Friday, July 12, 2013

Blue Angels gag shirts flying off the shelves: Buyers clamor for air show souvenir that jokes about the grounding of the Blue Angels

Terry Hynds, center, of Airware Inc., displays a new airshow T-shirt design for this weekend's Pensacola Beach air show, while Currin Graphics employees, Dillian Hall, left, and David Currin, right, work to fulfill his order. 
 Tony Giberson/

Sequestration sells, at least in the form of souvenir T-shirts that joke about the grounding of the Blue Angels.

Although federal budget cuts will prevent the Blues from flying in the Pensacola Beach Air Show today and Saturday, customers are briskly placing orders in advance for new T-shirts emblazoned with a cartoon depiction of the elite flight demonstration team sitting on the sand watching civilian stunt pilots perform.

The caption: “Red, white and no blues.”

More than 120 customers had ordered the $20-apiece shirts online as of noon Thursday from Airware Inc., the Pensacola company whose vice president, Terry Hynds, conceived the sarcastic design.

Anticipating more buyers, Hynds increased his original order of 500 shirts to 750 to stock the two booths his company will have on the beach on Friday and Saturday during the civilian stunt pilots’ performances.

“We’re selling three or four an hour on our website,” he said.

Demand for the shirts has been so strong that Hynds also ordered 500 posters with the same gag design, which was drawn by Steve Blair, a commercial illustrator in Gulf Breeze. Hynds plans to price those at $10 each.

All this underscores a widespread effort to make the best of the economic havoc wrought by sequestration: from Pensacola Beach planning an air show without the Blue Angels to vendors offering souvenirs that joke about the traditional stars of the event being grounded.

“I think people are frustrated and this is their way of voicing their opinion about federal budget cuts, grounding the Blue Angels and the way the government has treated us,” said Hynds, a retired Navy chief petty officer who spent three years as a Blue Angels ground maintenance crew member in the 1980s.

Hynds said he would normally sell about $25,000 worth of souvenirs during the beach air show, including roughly 800 Blue Angels shirts. The enthusiastic public reaction to the sequestration T-shirt gives him hope to equal or surpass his normal Blue Angels sales this year.

“I’ve got interest nationwide and from military folks overseas. I already have orders from Japan,” he said.

The shirts are also a boon to Currin Graphic Design, which customizes apparel for the Pensacola Beach event.

David Currin, the company’s owner, said the sequestration T-shirts are a “great idea” and a big boost to his business.

“This is a big order for us and I think these shirts will sell well after the air show too,” said Currin, who screen-printed Airware’s shirts on Wednesday. “I expect Airware will have more printed.”

Hynds agreed, “I hope we can blow right through the ones we bought for the air show and order more on Monday to start selling on our website.”

Sequestration’s lighter side

 • WHAT: T-shirts with cartoon depictions of six Blue Angels aviators sitting on the sand watching civilian stunt pilots perform at the Pensacola Beach Air Show. 

WHY: To humorously comment on the grounding of the Blue Angels this summer due to federal spending cuts. 

WHERE: At Airware’s two booths on the beach this Friday and Saturday, online at or by phone at 429-8333. 

PRICE: $20, plus $10 shipping charge if ordered for home delivery.

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