen, and an ambitious newspaper man – all add up to a surprisingly complex history for such a simple graphic.

It’s largely accepted that the original version of the familiar smiley face was first created 50 years ago in Worcester, Massachusetts by the late Harvey Ross Ball, an American graphic artist and ad man. Ball came up with the image in 1963 when he was commissioned to create a graphic to raise morale among the employees of an insurance company after a series of difficult mergers and acquisitions. Ball finished the design in less than 10 minutes and was paid $45 for his work. The State Mutual Life Assurance Company (now Allmerica Financial Corporation) made posters, buttons, and signs adorned with the jaundiced grin in the attempt to get their employees to smile more. It’s uncertain whether or not the new logo boosted morale, but the smiling face was an immediate hit and the company produced thousands of buttons. The image proliferated and was of course endlessly imitated but according to Bill Wallace, Executive Director of the Worcester Historical Museum, the authentic Harvey Ball-designed smiley face could always be identified by its distinguishing features: the eyes are narrow ovals, one larger than the other, and the mouth is not a perfect arc but “almost like a Mona Lisa Mouth.”

Neither Ball nor State Mutual tried to trademark or copyright the design. Although it seems clear that Ball has the strongest claim to the second most iconic smile in history, there’s much more to the story.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/who-really-invented-the-smiley-face-2058483/#DcBz4X16USH7Ssyj.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Share