The Secret History of Underoos

An ad firm had asked Larry Weiss to come up with a way to make children’s underwear more appealing. He had a great idea -make them look like superhero costumes! Weiss knew it was a blockbuster concept, and he knew blockbusters, because he was the one who came up with the idea for Fruity Pebbles.

Weiss was confident it had appeal. But Hanes had passed on the idea. So did the Scott Paper Company, which spent a year in development before senior executives got cold feet. Though he began working on the project at the urging of an ad firm, Weiss had taken on the financial burden of licensing Marvel, DC, and other characters himself. When Scott backed out, Weiss had gotten them to agree to pay for the next year’s merchandising rights to Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and all the rest.

The money could buy another year of shopping the idea—but Weiss was broke. “I had my own $64,000 question,” he says. “I was poor at the time. I get a check from Scott. I could take it and say, ‘Well, bad idea, but at least I got a little money,’ or I could move forward.”

Weiss used the money to keep pushing his underwear idea, and Underoos debuted in 1977. You know they were a success, but just how successful they were is part of the story of Underoos that you can read at mental_floss.

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