In Surplus We Trust: The First Banana Republic T-Shirt

From the very beginning, Banana Republic was a stroke of branding genius. The Stars and Bananas crest, as designed by Patricia Gwilliam Ziegler, was the symbol that sold the concept perfectly. Bananas arrayed like laurel leaves, a martial star at the center, and slightly funky hand lettering all contributed to the tongue-in-cheek nature of the very serious imaginary republic.

Patricia Ziegler modeling the original Banana Republic T-Shirt circa 1980. Photo courtesy Patricia Ziegler.

Banana Republic logo gear was the first thing they made on their own. The first catalogue offered a bag called the Banana Republic Diplomatic Pouch adorned with a patch of the crest.

1979 BR Patch. Courtesy Mel & Patricia Ziegler, via Wild Company.
The crest design dates back to the inception of the company and was used on patches in the 1979 Catalogue #1.

Catalogue 2 Summer 1979

The Diplomatic Pouch was offered again, and the patch also appeared on A Signal Flag Bag and a Fatigue Hat. On the same page they offered the very FIRST Banana Republic T-Shirt. A yellow shirt in both men’s and women’s cuts emblazoned with a silkscreen of the Coat of Bananas in red and green. It included the motto of the company–”In Surplus We Trust”.

Catalogue No. 2 Logo gear.

Catalogue Number Three

Catalogue Number 3 added a tan sweatshirt to the lineup, along with the yellow t-shirts.

Catalogue Number Four

In the 1980 fourth catalog the Coat of Bananas once again appeared on yellow t-shirts, along with a tan “Safari Outfitters”. Note in the illustration the official motto of early Banana Republic–”In Surplus We Trust”.

The Banana Republic “In Surplus We Trust” T-Shirt in the 1980 Catalogue No. 4


The Coat of Bananas was sold on yellow t-shirts and tan sweatshirts in 1981 and 1982, but note the illustration on the shirts and sweatshirts DOES NOT HAVE the motto “In Surplus We Trust”. This variation has been confirmed by Patricia Ziegler to be correct.

Summer 1981
1982 Catalogue 10 is the last appearance of the Coat of Bananas shirt.

An authentic example of the very first Banana Republic T-Shirt has been found and now proudly resides in my collection! This is a size small women’s shirt in incredible condition for its age, the only flaw being the manufacturer’s tag is faded away. It has the motto “In Surplus We Trust” which dates it to 1979-80! In my ten years of collecting this is the earliest authenticated piece of Banana Republic to be found.

Eternal thanks to Amy at VivaVintageClothing @vivavintageclothing for bringing this piece to me. Photos by her.

Sadly, the manufacturer’s tag has faded.
The centerpiece of my collection now!

About The Author

Robyn Adams
Robyn's fascination with Banana Republic began in 1984 when her Alaskan adventurer father began buying the clothing and giving her the catalogs. She loved the clothes and as an artist she was drawn to the illustrations. She went on to study illustration at art college in BR's hometown of San Francisco and worked for years as a background artist for animation. She is now based in Oakland, CA as a graphic designer and illustrator with Secret Fan Base . She's been collecting and archiving at Abandoned Republic since 2011.

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