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February 05, 2007

To Affinity --- And Beyond!!

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I suppose I should explain the title to readers who might be baffled; the all-knowing rest of you (congrats!) can move on to the next paragraph. Okay. In the Toy Story 2 movie there's a spaceman-toy character called Buzz Lightyear who from time to time would call out "To infinity ... and beyond!!" So I was, er, sorta trying to make a play on that. Y'know, trying to be funny. But maybe it was kinda lame after all. Try not to hold it against me. I blame my joke writers. Fire them next week, I will.

It's confession time once again. This time I need to publicly admit that I'm no longer hatless. The shameful thing is that, for the last year or so, I've been buying baseball caps. The ones with the adjustment strap on the back. With a logo do-dad on the front.

First it was an orange Pebble Beach Golf Links cap. Then I bought two! Cabo Wabo cantina caps when I was in Mexico last August. After that I went up-scale and got a Porsche Design cap in Berlin. It's distinctive because it's black and has no logo above the bill -- just the words "Porsche Design" in tiny black letters on silver bill edging. And recently [sob!] when I was in Reno at the automobile museum I bought a Route 66 cap.

But I do have standards.

The caps I buy relate to me. I would never dream, for instance, of going to the Harvard Coop and buying a Harvard-logo cap for my personal use. That would be deceitful, because I never attended Harvard. But given that I got a fancy advanced degree from Dear Old Penn, I can imagine myself getting one of their caps: I already own a couple logo sweatshirts and a license plate frame.

(For what it's worth, I relate to Pebble Beach because Nancy and I got engaged there. We had lunch at Cabo Wabo, so that justifies those caps. Porsche? -- I used to own one. And I drove parts of Route 66 in pre-Interstate days.)

What to make of buying logo gear? Doubtless some sociologists would call it a mechanism whereby marginalized, low self-esteem people try to attain prestige in the eyes of passers-by. Other sociologists might term it a form of validation of group solidarity. Me? I dropped my American Sociological Association membership more than a quarter-century ago, so I have no grand theories to advance and take logo sightings on a case-by-case basis.


Pebble Beach cap.jpg
Pebble Beach Golf Links cap
This was the start of my sorry descent into affinity cap-wearing. Only mine was orange!

UW Huskies cap.jpg
University of Washington "Huskies" cap
I have two degrees from the UW, but I'm not sure if I'll buy a Husky cap. In the first place, I never cared for the purple-and-gold school colors. Furthermore, it would be oh so much more snobbishly fun to wear a Dear Old Penn cap.

UN keyring.jpg
United Nations key ring
I couldn't find any baseball caps on the UN web-site, just stuff like the key ring. Too bad. I've actually visited the UN building and so can justify buying a cap. Wearing a UN cap would help disguise my dangerous neocon tendencies. And the cap would deliver the message while saving all those dollars I'd otherwise have to spend buying a Volvo.

What's your take on logo-wear and affinity products?



posted by Donald at February 5, 2007


I'm in the technology world, and I'm always being thrown branded hats, t-shirts and bags. Most of the stuff I get is somehow associated with Microsoft. I keep the bags for use, but my wife won't let me wear any of the apparel items. Sort of like that character Cayce in William Gibson's novel "Pattern Recognition," she refuses to wear anything with a brand/label/identifying mark on it, and doesn't let me either, unless it's something very independent like a shirt from the American Science Surplus store.

I keep a couple of more formal collared shirts with some Microsoft "prestige" logos on them (I'm a Microsoft "MVP") for use when I'm teaching a technical class or giving a technical presentation in which connections with Microsoft might be useful. The brands then become tools to associate me with an expertise hierarchy.

I live in Olympia, where I know you lived, and as you know, it's bumper-sticker mecca for the activist set. I have my own neo-con tendencies, but I also have my christian anarchy currents. We don't have any bumperstickers (due to my wife's philosophy on public statements), but the one I've been most tempted to stick on is "Love others pre-emptively."

Posted by: Dave Shackelford on February 5, 2007 11:08 PM

I've gotten in the habit, since I was eighteen, of buying a college t-shirt for every college I visit. For example, a friend ran me by the Seminary bookshop at the University of Chicago, and I had to take a detour to the student shop to get a Chicago t-shirt. Whether prestigious or not, I always have to get a t-shirt -- I've got worn-out shirts from Tulane, Western Michigan, Kansas State, Sewanee, Columbia, none of which I have attended. I don't think I am leeching the prestige of these institutions ... I never expect that people wearing a university or college shirt actually went there. To me it's more of a collecting thing. I'm interested in universities, so I like having the t-shirt!

Posted by: James on February 6, 2007 1:18 AM

Once, I volunteered to translate the Google interface into Frisian, and I got a branded T-shirt in reward. Never wore the thing, even though I've been to meetings of webloggers where a Google T-shirt would have made stand out.

No, logos are a taboo.

Posted by: ijsbrand on February 6, 2007 7:51 AM

I don't get the whole concept behind logo wear. The clothing manufacturer pays a licensing fee to the logo's owner, and of course passes that fee along to buyers in the form of higher prices. That's why, for example, a cap with the NASCAR logo costs more than a logo-less cap regardless of material quality or workmanship or other physical attributes. You are (indirectly) paying NASCAR for the right to display its logo.

Yet by wearing the cap you are giving NASCAR free advertising - actually, you're paying them to run the ad. By all rights NASCAR should be paying you, by subsidizing part of the cost of the cap.

Posted by: Peter on February 6, 2007 9:00 AM

I'm with Peter.

3rd generation advertising geek + 10 years as a copywriter + 10 years as a commercial actress = nobody gets my bod w/o renting it.

Except, you know, The BF. I can't give it away fast enough to him...

Posted by: communicatrix on February 6, 2007 1:27 PM

I could instantly relate to that William Gibson character, too. For many years now, I haven't been able to comfortably wear any clothing with any wording, symbols, logos, etc. on it.

That means that several clothing labels are off the list, some of which might have things I would otherwise wear. But I won't have a Ralph Lauren polo pony riding across me. A very small label somewhere, OK. But not right front and center.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on February 6, 2007 10:23 PM

Dave -- I didn't know I had any/many Oly readers. I used to work in state gummint at OFM and had to be careful on my treatment of certain subjects. Retirement is nice!

James -- I used to buy tiny college beer mugs once in a while. Difficult to wear, fortunately.

Derek -- Ditto me, in general. An itsy-bity logo is okay if I really seriously like the garment. But I avoided Tommy garb because of the large labels (they wised-up on Jeans, which I now wear).

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on February 7, 2007 12:31 PM

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