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There’s green in ‘Whitey’ tees

Shirt makers capitalize on fugitive’s capture

‘‘Whitey’’ Bulger’s arrest sparked the printing of dozens of ‘‘Free Whitey’’ T-shirts. ‘‘Whitey’’ Bulger’s arrest sparked the printing of dozens of ‘‘Free Whitey’’ T-shirts.
By Luke O’Neil
Globe Correspondent / June 30, 2011

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It’s hard to say how long after reputed Boston mob boss James “Whitey’’ Bulger was apprehended last week that the T-shirt presses started running, but it must have been soon. Now, a simple online search turns up dozens of different “Free Whitey’’ T-shirt designs on eBay and on apparel sites like Zazzle, including one that echoes the poster for the film “The Departed’’ and others that incorporate mug shots and sports team logos.

“T-shirts are in, gangsters are in, it’s a win-win idea,’’ a Boston designer who goes by the name Megatrip wrote in an e-mail. He’s printed up shirts with a Bulger mug shot on them and is selling them for $24.94 at RedBubble.com.

“Growing up in and around Boston, Whitey Bulger was the original ‘original gangster.’ The Original O.G. Everybody wants to support a criminal.’’

Then Megatrip backpedals a little.

“I don’t actually want Bulger free,’’ he adds. “But it makes for a great T-shirt.’’

Indeed, these days T-shirt designers are quick to jump on news stories in hopes of profiting from the public’s fascination with troubled celebrities or other boldface names. “Free Lindsay’’ T-shirts flooded eBay after Lindsay Lohan briefly went to jail, as did “Duh, winning’’ shirts after Charlie Sheen’s outrageous televised rants last winter. “Weinergate’’ tees are also not difficult to find.

Dave Quigley says the intent of the “Free Whitey’’ designs he’s selling at TShirtTimes.com “wasn’t to glorify Whitey or to start a movement to actually restore his freedom, it was more a commentary on the legend of Whitey.’’

Quigley, 25, remembers Bulger being a fixture of news stories throughout his childhood in Lowell.

“When I heard he got caught, my first thought wasn’t that they should let him go, but that I was disappointed that the legend, in a sense, came to an end. That is what prompted me to make these shirts.’’

A fair number of shoppers apparently feel the same way, at least based on his sales numbers, Quigley says.

“They are selling incredibly well,’’ he says. “We made our first sale within seconds of putting the shirts up for sale.’’

You might say these guys have a pretty good racket going.

Luke O’Neil can be reached at lukeoneil47@gmail.com.