While traveling in the south of France the past week, I noticed an unusual number of Franklin & Marshall College t-shirts. In Cannes I came across a store that only sold F&M branded clothes. If you don’t know, F&M is small liberal arts school in Lancaster, PA with about 2,000 students. I spent three nights there a few years back doing improv shows with UCB Tourco. Why would this small school be so heavily represented in the clothing choices of the residents of multiple cities in the French Riveria? Is there some sort of study abroad exchange?
No, it’s much more interesting than that. An Italian clothing designer saw an F&M sweatshirt in a thrift store in London in 1999 and decided to copy the design for a new clothing line.
In 1999, after seeing an official Franklin & Marshall sweatshirt, a company based in Verona, Italy began producing clothing in a vintage 1950’s collegiate-style with the words “Franklin and Marshall” on them. F&M alumni began to report seeing F&M merchandise for sale in Europe, which puzzled the college.
In 2001, Tim McGraw posed for publicity photos wearing a “Franklin Marshall Wrestling” t-shirt, one of which was included in the CD booklet for his album Set This Circus Down. When the college became flooded with inquires about its (nonexistent) connection to the singer, they began to investigate further and discovered that the Franklin Marshall Clothing company was using its name without permission.
In 2003, after lengthy discussions, the college decided not to sue and instead agreed to accept a licensing fee from the company so that they could continue to produce their products, which had begun to gain popularity with youth, especially in the United Kingdom.
Now that is something. What, I don’t know.