Justin Bieber, Will Smith, Nas, Snoop Dogg and Ne-Yo have all been photographed wearing Bow & Arrow’s “Gung Fu Scratch” t-shirt featuring martial-arts icon Bruce Lee manning a DJ table, but longtime fan Robert Downey Jr. may have just given the fashion label the ultimate endorsement.
The actor, who plays Iron Man and his alter ego Tony Stark in Avengers: Age of Ultron, wears the shirt in an extended scene in the movie (it can be glimpsed around the :53 mark in the trailer below), and Bow & Arrow’s founder and CEO Peter Lee says it was the actor who requested the shirt as part of his wardrobe in the movie, which opens on May 1. (Calls to Team Downey and an email to the actor’s publicist went unanswered.)
Bow & Arrow, which is based in Los Angeles (and makes all of its product there), has been in business for a little over three years, and Lee, 50, says that Downey has been a fan for two and a half. The “Gung Fu Scratch” t-shirt, one of a number of designs that feature the Enter the Dragon star and are officially licensed through the late actor’s estate, was the company’s very first design. “Robert was given his first [“Gung Fu Scratch”] shirt by Bruce’s daughter, Shannon Lee, who runs his estate,” Peter says. “He’s a huge Bruce Lee fan,” and began practicing Wing Chun, the form of martial arts that Lee studied, in 2003.
Not long after that, a representative from the actor’s production company, Team Downey, contacted Bow & Arrow to express interest in its clothes. Lee says that he has since sent Downey a couple of packages of Bow & Arrow shirts — the company does non-Bruce Lee designs, including a WTF shirt designed in the form of Van Halen’s logo — and began seeing paparazzi shots of Downey wearing them.
Next, Lee says he received an email from “the placement director at Marvel Productions” indicating that Downey wanted to wear one of the Bruce Lee shirts in Avengers: Age of Ultron. “I said, ‘Hell yeah!”’ Lee says. “I’d have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get it placed in a movie like that.” The first Avengers grossed $623.4 million. according to BoxOfficeMojo.com and a Black Sabbath 1978 Never Say Die tour tee that Downey wore in that picture reportedly became a huge seller. And on the opening day of the new Avengers picture, Downey brought even more attention to the shirt by giving away nine of them via his Facebook page.
Since Avengers: Age of Ultron opened in a number of overseas markets in April, Bow & Arrow has been fielding a number of international orders for the shirt. “I just had one from Uruguay and two from the U.K.,” says Lee, who has yet to see the movie. “My dad who lives in Korea did, though, and he called to tell me he saw the shirt.”
Lee has plenty of fans in the music world ,as well. Bieber, Snoop, Ne-Yo, Nas and Nelly have all been photographed wearing Bow & Arrow tees, and the company’s founder says Smith wore a version of the “Gung Fu Scratch” shirt, which comes in a number of styles.