Wednesday, January 21, 2009

addicted to polos

I am not addicted to polos, nor have I ever been moderately interested in their existence. I have, however, had this post on my mind for some time now.

I read most of Naomi Klein's No Logo last semester (a surprisingly interesting read considering the lack of images and abundance of facts and figures). She talks about brands like Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, and Polo in hip-hop culture.

"Tommy Hilfiger, even more than Nike or Adidas, has turned the harnessing of ghetto cool into a mass-marketing science. Hilfiger forged a formula that has since been imitated by Polo, Nautica, Munsingwear and several other clothing companies looking for a short cut to making it at the suburban mall with inner city attitude.

Like depoliticized, hyper-patriotic Benetton, Hilfiger ads are a tangle of Cape Cod multiculturalism: scrubbed black faces lounging with their wind-swept white brothers and sisters in that great country club in the sky, and always against the backdrop of a billowing American flag...

Tommy Hilfiger started off squarely as white-preppy wear in the tradition of Ralph Lauren and Lacoste. But the designer soon realized that his clothes also had a peculiar cache in the inner cities, where the hip-hop philosophy of "living large" saw poor and working-class kids acquiring status in the ghetto by adopting the gear and accoutrements of prohibitively costly leisure activities, such as skiing golfing, even boating.
Perhaps to better position his brand within this urban fantasy, Hilfiger began to associate his clothes more consciously with these sports, shooting ads at yacht clubs, beaches, and other nautical locales. At the same time, the clothes themselves were redesigned to appeal more directly to the hip-hop aesthetic."

I love Young Jeezy, and it is only appropriate that I mention his track, "My President" today, as Barack Obama took the position just over 48 hours ago. It might seem trivial, but I was pretty stoked on making a connection between what Naomi Klein is saying here and what Nas [he wrote the lyrics] is asking when he says,

"I said I woke up this morning, headache this big,
pay all they damn bills, feed all these damn kids,
buy all these school shoes, buy all these school clothes,
for some strange reason, my son addicted to Polos."
Nas's son is addicted to Polo because Tommy Hilfiger paved the path for their company. Hilfiger was successful because he ignored moral boundaries.

Negative links like these, links that bring design to society in a negative way, have helped me to realize just how important it is for me to use my design for good.


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