Like any good mystery, my endless journey began innocently enough. Neo taking a phone call. Lebowski and a piss-soaked rug. Alice falling down the rabbit-hole.
I was watching TV, and I tweeted. (Both things I do too much.) That simple tweet would lead me to years of messages, random Reddit threads, and Instagram DMs with a costume warehouse.
The mystery in question? A Hawaiian shirt that I simply needed to find. But not just any Hawaiian shirt. Michael Scott’s Hawaiian shirt from The Office’s Season 3 episode “The Convention.” It’s orange and floral, a resplendent piece of Microsoft Office merchandise.
Here’s the tweet I sent all the way back in 2019.
See, I am a connoisseur of Hawaiian shirts — long before they back in fashion — and a somewhat obsessive fan of The Office. OK “somewhat” is an understatement: I basically wrote a book while ranking every episode for Mashable.
This shirt was my white whale. But I didn’t realize a screenshot, plus “my kingdom to anyone who can locate,” would take years to (kinda sorta) resolve.
All 185 episodes of ‘The Office,’ ranked
When the tweet got a few likes, I decided to actually look for it. It started simple. I messaged the Microsoft Office and Microsoft company store accounts on Facebook. No dice. Not even a response. Now, to be clear, at this point I wasn’t even reporting a story. I just really wanted that beautiful shirt and was doing my best to locate it. This was a personal journey.
Over the next few days, I began reaching out to my network, until a friend of mine, similarly obsessed with my quest, suggested I get in touch with the show’s costume designer. Carey Bennett, who worked on The Office for its first four seasons, gave me some good clues about the origin of the shirt. At the time, it had been more than a decade since the episode had been shot, but Bennett believed it was either something they created custom or, more likely, a free shirt gifted to the show’s costume department from Microsoft.
“Oftentimes a piece is created from scratch or is a piece that’s been altered or enhanced, which is what I originally thought was the case with this shirt,” Bennett wrote in an email in 2019. “The more I thought about it though ([it’s] been many years since I designed that show!) I think I remember that it had been given to us by Microsoft. We had a ton of promotional products given to us by various companies for that episode. After trying many choices we decided that Michael would definitely choose to wear the free ‘schwag.'”
That’s the thing, Bennett said, every single stitch of clothing on a show is purposeful. “Each scene is like a painting and has to be composed with color and texture,” they said.
I threaded this bit of news under my original tweets about the shirt and moved on with my life. I loved the shirt but felt like I had hit a bit of a dead end. Even though I stopped my search, I thought a lot about why I even loved the shirt in the first place.
That 2006 episode, titled “The Convention,” is what I deemed the show’s 28th best half-hour in my Office opus. And it’s also one of my favorite episodes to rewatch. In it, Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) twists into a pretzel of anxiety in some corporate Philly hotel that’s hosting an office supplies convention. Michael is trying his best to play it cool around Jim, who transferred to the competing Stamford branch after his big swing to win over Pam failed. So Michael puts up a front around Jim, wearing this wonderfully cheesy convention swag while blasting awful techno music and sipping a cosmo in his hotel room. It’s a great scene — funny at first, then heartfelt as Jim reaches out to Michael, who’s hurting and perpetually lonely.
That’s all well and good, but my love for the shirt comes down to Carell’s ‘fit. The Dad Jeans with the floppy Hawaiian shirt tucked in: The man was ahead of his time. And I want to copy that exact outfit. It is the perfect mix of my fashion sense and my favorite show. But at this point in time, it didn’t seem possible to find.
Then a funny thing happened. I kept receiving tweets — like at least once a week — about this damn shirt. I’m talking a tweet a week for years. Somehow, my tweet appears at the top of Google when you search for the shirt, alongside a few Reddit threads. People asked me if I had found it. No, I’d say. Another person would ask. Nope. Rinse and repeat. Clearly, I was not alone. The DMs never stopped. I stopped replying, but I didn’t forget.
As more time passed, and the tweets kept coming, live moved on. I joined Mashable, the pandemic started, I got married, adopted a dog, and moved twice. Yet, the shirt remained in the back of my head the entire time.
So, a years later, I rededicated myself to finding it — for content, yes, but also for my own peace of mind. First, I asked Bennett if they remembered anything else about the shirt’s origins. No luck. Then, I turned to Universal. The show filmed on the Universal Studios lot throughout its run, and Universal was also involved in the production and distribution of The Office. Bennett had suggested that if the shirt lived anywhere, it was “most likely lost in the enormous costume warehouse” at Universal Studios. I found an Instagram account associated with the costume department, sent a message in July, and hoped for the best. The account hardly posts, so I didn’t think they’d respond. However, after about a month, they got back to me and promised to search their archives. Holy shit, I thought, while pondering the journalist ethics of asking to buy the shirt if they found it. I also checked my bank account to see how much I’d willingly spend.
As it turns out, I should have been preparing for heartbreak.
“We checked with our Archives team and unfortunately that is not a shirt we have in our inventory,” the account wrote back.
Undeterred, I immediately checked in with Microsoft. A representative got back to me quickly, saying, “We’re looking into it! It might be tricky to track down.” After a few follow-ups, they told me it was a busy time for the company and to check back in a few weeks later. (Honestly, that’s kind of a fair, considering this was a rather silly quest.)
Before we go any further, a point of order: There are knockoffs out there for purchase. Nothing against the knockoffs, but this offering from Vinco is a clear replica. It’s not the correct material, the design is a bit off, and it’s sold on a website I wouldn’t immediately trust.
My hope was to find the shirt, or at least its origins. If this was a bit of free gear for Microsoft employees, for instance, I’d want one from a Microsoft worker’s attic. If it was a one-off for the show… at least I’d have an answer of some sort.
Well, I have good news and bad news. I have arrived, years later, at about half of an answer. Microsoft did get back to me with some notes from its archives team.
“The Microsoft Office shirt featured in the Office TV show appears to be custom for the episode and character,” a representative wrote in an email.
In other words, they believe it was a one-off creation for the show. The team linked out to a post on the subreddit r/DunderMifflin from about a year ago. It wasn’t a super popular post but the user, u/dontthroworanges, seemed to have found an unaltered version of the shirt.
The Reddit user wrote:
I found the shirt with a bit of info and a cool story. So I too had been looking for this shirt for years. Dead end after dead end. Until… I came across some high resolution photos posted on Getty from this episode in where you could barely make our [sic] the brand and logo of the manufacturer of the shirt. So I stared at it for a while and made the discovery it’s an “Eagle Dry Goods Signature Series” shirt. In doing some basic searching of the brand they primarily dealt I’m [sic] promotional products hence why Microsoft used them for this swag. So, then I hopped on eBay and bang! There it was in all it’s glory. The shirt I had been looking for for so long. A few clicks later and the shirt was mine.
There it was. Just like that. Someone had gotten to it before me. I fired up Getty Images, and this appears to be the image in question. If you zoom in and focus, you can just barely make out the brand name.
Credit: Justin Lubin/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
When you Google “Eagle Dry Goods Signature Series,” you don’t get much. It appears to be either a brand within the company Uniforms USA or a brand sold by the company back in the day. Uniforms USA makes workwear. Online, I found a digital copy of the 2008 Eagle Dry Goods catalogue through Uniforms USA, which on Page 39 has a very, very familiar looking shirt.
Credit: Uniforms USA
The design, called the “seaside camp shirt,” appears to be the exact same as Michael’s Hawaiian shirt in the episode. It’s tough to tell if the color matches exactly. It’s worth noting this catalogue came out well after “The Convention” would’ve filmed, so Michael’s shirt might’ve been an outdated colorway by 2008.
I’ve reached out to both Reddit user dontthroworanges, as well as Uniform USA, for further details but have yet to receive a response. I’ll update down the line if I hear back. But at this point, there’s not too much else to uncover. It’s clear the shirt in The Office was made by Eagle Dry Goods. Unfortunately, if there are any more of the camp shirts floating around out in the ether, they’re not for sale on eBay or elsewhere.
This all seems to suggest that Microsoft’s theory was correct. Maybe someone found a Hawaiian shirt that Michael would wear, plastered it with a Microsoft Office logo, and off they went. It also seems possible Microsoft PR made a few of these and sent them out. The exact origin remains a bit unclear.
In short: I still don’t have the shirt. Disappointing, I know.
Now, the good news: I do have a knockoff. After years of searching, my brother bit the bullet for me and bought a replica off a questionable site.
The material is polyester and spandex. It feels sort of like a swimsuit but it is light, which will be nice in the summer. The color seems similar to Michael’s shirt, as does the design. But it’s just not the same. All in all, not a bad knockoff. It would make a great Halloween costume or a summer ‘fit at the beach in late August.
To be clear, I’m not giving up my search just because I have a knockoff. I emailed the Office Ladies podcast asking for help — hosts Angela Kinsey and Jenna Fischer, who played Angela and Pam, respectively, love investigating these sorts of weird things from their show. I’d also love to hear from anyone and everyone who might have a clue. (Here’s looking at you, Steve Carell.)
That’s what I’ve got for now: a knockoff and half an answer. Even after years of looking and sending countless messages, I still cannot escape Michael Scott’s Hawaiian shirt.