At this year’s New York Comic Con (NYCC), the RSVLTS booth had quite a few new shirts on display, including the first look at an upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles polo that was available in super-limited quantities at the show. Yet perhaps the most conversation-provoking piece at the booth was a shirt that the company released more than six months ago, in March.
Dubbed “The Meme,” this shirt depicts various versions of Spider-Man pointing at each other, an homage to a moment from the ’60s animated Spider-Man series that has become a long-lasting internet meme. RSVLTS Co-Founder Steve Gebhardt told The Pop Insider that this unconventional pattern was the result of a brainstorming session last year, and the team initially thought the design was something of a long shot.
“There are obviously creative limits that you have to live within when doing various IP, especially Marvel,” Gebhardt says. “It’s Spider-Man, such an iconic character. But we just thought it would be so funny to play off the meme and try to make a shirt that kind of plays into the meme, … We pitched it to Marvel under the assumption that the feedback would probably be quite extensive and maybe they might not even allow us to put it out. But they embraced it, they loved it.”
The timing was also uncanny — Just as RSVLTS was preparing to debut this shirt, Marvel Entertainment posted an instantly-viral photo of the three live-action Spider-Man actors (Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland) recreating the same pointing moment, generating renewed buzz around the meme.
Once they had secured the sign-off from Marvel and produced the shirt, RSVLTS decided to tease this specific product ahead of its wider Marvel release. The company partnered with YouTuber Mr. Morrow — who focuses on Disney and Universal park culture and who often wears RSVLTS shirts in his videos — to reveal “The Meme.” The reaction, Gebhart says, was massive.
“From the moment that went live and our audience saw it, and then people outside of our audience saw it, we kind of realized it was like the Jaws scene. ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat,'” he recalls. “We’re like, we’re gonna need more inventory of this one. … From the very second people saw it, we just knew it was gonna be a home run.”
Since the shirt’s initial launch in the spring (when it sold out very quickly), this pointing Spider-Men design has expanded to a variety of other product types from RSVLTS. It appeared on swim shorts, a polo, and even boxer briefs. Gebhart says the team started developing some of these other products before the original button-down shirt even came out, working on a hunch that the pattern would be popular.
However, the success of this internet-savvy product doesn’t mean that RSVLTS is rushing to do more meme-inspired designs. Ultimately, it comes down to longevity. “We are very topical in a way that if a meme comes up and we can piggyback off of it, we would definitely jump on it,” Gebhart says. “It’s just a matter of like timing and whether we think it has a long-term play, to not just burn out. Because, oftentimes, memes come and then they go just as fast.”
Yet there’s something about the Spider-Man pointing meme that has made it stick in the cultural conversation. Now, as more RSVLTS fans add “The Meme” shirts to their collection, it has become common for the team to see photos of multiple fans at conventions recreating the pointing pose while wearing the shirts.
Gebhart, when reflecting on why this specific internet moment has found sticking power, sums it up simply: “You know, people love Spider-Man, and it’s timeless.”
RSVLTS’ “The Meme” shirt is available to purchase now at the link below.