Generally, I’m not much into reality TV and have found it quite easy over time to avoid the siren’s song that lured so many close to the dangerous rocks which bear the names of shows like “Jersey Shore,” “Toddlers and Tiaras” and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”
However, I must admit while channel surfing, I will occasionally watch a segment or two of Shark Tank, where the average Joes and Josephines trot out to pitch a product or service in front of a panel of well-bankrolled celebrity investors, fronted by Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban. Those who pitch their ideas hope to entice one of the investors on the panel to provide them some needed capital in exchange for a cut later of the potential profits.
It’s really a show all about America’s ongoing quest to come up with an idea to strike it rich, perhaps the newest version of so many other things that may have appeared silly on the surface but captivated consumers enough to be profitable.
Many of you are old enough to remember the Pet Rock, the brainchild of advertising executive Gary Dahl. It was marketed as a live pet and arrived in a cardboard box with breathing holes. The “pets” were nothing more than smooth stones that came from Rosarito Beach in Mexico.
While the public’s interest was short-lived, during the Christmas season in 1975 and for a few more weeks after, sales were strong enough and long enough to make a newly minted millionaire out of Dahl, who got the idea for his Pet Rock while sitting in a bar one night listening to his pals complain about the hassles that so often come with owning and caring for a pet.
Certainly, there have been other simple “I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that” products that have had even longer legs when it comes to sales than Gary Dahl’s Pet Rocks. For example, there’s the Nothing Box, also called the Useless Box. Made of wood or metal, it’s a box that either has a series of randomly blinking lights or just a toggle switch, which, when pressed, produces a finger that pops out and turns the switch back off. If you hop on Amazon.com, you’ll still see over 10 different versions ready for purchase that promise hours of pointless fun. The first one I saw was a metal box with the blinking lights back when I was listening to KC and the Sunshine Band in the 1970s.
Arguably, the best of the simple ideas when it comes to novelty items is the Chia Pet. It was invented by the folks at Joseph Enterprises in San Francisco back in 1977. The products are figurines that have holes with seeds inside. When the figurine is watered, vegetation grows. They’re called Chia Pets because the seeds inside are the plant species chia. Over 50 years later, one searching for his inside green thumb can still buy a Chia Pet. A quick screen tap on Amazon.com will bring up Chia Pets in the form of a simple kitty, Chabacca of Star Wars fame and even Donald Trump, among others.
I think about the seemingly simple ways some have bloated their bank accounts every time I see one of those commercials on TV for guys’ shirts which aren’t supposed to be tucked in. Each time the commercial runs, I hear the guy who came up with the idea and does his own commercials tell me that it’s a tough style to get right.
Hmmm… I mean, first of all, is it really all that tough to not tuck your shirt in? Listen, I’ve seen the shirts, and it seems to me the only modifications from the dress shirts I’ve always known and worn is they’re a bit more tapered, have a bit of a shorter tail, and are even all the way around without the apron tails of traditional men’s shirts.
College basketball fans of a certain age may very well remember the team known for a similar look featured on an ESPN 30 for 30 entitled “Untucked,” the story of the 1977 Marquette Warriors. Head basketball coach and one of the sport’s most colorful figures, Al McGuire, before the season let his star player, Bo Ellis, design the team’s uniforms for the coming year, and the result was one of the sport’s most unique looks, a jersey designed to be worn outside the trunks with the school’s name on the front tail of the jersey.
While the no-fun NCAA would later ban the jersey style, in ’77, Marquette gave Ellis’ design maximum coverage as the team wore them all the way through the regular season and down the tournament trail, all the way to winning the school’s only NCAA championship.
At any rate, hats off, or should I say shirts out, to that guy who somehow had the vision to see there was a market filled with men who, for whatever the reason, had a burning desire not to tuck their pants into their shirts. To him go the millions for an idea that seems pretty simple to me.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.