Original Penguin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Original Penguin
Industry Apparel
Founded 1955
Headquarters New York, NY
Revenue Increase$50 million USD (2007)
Parent Perry Ellis International
Website originalpenguin.com
Los Angeles Penguin store facade

Original Penguin (also known simply as Penguin) is an American clothing line. With roots in the 1950s and 60s, the brand specializes in clothing, footwear, and eyewear. It is sold in North America, South America, and Europe. Image models included Brad Pitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Adam Brody as well as the members of Interpol, Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkeys, and All-American Rejects’ frontman, Tyson Ritter.[1]


The brand 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.[2]

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 Arnold Palmer, Dow Finsterwald and Jack Burke, Jr. 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.[3] 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.[1] In 1996 the brand was bought by Perry Ellis International, and a new sportswear collection was released in Spring 2003.

Original Penguin is sold in upscale and mid-priced department stores such as Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters and David Jones, and in regional boutiques, country clubs, and specialty stores. The company also established several standalone boutiques across the nation, which carry clothing by C&C and Levi's jeans as well as Original Penguin apparel. Locations include the NorthPark Center in Dallas, Texas, Bryant Park in New York City, Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California, Fashion Island in Newport Beach, California, Rush Street in Chicago, Illinois, The Galleria (Houston) in Houston, Texas, Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, Florida, Dadeland Mall in Miami, and Lenox Mall in Atlanta, Georgia.

Product lines[edit]

Women's Penguin shirts

Original Penguin has two central lines:

Original Label[edit]

Original Label consists of clothing and apparel for men, women, and children. It also sells beachwear, footwear, timepieces, sunglasses, bags, neckwear, wallets/card holders, and belts.

Black Label[edit]

Original Penguin's Black Label (also known as Original Penguin Golf) is a men's line that is sold at higher price points than Original Label and is more golf-inspired in design.

Original Penguin produced a denim collection beginning April 2005 but as of 2008 Original Penguin has stopped the production of denim collections and instead sells Levi denim within its stores.


Before being bought by Perry Ellis, Original Penguin was known for its sponsorship of several top golf players of the 1960s and 1970s. Today, Original Penguin continues with its golf heritage and currently sponsors top-400 player Aaron Baddeley.

Notable Wearers[edit]

CES' Dmitry Khusidman is a known wearer of the Original Penguin brand.

The brand gained popularity[dubious ] as it was featured on numerous episodes of the former FOX show, "The O.C.". Actor Adam Brody, who played Seth Cohen, frequently wore Penguin clothing. It has also been featured on popular shows such as "My Boys", "Royal Pains", "Arrested Development", "Heroes", "Gossip Girl", "Everybody Hates Chris", "How I Met Your Mother", "Dirty Sexy Money", "Entourage", "Skins" and "The Office".

Tyson Ritter of The All-American Rejects was the face of the 2009 autumn ad campaign.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Why do Brad Pitt and Jake Gyllenhaal go for the Original Penguin?". Philippine Star. 5 August 2009. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Munsingwear: An Inventory of its Records
  3. ^ Len Birnbaum, in an email to his daughter, Holly Birnbaum, June 28, 2005