Brand History - Salem Sportswear

If you had any interest in sports during the late Eighties or early Nineties it's likely you had a Salem Sportswear T-shirt in your collection. Unless you lived in Australia, where I am, in that case you dreamed of it!

1995/96 Chicago Bulls Bobble head tee 🏀 🔥 🌆 Tag:... - Depop

The tees with caricatures of the era's most legendary athletes became an essential fashion item, so sought-after that even the athletes themselves proudly sported them, often in the midst of championship celebrations drenched in champagne. 

Salem Sportswear Championship T-Shirt Detroit Pistons

Back in 1980, Keith Kennelly and Kyle Nagel, childhood pals, decided to launch the company Salem Screen Printers. It was a bold move, but one that paid off. After attending weekend screen printing classes, jamming their gear in to whatever space they had left and copping a lot of skepticism from friends and family, they hustled tirelessly, weathered challenges, and made smart hiring decisions, all of which contributed to what they had no idea would happen - revolutionizing the Sports Apparel game. 

Salem Sportswear Championship T-Shirt at Double Double Vintage

What really blew Salem up to the next level, was meeting electrician Bill Fickett. Bill had his own T-Shirt company already and his vision and existing skillset drove Salem to greater heights.  After they had teamed up, licensing contracts with every major sports league followed shortly after and the Salem Sportswear was officially born.

Time was always of the essence as the company tried to produce the championship tees as quickly as possible, so they set up screen printing shops in various locations and started printing the championship tees as soon as the winner was certain. 

NEW 90s LARGE Salem Sportswear Shirt, Chicago Bulls, 1993 Nba Finals Shirt,scottie  Pippen, Michael Jordan Dennis Rodman, Chicago Bulls Shirt - Etsy Australia

When Kennelly and Nagel eventually sold Salem to Fruit of the Loom in October 1993 for a staggering $136.4 million, the publicly traded company had expanded to about 2,000 employees across three states. Salem's annual sales had surpassed $100 million, and it held licenses from the four major sports leagues as well as numerous colleges.

In 1993, the acquisition of Salem by Fruit of the Loom led to its integration into the sports division known as "Pro Player Apparel," marking the end of Salem Sportswear. While Salem Sportswear may no longer be in existence today, its impact during its prime was significant, transforming the merchandise business in profound ways.

If you are interested in vintage tees from Salem Sportswear click here.

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