The Story of the Johnson Motors T-shirt October 10 2014

We thought we’d begin with our own Bud story - the creation of the Johnson Motors t-shirt.

.

.
Bud Ekins' race winning 1955 Catalina shirt- Johnson Motors Collection
.
.
Over a decade ago in North Hollywood at Bud’s warehoused motorcycle collection and restoration shop, Bud gave his long-time friend Sean Kelly (the owner and designer of Johnson Motors) his Catalina t-shirt. It was the actual shirt that Bud had worn the day he raced and won the Catalina Grand Prix in 1955. The shirt still has the blood spatter stains from when Bud removed his gloves at the end of the grueling race. The square with Bud’s name in it was hand-inked by his wife, Betty. This was an original Johnson Motors dealer shirt that JoMo would print with the Triumph and Ariel dealer addresses emblazoned across the back.
.
.
Close up of the 45 degree neck rib.
.
.
We decided to use this shirt as our inspiration and endeavored to replicate it, at a time when the clothing industry used only combed or carded cotton t-shirts. The art of the vintage style shirt did not yet exist.
.
.
1950s Ekins Sherman Oaks dealer shirt - Johnson Motors Collection
.

.

We sourced a knitting company in Los Angeles that would take the time to spin custom yarns for us. Since we would not allow the lab to punch the fabric of the shirt for their analysis, we viewed a lose seam on the hem where we could see the yarn. It was obvious under microscope that the yarn had not been passed through combs to create a clean, even thread. We then had the knitting service spin this uneven yarn and knit the first slub jersey that the world had seen in decades.

.

.
Close-up of original 1950s Flocked-Printed dealer shirt
.
.

Through very expensive trial and error, we were finally able to sew a true vintage tee, duplicating the 45 degree rib around the neck of the shirt, as well as the blind-needle suture-style stitch on the sleeves and hem (from Bud’s original shirt). On perfecting the laundry process we were able to give it the hand and feel of a shirt that had been worn, washed and raced for far too many years. Incredibly, the slub jersey tee has now become the industry standard.

.

.
.

Over the years since, our designer has worked hard to replicate vintage graphics in his design and printing techniques. Johnson Motors was the first company to create a premium vintage moto-tee. We’re very proud of our hard work and our t-shirt.

 .

It was our love of vintage bikes and clothing that led us down this path to open our first Johnson Motors Inc. retail store in Pasadena all those years ago. We’ve enjoyed the ride so far, and we hope you have too.

 .

Thanks Bud. Godspeed.