We are doing a bit of archaeology with this blog, trying to help figure out where certain things fit in the BR timeline, which is especially useful when collecting BR. The biggest key to the puzzle is of course the label tag in the clothing itself. Here is the breakdown of BR labels as I understand them. Feel free to correct anything or add to the discussion if you can.
The Star and Bananas, AKA The Coat of Bananas is the most famous BR label, and is the label that was in use throughout the catalog era of Banana Republic. When I think vintage BR, it has this logo sewn into it.
The Evolution of the Banana Republic Logo and Masthead
Originally designed by Patricia Ziegler during the 1978-83 pre-Gap era, the Stars & Bananas was the logo for the company and the crest of arms for the mythical Banana Republic Armed Forces. Her original logo was hand-drawn and had a slight lopsidedness that added to it’s charm. It did not have a particular text treatment to accompany it, rather the “Banana Republic” masthead font varied in style from catalog to catalog.
In 1983 San Francisco based designer Primo Angelli was hired to create the polished logo and masthead font that we remember from the golden age of BR. The star was crisply defined in a classic graphic style and the bananas were made more uniform. His distinctive text treatment was the branding that was used throughout the BR empire from catalogs to price tags to storefront signage.
In putting this post together I noticed something interesting. The Summer 1983 catalog (above) features the new Banana Republic font that would be used in the masthead of the catalogs going forward, but the stars and bananas is not quite the final version,…It’s tighter than Patricia Ziegler’s original, but clearly still hand drawn. I wonder if this is an earlier draft made during the design process….Catalog 16 Holiday 1983 (Below) marked the debut of the official Banana Republic logo and masthead.
However, this logo treatment did not extend to the clothing tags for some time. Well into the catalog era the clothing tags still had the distinctive green oval with red lettering surrounding the star and bananas. It is the same hand drawn symbol and funky, hand lettered logo. Note the star is solid and much smaller than the final Primo Angeli logo.
Guide to Banana Republic clothing tags: The Coat of Bananas
The Big Tag:
Earliest examples, like this one from 1983 were somewhat larger than later versions. I call this the Big Tag. It measures 2 1/4″ x 1 5/8″, which is actually the same size as later Coat of Bananas tags, but the proportions of the design are the largest of all the variations of this tag.
Although it also measures 2 1/4″ x 1 5/8″ the words on the Standard Tag are not as fat, and the green oval is a little smaller in size and brighter in color, and the bananas a little bigger. Overall,the letters are bigger and the details much crisper. There are certainly variations that occur in the embroidery process (see examples below), but the Big Tag seems to be clearly different.
The Small Tag
: The Mill Valley and California are moved to the sides of the logo in this tag which measures 1 3/4″ x 1″. The tag pictured here is from a Yukon shirt. The same tag is used in the Israeli Paratrooper Briefcase. It may be that this smaller tag is just what was used for shirts and the like, while the larger tag was for jackets.
A reader pointed me to this Bombay Shirt Dress that has a most unusual tag. This uses the Primo Angelli typography and places it in a 6 sided diamond shape with 2 little black stars on either side. I’ve never seen this one before. It’s hard to place, but I’m guessing it’s fairly early in the post-Gap run when the typography came into existence mid-1983. While it is certainly possible that this could have come ANY time during the 1980s my hunch is that it’s some sort of early experiment after the new font had been created. The Bombay Shirt Dress goes back to at least Fall 1983 if not earlier and seems to have been discontinued by Fall 1985.
Let’s call it the….
The Diamond Tag
Thanks to Expeditions with Bamboo Dan for the pictures.
And then there’s this incredibly odd piece of work. The full masthead logo with the fancy font WITH the Stars and Bananas. Purple green and red, with potted palms and the Kingdom of Siam boldy embroidered across the bottom. I’ve looked for this particular shirt in the catalogs, but so far nothing, so it’s likely post-1988. Let me know if you have any other examples of this tag in your collection.
The Printed Tag:
Cheaper clothes, such as the t-shirts, had a screen printed tag rather than embroidered. It says made in USA.
The Safari & Travel Tag
Later in the run of the catalog era they switched to this embroidered text tag that has the Safari and Travel Clothing Co. in the rounded rectangle from the catalog logo. I don’t know why they didn’t also use the classic look for “Banana Republic “. Presumably, this was cheaper than the green and gold label or perhaps they were looking to update their look and bring it closer to the rest of their branding. In any case, this tag was from the catalog era, and survived for a few years beyond the end of the catalogs in 1988. You see this label in clothes that were never sold in the catalog as well as in classic BR items.
The One Harrison Tag
These next two tags I am uncertain about. The “One Harrison” tag likely came first. It retains the Travel and Safari subheading. BR had moved it’s offices to One Harrison Street in San Francisco in the late 80’s. It’s doubtful that anything ordered from the catalog in, say, 1988, would have had this label in it.
The Adventure Globe Tag
The next tag represents a move to change the focus of BR to travel clothing, though it does retain mention of Safari. This is likely from the early 90s when BR still had a retro flair to their clothing and you would still find some items that were very similar to the classic BR stuff.
From the same era, sans globe:
The Modern Tag
After that, BR tags seem to be purely text based. I’m sure there’s plenty of variation that obviously we won’t bother to document. You may run across BR clothing that looks similar to the classic stuff, but it’s from their “Heritage” collection and you’ll know it by it’s label.