The wackiest US fast food merch since the 1970s

a man and a woman taking a selfie

Just how much do you love your fast food?

After months of social distancing, masks, and vigorous hand-washing, one would think Americans would be more health-conscious and ready to turn over a new leaf concerning their diets. One might think that, but one would be wrong.

Fast food remains as popular as ever with Americans, who can’t cram the greasy, fried goodness into their face holes fast enough. Be that as it may, there have been periods in American history in which some fast food chains struggled to get people through their doors.

When these troubling periods arose, the people who ran the chains had to resort to extreme measures to attract customers. What did the job more often than not was branded merchandise. Memorabilia. Swag.

The swag in question varied over the years, spanning the spectrum from inspired to moronic. But what it all had in common was a desire to get customers through the door, and burn that brand awareness into consumers’ brains. Here’s a look at the branded swag that popular fast food chains used to attract customers to varying degrees of success since as far back as the 1970s.

a toy doll sitting on top of a wooden table

Hasbro Ronald McDonald Doll

Long ago, in what one assumes from the photo was the 1970s, Hasbro manufactured a Ronald McDonald in doll form to delight and amuse children. Of course, all you have to do is look at it for two seconds to see a resemblance to Pennywise the Clown from It. It’s anyone’s guess how many cases of coulrophobia were launched by this product.

a close up of a toy

Hardee’s Lips Figure

Hardee’s is a fast food chain with locations throughout the South and Midwest. In the 1980s, it ran television commercials featuring disembodied Claymation lips. The chain produced said lips in toy form, which the customer was allowed to buy for a mere 99 cents with the purchase of hash browns. It is not known what the price was for the lips as a standalone item.

food, the wackiest us fast food merch since the 1970s

McRib Tour Tee

Much like 17-year cicadas, the McRib sandwich is an item that only emerges from McDonald’s every few years. When this happens, its devotees welcome its return with a rapturous fanaticism best described as “cult-like.” This McRib Tour Tee, which lists on the back all the cities where the sandwich is sold, is the perfect item for the person in your life who welcomes the sandwich’s return with the same enthusiasm one would see for a Beatles reunion.

food, the wackiest us fast food merch since the 1970s

‘I Ate A McRib’ Enamel Pin

When the McRib enthusiast in your life has eaten the sandwich, it will not be necessary to ask if they did it. They will proudly tell you without you having to solicit the information. Rather than ask them if they want a medal for this accomplishment, you can give them this enamel pin to announce their triumph instead. That’s a well-spent $6.

a glass mug on a table

Hardee’s Smurfette Glass

Fast food chains have been giving away plastic merchandise for decades, and there was a time long ago when the memorabilia could shatter if handled carelessly. Hardee’s sold such a piece of memorabilia when it created a drinking glass imprinted with the image of Smurfette, whose tenure as the only female Smurf demanded that children handle it with care, respect, and reverence.

a close up of a bag

Big Mac Camo Duffle Bag

One of the more practical branded items sold by McDonald’s is this duffel (or “duffle”) bag, which for a mere $40 can comfortably accommodate one’s personal effects. What’s not known is the type of surroundings this self-described “camo” bag would require to fade seamlessly into its surroundings and avoid detection. Maybe the dumpster behind McDonald’s?

a close up of food

Kentucky Fried Chicken x Crocs

Do you wear Crocs? If yes, do your friends make fun of you for wearing them? Well, give them something to really talk about by wearing these branded Crocs, which have the look – if not the feel – of fried chicken. Sadly, the shoes are currently sold out, and there’s no telling when they might appear again, but go ahead and add them to your bucket list.

a close up of a piece of paper

Tie-Dye Taco Bell Shirt

Chances are, if you work at Taco Bell during the night shift, you will see customers whose judgment is impaired by the recreational use of marijuana. Customers fitting this description should take Sheryl Sandberg’s advice and lean into it by wearing this branded t-shirt, whose tie-dyed pattern all but proclaims, “Yes, I am high. Give me some chalupas.”

a bicycle leaning against a wall

Taco Bell Cravings Bike

Even if you fit the description of “weed-addled customer who wanders in at three in the morning,” it doesn’t necessarily follow that you don’t also value physical fitness. You can now counter those pernicious stereotypes by doing your Taco Bell run on this branded bicycle, and the food itself will give you the carbo load necessary to power your trip home. One hand washes the other.

a close up of a flag

Taco Bell Sauce Packet Track Suit

It should go without saying that on windy nights, a mere tie-dyed shirt will not be enough to protect you from the elements as you bicycle your way to burrito heaven. For nights such as those, you’re going to want something warm and saucy, both inside your belly and protecting you from the elements. Please consider wearing this handsome Taco Bell track suit, which is garlanded with colorful depictions of the fast food establishment’s sauce packets.


KFC 11 Herbs & Spices Firelog

How many times has this happened to you? You build a roaring fire in your hearth, and while it warms your body, you can’t help feeling disappointed that it smells nothing like fried chicken. You can now sidestep this tragedy with KFC’s 11 Herbs & Spices Firelog, which, according to the product description, smells like the Colonel’s secret recipe. The product information advises customers, “Please do not put your face directly into the fire in an attempt to smell fried chicken.”

food, the wackiest us fast food merch since the 1970s

Waffle House Lip Balm

Waffle House is a regional restaurant chain primarily found in the Southern United States. While it is unknown to what degree there is a relation between Waffle House food and chapped lips, this hasn’t stopped the chain from selling its own branded lip balm. So the next time you’re eating hash browns at a Waffle House and notice that your lips are chapped, you now have a definite course of action with which to address the situation.


Fried Chicken iPhone Case

While you’re sitting comfortably in your branded Crocs, enjoying the warmth of a roaring fire that smells like chicken skin, someone may need to reach you about some urgent matter on your smartphone. You can take this call in a thematically consistent way by using the fried chicken drumstick iPhone case, though probably not this one. It was only available from KFC Japan and it doesn’t seem to be around any longer.

a close up of a toy

Ronald McDonald Blow-Up Doll

Is there someone in your life who enjoys McDonald’s food but can’t interact successfully with other human beings, preferring to surround themselves with inflatable facsimiles instead? Well, when that person’s birthday rolls around, this Ronald McDonald blow-up doll will make the perfect gift. Ronald is down for a cuddle or is happy to just hang around and serve as a bobbling punching bag on really tough days.

food, the wackiest us fast food merch since the 1970s

Officer Big Mac

2020 was a year that saw unprecedented civil unrest in the United States, with many people calling to defund the police. Well, if Officer Big Mac were on patrol, those people would cease their demands immediately and without delay! Unfortunately, as the photo indicates, Officer Big Mac is unarmed, so he’s going to need backup when it’s time to take down the bloodthirsty recidivist known as the Hamburglar.

a plate of food with a birthday cake

There are few experiences in life more upsetting than when you pick up and eat what appears to be a taco, and it’s actually a taco and not a cookie. Why isn’t everything just a cookie? The fine folks at Taco Bell have solved this vexing problem with this cookie stamp set, which allows the user to make cookies in the shape of the fast food chain’s tacos and flavor packets. Delight and amaze your houseguests!

chart, funnel chart

McFlurry Journal

In the age of Medium, everyone has the opportunity to become a diarist and chronicle their life and times. But what can you do if you’re backpacking in Nepal and can’t get a Wi-Fi signal? Fear not. The McFlurry Journal from McDonald’s affords every person the opportunity to chronicle their innermost thoughts and emotions from anywhere, provided they remember to bring a pen.

a pair of sneakers

Whataburger Justin boots

If you love Whataburger you’re either from Texas or you’ve been to Texas. That’s because just 19% of the company’s locations are located outside of the Lone Star state. That’s probably why a pair of Justin boots emblazoned with the Whataburger logo makes perfect sense. They’re a limited edition, though, so when they’re gone, they’re gone.

a pair of sneakers

Whataburger running shoes

Of course, if boots aren’t your thing, you can always slip into these Whataburger themed running shoes. Whataburger does not guarantee you will get to their stores faster while wearing these.

a person with collar shirt

Sonic state-themed T-shirts

If you love Sonic, you’re going to love their themed T-shirts for every state. The one shown, for example, commemorates the famous Yellowstone National Park geyser “Old Faithful” with a gushing drink flowing from a Sonic cup.

a man and a woman taking a selfie

Just how much do you love your fast food?

Little is known about this pillowcase, which depicts Colonel Sanders in profile and leaves enough room on the side for the lovelorn and lonely to lay their head next to his likeness. This pillowcase is ideal for those moments when your darkest thoughts and anxieties keep you up at night, but you only have a branded pillowcase to talk to.

a close up of a device

Taco Bell Sauce Packet Bowtie

The people at Taco Bell know that there’s more to you than the mere fact that you like fast food purporting to be Mexican in origin. You’re a person with a busy social calendar that may or may not include weddings, and you’ll need to dress for the occasion. That’s why they’ve made this bowtie, which features pictures of the chain’s popular sauce packets, a must-have at any formal event.

food, the wackiest us fast food merch since the 1970s

Taco Bell Sauce Packet Garter

What if the wedding you’re attending is your own, you’re the bride, and you want to participate in the highly questionable ritual of having the groom remove your garter in front of everybody (not that we’re judging)? This is an appalling practice (not that we’re judging) that never should have taken hold (still not judging), but as long as it’s here and you insist on doing it, let Taco Bell brand that garter and cover it in pictures of sauce (to match your groom’s bowtie, perhaps? That’s class AND sass!). This doesn’t make the ritual any less vile (but hey, you do you), but it will be really easy to change the subject to Mexican food when it’s over.

This article was produced and syndicated by

a pile of fries

8. … and fast food in general

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