Royal Purple Synthetic Oil's $6.46 Multi-Language T-Shirt

While researching escalators for a personal project, I happened upon the website of Royal Purple Synthetic Oil, a Texas-based company that sells a wide variety of purple-packaged lubricants, including this one for escalator chains:

The Royal Purple Synthetic Oil company was founded in 1986—a bull year for purple-colored things.

Because I’m not used to associating “oil” with “purple,” I found myself grinning — pleasantly disoriented — at this grapey, juicy, five-gallon container of Escalator Chain Lube. The visual identities of everyday oils (motor, cooking, etc) tend to favor certain colors, right? Yellows, greens, reds, blues, white, and black. Maybe an orange here or there. But purple oil packaging is startling. I like it. I like startling designs.

This handsome T-shirt (above) is what inspired me to blog. It’s available for just $6.46* through Royal Purple’s extensive web shop. I like a lot of things about this shirt. My favorite aspect is the embellished “U” — a tough little teardrop that has been crowned for regality and italicized for speed. This U is so full of personality, it could nearly pass for a cartoon mascot — The Royal Purple Crowned U.

The Crowned U’s forward tilt reminds me a little of Don Quixote. Is the Crowned U sad? Its crown appears to be crying a single huge tear that fills the U’s fuel tank–like basin. Do the U’s senses of urgency (symbolized by the tilt) and majestic responsibility (symbolized by the crown) generate a hefty sadness (the big tear) that is also a special kind of Crowned-U fuel? The tear appears to be the gasoline that powers the Crowned U’s hurtling race into the future. Why does the Crowned U race into the future? Presumably so that it can feel more responsibility-based sadness, so that more giant tears of gas can be cried, so that the U can race ahead forever — into infinity, or oblivion, or both.

Anyway, that’s one possible sketch for the Crowned U’s personal story, if Royal Purple ever wants to turn the “U” from that T-shirt into a full-fledged cartoon mascot.

Back to the shirt design: I like the shirt’s yellow-and-purple color combo. The multi-language aspect is delightful (ROXO REAL!), and I like the sound of the globe-adorned slogan on the back of the shirt: the performance oil that outperforms. It’s a round-sounding slogan: the performance oil that outperforms. Sounds solid. Sounds pro. I’ll take five gallons. I also like that the shirt is printed on both sides. (Why are so many T-shirts afraid to get printed on both sides?) Mainly, it’s just a nice shirt to look at.

*Caveat emptor: The cheapest shipping option for one shirt is roughly nine bucks. (Yikes.) I bought one anyway. Fifteen dollars postpaid for a well-liked T-shirt isn’t such a bad deal these days.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I like the Korean, which literally translates into: “King Plum Color.” Koreans usually refer to purple as “borasek.” The korean on the graphic reads “jajusek,” which is more a plum/red-winish color… Nonsensical issue, but I think it makes the tee shirt graphic that much more fun. Royal Plum Escalator Chain Lube… hhmmm would that make a more attractive product? I would definitely have used Royal Purple Bike Chain Lube for my Schwinn as a kid when the Minnesota Vikings were my favorite team (mainly for their team colors)…

  2. @Tox: I too loved playing Super Nintendo (a controller & console with PURPLE elements). The NES & SNES controllers were the gold standards of their times. The Sega Genesis’s controller was fine but felt hollow and strangely light by comparison. The Genesis controller’s directional pad and buttons are less responsive and more rattly than those of the NES & SNES. Playing Mortal Kombat-style games on a Genesis never felt right. Regarding the shirt: I like the T-shirt in this post on its own merits (a matter of taste), even as I agree with your general distaste for mass-manufactured shirts that strive for an aesthetic of one-of-a-kind-ness. If I weren’t particularly attracted to this shirt (I am; you’re not) but bought it anyway, that would be stupid. But the shirt’s possibly coming across like a thrift-store find doesn’t specifically turn me off the way it seems to specifically turn you off.

    @thighmaster: Fair enough.

  3. I like the purple container. I remember when I was young, I wanted to play the Super Nintendo all the time, not only because of the fun that came from playing it, but because the controller was aesthetically pleasing and fun to hold. Conversely, the controller for the Sega DreamCast was a nightmare and not fun, detracting from the playing experience, even though Crazy Taxi was otherwise a good time. The upshot: design is opportunity, and a purple package for synthetic oil seems preferable due to the possibility of increased appeal for some, while not detracting from the appeal for those who are not at all concerned with design. Besides, if I’m in charge of elevator lubrication processes, I need to be able to find the lube quickly and easily, and a purple package, because of its rarity, would be beneficial for that function.

    I don’t care for the T-Shirt. It has the appeal of vintage, thrift-store rarity which was cool before it was beat like a dead horse by Urban Outfitters, Old Navy, Wal-Mart, and the like. Mail-ordering a t-shirt that fits into this category is trying too hard to be cool.

  4. @Rudy: Thank you for these kind remarks. I’ll try to keep it chastely up.

    @Plopper: The numerous translations on this T-shirt leave me feeling very satisfied. How often does a T-shirt choose to tangentially acknowledge the vastness of our world? This shirt feels like it could have gotten by without all the translations. The inclusion of the translations is a stroke of generosity and a very pleasant surprise.

    @Veronica: I’m convinced that a subtle pronunciation of “lube” is impossible. I’ll remain firm in this conviction until I hear evidence to the contrary. Consider this a thrown gauntlet: Somebody oughtta create & post a YouTube video titled “My Attempts At a Subtle Pronunciation of the Word ‘Lube” or “Toward a Subtle Pronunciation of ‘Lube.’” If you create this video, Veronica, I’ll create a blog post here on Imprint that centers on this video. Think about it!

    @Aulden: I have no idea what makes this oil synthetic. It seems to me that if we could truly “synthesize” oil, we’d be reading a lot fewer news articles about Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and NYC mosque uproars.

    @Marg: I’m with you all the way.

  5. What in the world is “synthetic” oil anyway? While I hold the creativity and diligence of this marketing program in high esteem, as a purchaser of industrial chemicals I would look beyond the packaging to the performance specifications. Why is this better than good old-fashioned Pennzoil, (which we know has credibility because Arnold Palmer is a long- time spokesman)? Is this product more cost effective than a commodity-grade axle grease? Just how much of a premium price am I going to have to pay just because of the purple can? Anyhow, I ask you – would you put this stuff into your riding lawn mower, let alone your automobile? What would my cronies down at the hardware store think about me putting purple “oil” into my pickup truck?

  6. I marvel at your observations. I would not have noticed this can of oil. Maybe it’s because I am a girl and I don’t really have a preconceived notion regarding oil packaging. I do like the word lube, though. I always over pronounce (outperform myself?) the ‘u’ in ‘lube’ because it just seems to lend itself to that sort of thing. It’s a word that never does not make me laugh, and not even in a “mind in the gutter” sort of way. It’s just a funny word to say out loud.