Blame it on Bill Clinton. For years Larry Kleinstein, 43, had toyed with making a T-shirt that read "Boys Lie." But not until Clinton fudged the truth about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky did the Acme Shirt Co. president act on his idea, churning out tees with slogans including "Make Him Beg" and "Boys Cheat."
And not a moment too soon. Sassy teens—as well as celebs like Melissa Joan Hart and Jennifer Love Hewitt—are flipping for the look. "It's okay for boys to wear Hooters shirts," explains Gillian Molina, 18, of Clearwater, Fla. "Girls are taking a stand for themselves."
And making a former boy named Kleinstein one successful grown-up. His candy-colored tees—priced at $20 in boutiques and the retail chain Hot Topic—transformed the once-floundering shirtmaker into a 15-employee business earning $2 million last year. And though critics frown at the boy-bashing, Kleinstein thinks girls just want to have fun. "It's playful," says the Manhattan resident. "This wasn't meant to be mean."
The son of an accountant and his salesclerk wife, the Chicago native began making tees on a whim in 1994 after his acting ambitions didn't wash. "I didn't have the soap-opera look," he says. Now the single guy often plays mall rat, eavesdropping on teens in search of the next golden phrase. Don't expect a rash of girl-bashing slogans anytime soon. "That wouldn't be funny," he says. "With boys it's clearly a joke."
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