March Of The Penguins


You probably noted John Huh’s impressive third-place performance at the RBC Heritage this weekend. You may have also noticed the logo he was sporting on his sweater:


Yep, look closely and you’ll see the same little penguin that adorns the cool guy in the marketing image at top. It’s the same insignia once worn by Arnie:




… and even Clint:

Dinah Shore Desert Classic

The brand is known today as Original Penguin, and here, according to its website, is how it got started:

Abbot Pederson was an ambitious salesman who worked for the Munsingwear undergarment factory in Minneapolis. On a sales trip to NYC in 1955, finding himself with some time to kill before a flight home, he decided to wait out his time in a local bar. Stumbling out to find a taxi stand, he took a wrong turn down a Manhattan street and found himself in front of a display of stuffed penguins in a taxidermist’s window. Before he knew it, he had bought one of the penguins, named him Pete, and was soon enjoying cocktails with him on the flight back to Minneapolis.

At some point during the flight, Pederson’s enthusiasm got the better of him — and Pete the Penguin’s head was knocked off. A seductive stewardess whose attention Pederson had been enjoying throughout the flight gently helped him remove his tie, then wrapped it around the penguin’s neck. As she did so, she joked that such a lucky, dapper bird surely deserved to be immortalized — maybe even embroidered on a shirt similar to the one Pederson was wearing. Little did she know…

On his return to Minneapolis, Pederson, a keen golfer, wasted no time tallying his interests. And so the Munsingwear golf shirt was born. Even in 1955 it was ahead of its time. Casual, comfortable, equally at home on the 18th hole or the 19th hole. From the moment it hit the shelves it was a must-have, popular with suburbanites and sports legends alike. Known today as “the 55,” it represented not only a relaxed and sophisticated lifestyle but was to become the cornerstone of an entire fashion movement.

Pete’s profile became instantly synonymous with the era’s most iconic and talked about celebrities: Form had met function, and before long, golfing events became a sea of Original Penguin 55 Polos. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Bing Crosby.  Original Penguin, casual elegance, and golfing were forever interconnected. The ‘55’ had indeed surpassed substance, surpassed style and the ‘55’ was now a symbol of Americana, of post-war freedom and prosperity.

Voila the classic 55 shirt:


Some ten years ago, when the brand was being revived, I was in the hip LA neighborhood of Silver Lake in a meeting with an apparel sales rep who was handling the brand. She showed me samples and said it was going to be the hottest thing, saying that Bing Crosby and Richard Nixon had worn it. When I naively asked, “OK, but I don’t see how that makes it cool,” she looked at me like I was strictly Squaresville.

Original Penguin makes a few items specifically marketed for golf, and if you poke around the web you can find headcovers made for the Japanese market. Perfect match for your Matrix Ozik “Black Tie” shaft.


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