Original Penguin, the iconic American brand, is now available at Bigfootshoes in large sizes 12, 13, 14 and 15.
The Penguin brand which was introduced in 1955 by Munsingwear, a Minneapolis-based underwear and military garment manufacturer, when it launched the Original Penguin golf shirt in the United States.
Munsingwear was for many years famous for its union suits, an undergarment consisting of an undershirt and underdrawers combined in a single garment. The company was also said to be the originator of the classic golf shirt.
In 1954 the Munsingwear salesman covering the northeast coast brought a fluffy stuffed penguin to a meeting in Minneapolis where a logo for a new idea in golf shirts to go up against Lacoste’s popular shirts was the subject at hand. At the meeting was Len Birnbaum, art director at Munsingwear’s Chicago-based ad agency, Powell, Schoenbrod and Hall. Munsingwear made T-shirts and underwear, but their weaving machines also produced the same kind of material that Lacoste used for their golf shirt, a big seller at $7.50 each, in the 1950s.
The Munsingwear golf shirt added an under-arm “action gusset” and moved the pocket to the right breast to avoid any interference with the swing. After the meeting, artist Birnbaum returned to Chicago and within 24 hours had sent sketches of a proposed logo to the Munsingwear executives. The new logo was adopted, the shirt hit the market at $5.00 and was successful. It was worn by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby for publicity, but the real advertising featured golfers including Arnold Palmer
About three years later Munsingwear introduced a second line of shirts for bowlers and Birnbaum came up with a bowling penguin. The shirt was similar to the golf shirt, but incorporated a revised gusset and bowling-themed logo. With that success, they tried to convince Munsingwear to make a tennis shirt but the concept “was nixed because they didn’t want to start a holy war with Lacoste,” according to Birnbaum. He did submit a design with a little penguin hitting a tennis ball, but it was never used. Also worn by the likes of Richard Nixon and Frank Sinatra. This golf shirt became a symbol in suburban leisure until well into the 1980s. In 1996 the brand was bought by Perry Ellis International, and a new sportswear collection was released in Spring 2003.