Few things take me back to memories of childhood summers more than images of old iron-on T-shirts. Roach Studios (a name that I thought referred only to the bug when I was a naive lad) was the undisputed king of the transfers, and I, like every other kid raised in the Seventies, added much to their coffers. Summer vacations at Rehoboth / Dewey Beach in Delaware always included stops in practically every T-shirt shop on the boardwalk (and they were legion). My eyes would scan the hundreds of designs until I found the superhero decals and then the pleading would begin. Of the iron-ons in this ad, I only owned the Captain America shirt (which used fluorescent pink in the place of red, giving Cap a slightly less authoritative, but much groovier look), but I vividly remember seeing almost every one of these hanging on those shop walls.
Them there new-fangled screen-printed T-shirts the kids wear these days may look “better” and last longer, but they’re not the same. Buying a T-shirt today is just another consumer action. In the Iron-On days, there was an almost creative excitement in picking your image and then selecting what style and color shirt would serve as the frame. I can still remember the olfactory jolt as the stoned employee pressed the iron-on, the anticipation as they let it cool and peeled the backing paper and the warm, slightly sticky feel of the fresh garment. More than a garment, really: for a ten year old, this was a rare opportunity to select your own clothes, to express your personality… even if your personality was (is) giant geek!