Wildwood Boardwalk Shirts Update: Pokémon, Trump and Harambe
I was in Los Angeles last month, and I was on the lookout for t-shirts.
Not all over L.A., but during my visit to Santee Alley. Immediately after arriving there, I knew this would be a fertile ground for boardwalk-style t-shirts.
I was right! But Santee Alley was different than the Donald Trump-a-thon going on in Wildwood: The t-shirts on Santee Alley were mostly anti-Trump, including one that said: “Relax, Trump. I just look illegal.”
It is now August. It has been two months since my last boardwalk t-shirt column. When I went down to Wildwood this weekend, I knew it was time to research a boardwalk t-shirt update.
The Wildwood boardwalk t-shirt game has actually changed dramatically since the summer for one big reason: The runaway success of Pokémon Go. The location-based augmented reality game is already the most successful mobile video game of all time, and boardwalk t-shirt vendors have quickly printed shirts cashing in on the craze. Some shops even have signs outside asking patrons to catch Pokémon in their stores!
Pokémon has been a popular video game and cartoon since the mid-1990s, of course, and Wildwood boardwalk shops have been selling Pikachu, Bulbasaur and other Pokémon characters on t-shirts for about two decades. But while some shops have just moved their old Pokémon shirts to the front, most stores have printed entirely new Go-themed shirts.
And one of them looks like it says “Pokémon cum master.” I do not even want to speculate what that would possibly mean.
More Donald Trump
There are some pro-Hillary Clinton shirts, there are (still) some Bernie Sanders shirts, there are “Hillary for Prison” shirts, there are even some George W. Bush “Miss me yet?” shirts left over from the summer of 2009. But the number one political t-shirt on the Wildwood boardwalk this year is Donald Trump, a fact I covered in May.
There are so many Trump t-shirts on the boardwalk both the Inquirer and NJ.com have weighed in on Wildwood boardwalk shirts. This is an exciting development; boardwalk t-shirts are a subject worthy of extensive study by the news media.
Anyway, one of the Trump shirts has Trump on a motorcycle with a “If you can read this, the bitch fell off” shirt. Yes, it’s an offensive boardwalk t-shirt of Donald Trump wearing an offensive boardwalk t-shirt. We’re through the looking glass here, people.
USA Basketball Bootlegs
The Olympics begin Friday. Boardwalk t-shirt shops are littered with bootleg Team USA gear, which you can feel OK about buying because the IOC won’t be getting any money from it. But here’s a problem: Most of the Team USA gear on display features players who aren’t on this year’s USA Basketball team. LeBron James and Steph Curry opted out. Kobe Bryant is retired. Michael Jordan has retired from basketball three times, and yet his No. 9 jersey is prominently displayed at nearly every retailer.
Yes, there is a lack of starpower on this year’s USA Basketball team, with the biggest stars being Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony (who is going for a third gold medal). Kyrie Irving is just a tad behind those two. Let’s hope Philly’s Kyle Lowry has a big tournament so he can get a prominent position in boardwalk t-shirt stores.
Blue Lives Matter
You won’t find Black Lives Matter shirts prominently displayed on the boardwalk, but you will find plenty shirts with the pro-police knockoff slogan. If you’re more of an Ocean City person: You can get them there, too.
If you didn’t know, “plug” is slang for a person who supplies you with something. In this case, the late Pablo Escobar is the plug, which means that “something” is drugs. See? The Wildwood boardwalk can be educational.
Creepy Shirts for Dad
Are you a father who wants to creep out your daughter, her potential suitors and pretty much everyone on the planet? Please buy this shirt that threatens murder for the offense of asking your daughter out. Wait, no, please don’t.
In late May, a 3-year-old boy climbed into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. Keepers shot and killed it. Since then, Harambe has become a running joke on social media. And, somehow, there is a t-shirt memorializing him on the Wildwood boardwalk.
That’s about it for now. But who knows what the rest of this month will bring?
Dan McQuade has been chronicling Wildwood t-shirt trends forPhiladelphia magazine since 2012. Read his previous columns: 2012 | 2013 (’13 Update) | 2014 | 2015 (’15 Update) | 2016. Follow @dhm on Twitter.