Frederick Carleton "Rick" Ralston is associated
Sharon Nelton of BNET titled Ralston as "the T-shirt
king of America and the father of the modern T-shirt."
In the summer of 1960, as a teenager just out of
high school in Montebello, California, Ralston spray-painted
a design on a T-shirt, turning it from common underwear
took this idea and traveled to Santa Catalina Island
with a friend, referred to as "Crazy Arab" to spray-paint
designs on beach towels.
Ralston practiced his towel design on an old T-shirt,
as what was referred as "an ugly monster shape."
He wore it down the street one day and a tourist
offered to buy it off his back for his daughter.
From then on, Rick Ralston decided to go into the
In 1960, Ralston and friends set up a shop on the
sidewalk of Santa Catalina Island. Tourists had
to bring their own blank T-shirts from a local sporting
goods shop, and Ralston and "Crazy Arab' embellished
them with depictions of monsters, surfers, or hot
rods at $2.85 apiece, sometimes making as much as
$100 a day.
In 1962, after another summer on Santa Catalina
Island and two years studying automotive design
at the Los Angeles Art Center School of Design,
Ralston took his summer business to the sidewalks
of Waikīkī in Oahu, Hawaii, where the summer's tourism
season provided him with sustainable income.
In 1964, he opened a tiny shop in the Waikīkī bazaar
known as the International Market Place. The shop
was called Ricky's Crazy Shirts, and, to Ralston's
knowledge, it was the first store ever devoted exclusively
to T-shirts and sweatshirts. Due to the popularity
of the T-shirt designs among tourists, Ralston has
to increase production speed, and he turned from
spray-painting to screen-printing the designs. Later
that year, Ralston changed the shop's name from
Ricky's Crazy Shirts to Crazy Shirts. In 1970,
Ralston opened a second shop in Honolulu's Ala Moana
shopping center. The company's sales at that time
were about $500,000.
Crazy Shirts expanded during the 1990s with more
than 70 stores across the U.S., but in September
2001, the company closed four stores and filed for
bankruptcy. In November 2001, Only The Best
Inc., a company affiliated with the owners of Waikiki
Trader Corp, bought the company.
Crazy Shirts Today
In October 2001, Mark Hollander became President
and Chief Executive Officer of Crazy Shirts Hawaii,
taking over from Rick Ralston. Hollander was part
of the investor group that bought Crazy Shirts.
Under the new leadership, Crazy Shirts expanded
in new untapped markets across the nation, such
as South Carolina and Santa Barbara and moved its
production facility from California back to Hawaii.
The move created over 50 new jobs in Hawaii and
unified all of the company's production-related
activities, including artwork and catalog production.
In the 1970s, the Crazy Shirts line included about
150 designs. Since then, they have changed production
technology and today more than 550 designs are available.
Hollander currently oversees the operations of the
company's retail locations across the country, as
well as the production facility and administrative
offices in Halawa Valley, on the island of Oahu,
Crazy Shirts is known for using Specialty
Dyes that includes
their garments in natural and unique dyes such as
wine, beer, bubble gum, chili, chocolate and Kona
coffee. The current Specialty Dyes include:
- Blue Hawaii
- Crater (Volcanic Ash)
- Key Lime
- Kona Coffee
- Ti Leaf
"Crazy Classics" T-shirt line – Crazy Shirts revives
some of its most popular designs each season. Designs
are made available on a limited edition basis and
based on customer demand.
Kliban Cat Designs – Crazy Shirts holds the exclusive
clothing rights to the cartoon created by cartoonist
B. ‘Hap' Kliban. The "Kliban Cat" first appeared
on a Crazy Shirt in 1977. Images include Hula
Cat with hips swaying and adorned in a grass hula
skirt and lei, Aloha Cat wearing an aloha shirt
and open arms, Sumo Cat dressed in the traditional
mawashi (wrestling belt), and Artist Cat sitting
at his easel covered in paint.
Obama Surfs – In November 2008, Crazy Shirts honored
the Hawaii-born President elect, Barack Obama with
the release of its "Obama Surfs" white crew neck
T-shirt. The front new "Obama Surfs" T-shirt reads
"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, President
Obama 2009," alongside a wave-riding bodysurfer
and the Hawaiian Island chain, while "Obama Surfs"
over a barreling wave is printed on the back.
Wyland Partnership – In December 2008, Crazy Shirts
and Wyland, marine life artist, have partnered to
create an exclusive line of
by the artist's works. The signature Wyland designs
include "Big Whale," which features a mother and
baby whale on a blue T-shirt, along with a humpback
whale tail in brush ink, and "Get Involved" dolphins,
which is printed with the words: "Re-Think, Re-Cycle,
Re-Use." A portion of the proceeds goes to Wyland
Foundation's clean water initiative.
Crazy Shirts supports many of Hawaii's community
and non-profit organizations. Over the years, their
involvement has included:
- Hawaiian Humane Society – Crazy Shirts has
been actively involved in the Adopt-a-Cat, Adopt-a-Dog
and other Hawaiian Human Society projects. Annually,
they donate a Crazy Shirts original shirt design
and product, with a portion of the proceeds
going to the organization.
- Polynesian Voyaging Society – Crazy Shirts
provided the official Polynesian Voyaging Society
– Hokulea crew shirt, working with the team
members to develop a special UV protective garment.
AccesSurf Hawaii – In partnership with Crocs,
Crazy Shirts designed a limited edition shoe
called the "Island Lifeguard" which is old exclusively
through select Crazy Shirts retail locations
and its website. To complement the
Shirts designed an "Island Lifeguard" T-shirt.
Proceeds from these products benefited AccesSurf
Hawaii, Hawaii-based non-profit organization
created to provide access to water sports to
those with mental or physical challenges using
specialized equipment, and the Hawaii Junior
- Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) –
In May 2007, the company launched a product
line titled "Save our Planet." Crazy Shirts
created this line in the hopes to spark conversation,
raise public awareness, and encourage individuals
to take steps toward environmental conservation
and sustainability. Crazy Shirts donates a portion
of the sales from all of its global warming
products to the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute
(HNEI), a research unit of the University of
Hawaii that conducts research to find new forms
of energy to replace the United States dependence
on fossil fuels.