Monday, August 29, 2005

The devil wears fleece.

Let’s play a game: Guess what Old Navy’s ‘demographic’ is. Old Navy, as in fun disposable clothes made in distant, exotic lands for very little money and sold in shopping malls everywhere for something-9.99. T-shirts, hats, fad of the moment accessories conveniently designed to last only as long as the fads themselves. This is the fashion business, right? They must have had someone in mind when they made all that stuff.

Let’s look for clues in their advertising. Hmm… energetic, retro-ironic, exhuberantly faddish. Aha! It’s for young people. Old Navy is for the youth market, right?

Nope. I just saw a corpulent middle-aged man herding his kids in the direction of a streetcar, wearing an Old Navy cap. If he’d been wearing a FUBU hat or a Volcom hat, they wouldn’t have been caught dead with him. But Dad was okay in that Old Navy number as far as they were concerned. Strike one.

Okay, maybe it’s a ‘value brand’. Maybe it’s for people whose aspirations exceed their means, and Old Navy was invented to make them feel better about the whole thing. Well, then, explain this guy who just parked his BMW across two spots and is right now insouciantly beeping his alarm remote over the shoulder of his Old Navy t-shirt as he walks away. He didn’t choose that shade of blue cotton to match his Rolex. Strike two.

And don’t bother trying to cheat by looking at their web site. It’s closed. If they know who they’re for, they aren’t saying. Give up? It was a trick question. Old Navy doesn’t have a demographic. It’s not even a real brand. They just made it up. It’s a non-brand. An unbrand. Old Navy exists to occupy the place where a brand would ordinarily go.

Which, if you ask me, makes it the work of the devil.

I mean, geez. A brand with no redeeming cultural value, no personal statement to offer its wearers, and 38,300 Google hits when combined with the word “sweatshops”. It’s, like, the trifecta of brand nihilism.

Don't believe me? Turn 9.99 upside down and tell me what you see. Coincidence?

Maybe. Or maybe not.

All I know is, when the end comes, I'll be wearing one of those Ashlee Simpson t-shirts. Just to be safe.

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