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UT vintage gameday t-shirts make a comeback

A longtime and beloved cartoonist, a Knoxville company and the University of Tennessee teamed up on a throwback t-shirt.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — As the old cliché goes, “What goes around comes around.”

At Bacon & Company in downtown Knoxville, what’s going around on their screen-printing machines are vintage t-shirts, gearing up Vol fans for UT’s upcoming matchup with the South Carolina Gamecocks.  

“We used to do game day t-shirts back in the day and they were very, very popular,” said Jed Dance, president of Bacon & Company.  

But over the years, that popularity waned. James Allen, a graphic artist, thought this football season was the perfect time for a comeback.  He said that the t-shirts are a nod to the past.

“I figured the easiest way for me to get out of having to create something that I know Vol fans would enjoy and cherish is by using Mr. Daniel’s art,” Allen said with a laugh.

Mr. Daniel is 91-year-old Charlie Daniel, an East Tennessee legend. As the longtime cartoonist for the Knoxville Journal and the Knoxville News Sentinel, Charlie’s colorful creations number into the thousands.  

“I started doing the football cartoons in 1959. I came to Knoxville in 1958,” said Daniel. “Obviously, Steve Spurrier was still coaching because the Gamecock is wearing a sun visor."

One of Charlies’ old cartoons is getting a second life on UT’s vintage gameday t-shirt.  He created it years ago before another Vols game against South Carolina. It features Smoky and a Vols player in a car, driving near the Gamecocks mascot.

Dance said the past has never been more current, especially among college students who are big fans of vintage. 

“Because people haven’t seen it, this is all new to them," he said. "This will run its course and then again in 30 years it will come back, so it kind of goes in cycles.”

At the Vol Shop on campus, the shirts are ready to wear. The money from sales stays on campus benefiting scholarships, building projects and community outreach.  

“These will be in vintage shops for several hundreds of dollars in a few decades. So that’s something that’s pretty awesome, “ said Allen.

Another Charlie Daniel cartoon will be featured for the upcoming Ole Miss game t-shirt. The series of UT vintage gameday t-shirts will continue to roll out this season.

They’re available at the Vol Shop for $24.

Credit: Bacon &Company