Screen Stars is the most recognizable vintage t-shirt brand from the 1980s and likely the heaviest circulated brand in that decade. It’s a property of Fruit of the Loom which used/uses the Registered Identification Number (RN) 13765. FOTL branded blanks were manufactured many decades earlier but they continued to market them as undershirts while Screen Stars was targeted at the burgeoning screen printing industry.
So let’s start from the beginning with the earliest version of a t-shirt we’ve found labelled with RN 13765. The following tag may be as early as the late 1960s when the trend was 100% cotton construction. Certainly there’s even older versions given FOTL’s role in undergarment wear (originally the “Union Underwear Company”) but this one is the earliest we’ve found not branded as FOTL and with an actual print.
Then in the 1970s Fruit of the Loom ramped up their production of blanks with the following generic tag. It probably started as exclusively 100% cotton but then slowly morphed into 50/50 at some point late in the decade. Some of these tags boasted “Dacron Polyester” and there’s also a rare sticker version of this tag.
In 1980 FOTL officially branded their line of printable blanks as Screen Stars. The first incarnation of the tag was made in a few colors – white, orange and blue. Sometimes labelled “Super” – maybe because of an increased thread count – but I’m not entirely sure.
I believe this initial tag design exclusively featured 50/50 fabric. There are 100% cotton versions of this tag – though they may be more scarce.
Then star of the show came along in the early 1980s. It’s the most famous incarnation of the tag design was manufactured between 1981 and 1983. There was a green bar “Super” version of this tag and a 100% cotton version that had blue bars. There was also a “Heavy” version and even a “Junior Stars” line of tags for kids.
Now, closely study the tag above and the one below. Notice the subtle differences – especially in the “A.” The different design of the “A” can help determine the date it was manufactured. The more stylistic “A” is earlier in the timeline. I came to this conclusion after noting dates that were printed on tees with these two tags.
The tag above likely went into manufacture in 1983 and may have lasted until the end of the decade. My theory is that the suits in the boardroom at FOTL discussed changing the “funky A” (should we coin it as that? Is it the Big E of Screen Stars tees?) because it was too unconventional. Maybe they got some feedback in a focus group and found people just didn’t like it. So along came a slight variation with its boring, run-of-the-mill “A.” Interestingly this specific tag incarnation was also labelled as being “Made in” a number of countries: Canada, England, Ireland and Mexico.
I’ve found the above Screen Stars Best tag on t-shirts dated as early as 1987 – but some have reported as early as 1986. It was likely manufactured concurrently with the previous tag then carried the brand into the 1990s. This incarnation of the tag was probably a response to bigger people with bigger bellies. These tees featured more generous measurements to accommodate the post 1970s human. The 50/50 blend tag appears to be far more common than the 100% cotton version.
Remember, a blank could be manufactured in 1982 – and not be printed on until 1985. This is quite common given a screen printer would purchase them in bulk and not actually put them to use for years. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking, “Hey! I have a tag like that but it’s got a much later date than your timeline!” And because of this overlap the latter part each time frame is more of an estimate – whereas it’s easier to determine when the tag first emerged.
If you have any examples that contradict this info, please share photos below and we’ll work toward making this as accurate as possible!