Sleep by Sleep! NKOTB Releases New Throwback Collection Inspired by Their Popular '90s Sheets
"When we meet fans [now] we always hear them say to us: 'You were my first concert' and 'I used to sleep on you!'" band member Danny Wood tells PEOPLE exclusively
Fanny packs and white platform sneakers aren't the only '90s trends making a comeback this year.
On Tuesday, New Kids on the Block unveiled a new line of merchandise inspired by their vintage bedsheet pattern, which decorated millions of teenage girls' bedrooms during the peak of NKOTB mania in the early 1990s. The current collection includes everything from coffee mugs to blankets, and is adorned with old-school portraits, autographs and handwritten doodles by band members Jonathan and Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood.
"The line is really inspired by the fans," Wood, 52, tells PEOPLE exclusively. "Over the years, we've watched as they've taken those old bedsheets they had as kids and made them into dresses and jackets. During the pandemic, one girl even turned those sheets into face masks and donated all the money from the sales to my foundation, which helps breast cancer patients. The guys and I have always leaned into the nostalgia of the New Kids so we said, 'Let's embrace this and do our own products with that nostalgic feel.'"
As part of the first Blockhead Bedsheet collection, the band will offer collage-print oven mitts ($24), coasters ($10), pint glasses ($15), coffee mugs ($15), aprons ($40), dishtowels ($20), face masks ($15) and a throw blanket ($50), all available on the NKOTB shop. Wood says fans can expect additional pieces to be added to the line soon.
"I gave my granddaughter the blanket, and I have pictures of her all wrapped up in it," says Wood, who is father to three adult children, son Daniel Jr. and daughters Vega and Chance. "I think our fans - and their kids and the baby Blockheads, too - are going to love it, at least that's what I'm hoping."
During the height of their pop idol fame, the boy band's vast line of licensed merchandise was a money-making machine of posters, buttons, hats, shoelaces, lunch boxes, watches, dolls, charm bracelets and everything in between. At the time, JC Penney also created more than 700 in-store shops focused only on selling New Kids merchandise - including their now retro neon bedding.
"If you asked the five of us what we thought of those bedsheets back in the day, we would have had some expletives to describe them probably," says Wood, who says he still has one of the original bright pink NKOTB sleeping bags. "But now when we meet fans we always hear them say to us: 'You were my first concert' and 'I used to sleep on you!' Or sometimes they'll say, 'I used to sleep on your face!' if they're trying to be extra funny. So we've now embraced things like those sheets because it's just fun for everyone."
For Wood, it was also important to take control of the group's image and marketing following their reunion in 2008 - something he says the band wasn't able to do during their early years. "I took an active role when we got back together to be more involved in the business side and not let some of the things that happened to us back in the day happen again to us now," he says. "We were young guys in our 20s and people were making so much money off our faces and our name and we didn't even know certain products were in the store."
"The tipping point for me was when they started selling these stuffed [plush] dolls that were supposed to look like us but they looked like murder dolls. They were so creepy. Mine and Jordan's had horrible rat tails. Donnie's had a little mullet," says Wood, with a laugh. "We only found out about them when we walked into a Toys R Us and saw them there. That has never left me, so now we're in charge of our images, our name and everything that we've worked so hard for."
Although Wood and his NKOTB bandmates have spent most of the last 16 months at home with their families, they've been using that time to make plans for their post-pandemic projects - including a return to live performances. They've added two outdoor concerts to the summer schedule, including full-capacity shows at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., on Aug. 4th and a rescheduled hometown performance at Fenway Park in Boston on Aug. 6th.
"We're looking forward to getting back out there on stage," says Wood, who explains the band has been in constant communication during the pandemic. "We know a lot of people have been having a tough time through all of this, and it's our chance to bring some happiness to our fans. And for us too."
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