Documentary filmmaker and Gruen panellist Todd Sampson.
Documentary filmmaker and Gruen panellist Todd Sampson. Mark Rogers

How the Gruen guy's t-shirts took on a life of their own

MARKETING guru Todd Sampson is more than just that guy from Gruen in the t-shirts.

The father of two may be an advertising executive but he insists his trademark 'work uniform' is not an exercise in branding or trying to look cool.

"It's not a conscious branding design. It's just what I wear to work,” he says. "I just showed up at the ABC in my work clothes (when I started on Gruen).

"On some subconscious level the shirts reflect how I'm feeling that day.”

But whether he likes it or not, his often clever and unusual t-shirts have taken on a life of their own.

"There's a guy who has been following me who created a website where he screen grabs every single t-shirt I've ever worn. I have a Batman and Joker relationship with him.”

A recent shirt he wore on Gruen that read Tuck Frump (I'll let you work that one out) was even a talking point on US news network CNN.

" It's one of the few times I get an inside perspective of people having a go at you for what you're wearing,” he says.

But Sampson has embraced his wardrobe's cult status because, well, he doesn't have much choice.

"I walked down the street one day with a blank t-shirt on and this family was standing on the corner, and the dad said 'what happened?!',” he says.

"I'm looking around behind me thinking something bad happened. He said, 'There's nothing on your t-shirt.' I said, 'It's formal wear.' After a few seconds they started laughing.”

Despite never wearing the same shirt twice on TV, Sampson's wardrobe isn't overflowing. The environmentalist - he is co-creator of the Earth Hour initiative - has found a handy way of recycling them.

"I give them to charity,” he says.

"Strangely enough, people buy them (for charity). I've got about 50 in my cupboard now.”

His upcoming new show Body Hack, the subject of today's cover story, features Sampson ditching his beloved t-shirts for a series of intense physical and mental challenges.

He's particularly nervous about the episode where he has a go at being a stuntman in a Bollywood movie.

"When that comes out I'm going into hiding because it's so embarrassing,” he laughs. "I do this love scene with this Indian actress and I think my wife will be more upset with that than anything else in the show.”

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