There’s a new kid in town by the name of KOTA, not to be confused with Kidd Koda, a singer. KOTA is Keep On Truckin’ Apparel. If you’re one of the handful of people on the planet who’s never heard the Keep on Truckin’ slogan, or those who haven’t heard of the person who brought the slogan to the world’s attention, please allow me to educate you.
Robert Crumb, aka R. Crumb, has become an American, and now a world, icon, even though he relocated to France quite some years ago. He’s the person responsible for creating characters such as Mister Natural, Flaky Foont, Devil Woman, Angelfood McSpade, Fritz the Cat, and a host of other irreverent counterculture characters which graced the pages of ZAP! Comix, beginning in the 1960s. There was even a movie about him and his family, entitled simply Crumb. But it’s the man’s talent that has brought him to the world’s attention in books, movies, magazines, and newspapers worldwide.
Now that his work is being exhibited in major museums, and what little you can find for sale is going for hefty sums, Keep On Truckin’ Apparel decided to bring some of these iconic designs to casual apparel. They were big sellers in the ‘60s, and I’m betting they’ll be big again/still. R. Crumb’s iconic images have been in frequent, if not constant, use since the 1960s in clothing, posters, canvases, and even collector cards.
I received four tee shirts from the company and put them to the test. First was visual; how do they look? Isn’t that always a buyer’s first test? Crumb is also a fan of country blues, and one of his contributions to the art world was drawings of many of the stars from the 1920s and 1930s, including Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Son House, Big Bill Broonzy, and six others, all of whom grace the front of one of the shirts. Above the reproductions of the musicians are the words, “Heroes of the Blues,” which is what the collector card sets, still for sale at many outlets including Keep on Truckin’ Apparel, are called. These four musicians, and six more, grace a black tee shirt which appears to be made of top quality, 100% cotton stock, as are the remaining three shirts I was sent—not the flimsy cotton you get in bargain stores, but durable, heavy cotton. The impressions on this shirt are of top quality production and do justice to Crumb’s originals.
Another tee shows Flaky Foont in his signature walking style. Above his head is “Keep on Truckin’…” in the appropriate comic strip print style. Another tee shows Mister Natural with his long, white beard, and in his traditional clothing of robe and brogans.
Another relic of the 1960s is the power salute, a raised fist, which appears on the fourth tee. The printing around the raised fist says “All Power to the People,” another slogan of the 1960s, which saw the rise of groups such as the Black Power Movement and Students for a Democratic Society.
I do, however, have one suggestion to Keep On Truckin’ Apparel. Some people, and I’m one of them, cannot tolerate collar tags. A collar tag is sewn into the the seam of the collar and usually contains information such as brand name, what the shirt’s made of, where it’s made, and washing instructions. In order to wear a shirt made like this, people like me have to remove the tags, which then leaves a small but noticeable hole in the collar seam of the shirt. I can’t wear manmade fabrics or materials on my skin, or even some natural fibers such as burlap or wool. If these tags were moved to a less conspicuous location it would make removing them less problematic. Or they could make the tags of the same cotton the clothing is made of; it shouldn’t be a problem at all. Much of the information is required by law, so they’ll still have to be on each piece of clothing.