[1] Can't resist? Must know more about A Bathing Ape right now? Skip ahead! Or go back to the essay...


[2] From p.132, "The Theory of the Leisure Class":

"By further habituation to an appreciative perception of the marks of expensiveness in goods, and by habitually identifying beauty with reputability, it comes about that a beautiful article which is not expensive is accounted not beautiful. In this way it has happened, for instance, that some beautiful flowers pass conventionally for offensive weeds; others that can be cultivated with relative ease are accepted and admired by the lower middle class, who can afford no more expensive luxuries of this kind; but those varieties are rejected as vulgar by those people who are better able to pay for expensive flowers and who are educated to a higher schedule of pecuniary beauty in the florist's products; while still other flowers, of no greater intrinsic beauty than these, are cultivated at great cost and call out much admiration from flower-lovers whose tastes have been matured under the critical guidance of a polite environment. The same variation in matters of taste, from one class of society to another, is visible also as regards many other kinds of consumable goods, as, for example, is the case with furniture, houses, parks, and gardens."

Veblen goes on to compare the relative merits of having your broad expanse of lawn cropped close by cows, which he feels have a bucolic charm very appealing to those of certain ethnic backgrounds. He adds that if the cow is of a very expensive breed, it may also serve as an indicator of class and distinction. A lawn similarly maintained by deer or other beasts would be less beautiful than one with cows, but possibly more expensive, and thus they are not without merits. A team of gardeners, skilled workmen being infinitely more expensive than other species of beast, have their own special charm. All of Veblen's concerns here hinge on the assumption that others are watching, judging, and assessing the pecuniary beauty of oneÕs possessions, and that they serve a purpose as signifiers to others--no matter how bizarre. (back)


[3] From pp. 141, 9, "Displaying Women: Spectacles of Leisure in Edith WhartonÕs New York": "From the 1880s on, society journalism was instrumental in bringing about new social relations and practices as part of the more general development of the mass media in society. It created an "imagined community" of readers by informing them about the lifestyle of the leisure class. Indeed, society journalism transformed members of the social elite into celebrities, those who represented 'the best' in U.S. society. . . High society found itself commodified into so many inches of news columns that helped to sell champagne and aids for indigestion, as well as to rent rooms in resort hotels." (See also Shaw's comment on society plays.)

This connection between the advertisers, the journalists, the featured subjects, and the readership has long been noted, and tacit or overt acknowledgement of the connection is part of what lives behind the science of marketing to this day. (back)


[4] Take, for instance, the adulterous pair in Wharton's short story "Souls Belated," (1899) of whom the woman, Lydia Tillotson, newly and (socially speaking) noisily divorced, is the more committed to maintaining the life of freedom from convention that she has bought at such cost. Yet as soon as she is confronted with the spectacle of another notoriously "fallen" woman at the out-of-the-way hotel in Italy where she and her lover have quietly lodged, posing as man and wife, the realization of what this continued flaunting of convention will in fact mean frightens her into submission once again. After a stormy scene, Lydia and friend conclude they cannot defy the norm and remain who they are, who they see themselves as being--the acceptable sort of people.

WhartonÕs work covers the gamut, really, of rule-breakers--Lily Bart, the heroine of "The House of Mirth," is the tragic sort who craves all the trappings of society. She feels a strong sense of entitlement to such trappings, and her beauty is to her advantage, but only up to the point where she begins to really try to make use of it. Once she passes beyond that point, she becomes sold, compromised, tarnished--ultimately unsuitable."The Buccaneers" follows the path of social climbers: girls from newly moneyed families who contrive to marry into European aristocracy, thus taking the back door into American high society, which would not have likely had them any other way.

Wharton examines the sad fact of intellectual conformity as well, in "The Descent of Man" (1904). In this quiet tragedy, one Professor Linyard, a scientist to the core, takes his indignation about the current trends of pseudoscience and transcendentalism to a publisher in the form of a manuscript. He intends to "avenge his goddess [science] by satirizing her false interpreters. . . [to] write a skit on the 'popular' scientific book; [to]. . . so heap platitude on platitude, fallacy on fallacy, false analogy on false analogy, so use his superior knowledge to abound in the sense of the ignorant, that even the gross crowd would join in the laugh against its augurs. And the laugh should be something more than the distention of mental muscles; it should be the trumpet blast bringing down the walls of ignorance, or at least the little stone striking the giant between the eyes." (Wharton, 1990, p.126) Far from being a trumpet blast, however, the book is taken seriously, not as satire, and is an immense hit among the same public Linyard meant to deride. He comforts himself at first with the thought that "the initiated will know at once" (p. 131). When it is clear that they do not, his Faustian bargain made, he is consoled by the size of his advance, then with the profits from the sequel he eventually writes. JackÕs schooling and MillicentÕs dresses being the more pressing demands, his own integrity becomes less of the moment, and he winds up a slave to the intellectual fashions of the day. (back)


[5] A perfect example, from "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" (1985): Pee-Wee Herman's sober announcement to Dottie, the bike mechanic who has a crush on him. "You donÕt want to get mixed up with a guy like me," he says. "I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel. There are things about me you don't know. Things you couldn't know. ThingsÉyou shouldn't know." Herman's about the scrawniest, squirreliest critter there is, but he uses the lines to good effect before capering out of Chuck's Bike-O-Rama in quest of his cherished bicycle, stolen by persons unknown.

At the conclusion of movie, Burt Reynolds plays Pee-Wee in the dramatization of his life, and Morgan Fairchild gets all dolled up as Dottie. The tricked-out bike with streamers on the handlebars is replaced by a throaty motorcycle, and the transferrence of affect from early adopter (Pee-Wee) to mainstream consumers is completed. (back)


[6] The mods and the rockers constituted the1960s European follow-up to the American beatniks and rebels, and all these groups serve to illustrate another rising trend: the fashion tribe. As youths began to ally themselves with particular attitudes, often expressing this alliance through the outward signifiers of atypical dress and rebellious behavior, they also began to reject other "others." Beatniks were no more welcome among bobby-soxers than foxes are in henhouses, and the outright war between mods and rockers is the stuff of legend, immortalized in 1979Õs Quadrophenia. There was no longer a single "in" crowd in society, no cream rising to the top; instead, various group identities became the norm, and part of the social burden became choosing a crowd before one chose you. (back)


[7] Gladwell, as a writer for the extremely well-established New Yorker, might not himself be considered an expert on coolness; he draws on the actions and pronouncements of professional trendspotters ("coolhunters") to reach his own conclusions about coolness as a market phenomenon. Eventually, he comes forth with three rules of cool which seem to fit pretty accurately: "The third rule of cool fits perfectly into the second: the second rule says that cool cannot be manufactured, only observed, and the third says that it can only be observed by those who are themselves cool. And, of course, the first rule says that it cannot accurately be observed at all, because the act of discovering cool causes cool to take flight, so if you add all three together they describe a closed loop, the hermeneutic circle of coolhunting, a phenomenon whereby not only can the uncool not see cool but cool cannot even be adequately described to them." (1997, p.87) Those who detect hints of quantum mechanics and Schrodinger's Cat here are probably not too far from the truth of it. (back)


[8] A New Yorker cartoon that kind of addresses this issue...(back)


[9] The label's combined popularity and scarcity has even given rise to forgeries, the classic imprimatur of an item's desirability. Two men were arrested in Japan for selling fake A Bathing Ape t-shirts through the mail and on the street in Tokyo. (Yomiuri, 1998, p. 2) One wonders which was the greater offense in the label's eyes: the fact that the men were selling forgeries, or that they advertised them in magazines? (back)


[10] Gene Krell of Japanese Vogue makes a very important point, however--one which distinguishes Paul Smith's internet-only offer from A Bathing Ape's restricted access policies. Krell rejects the hot label's anti-commercialism. "'It's no different than buying Guy Laroche,' he said. 'Once you prohibit people, you become the very thing that the underground is supposed to detest, and that's elitism.'" (Chaplin, 1999, p.1)

What he's missing, though, is that it's all elitism, and that in a way, A Bathing Ape and other companies who hand-pick their clientele are making a game of elitism. A Bathing Ape clothes say in no uncertain terms that the person wearing them is committed to the hunt, but they only say that to the few who can recognize them for what they are. Dior's New Look fashions of the late 1940s and early 1950s were physically constricting, and thus indicative of a certain leisure and social class; A Bathing Ape implies, likewise, that the wearer has the advantage of some combination of money, leisure time, mobility, access, and an uncle in the merchant marines. They imply membership in another class entirely, a class that to some extent regulates itself, but does take measures to keep its numbers small. (back)


[11] From "The Advertised Life," pp. 154-155: Vanderbilt further explores "the elaborate schemata of marketers, where demographics and psychographics are merged to create mythical profiles of who buys what and for what reasons. In SRI International's Values and Lifestyles System, an industry standard, there are eight basic classes into which all Americans fall. There are no rich, no poor, only those with more resources and less resources. From the low-demo 'Strugglers,' who are 'brand loyal' and 'read tabloids and women's magazines' to the 'Experiencers,' who are on top in the 'Action Oriented' category and who 'buy on impulse' and 'listen to rock music,' there is a category for everyone. The information gleaned with the 'new media' will provide marketers the building blocks of a new Leviathan." (back)


[12]Vanderbilt's cronies at the Baffler are perhaps as guilty of snobbery as A Bathing Ape, mind you. Here's what they preach to their readership in a subsequent issue's frontispiece: "Be sure to stay tuned for our upcoming labor issue. The 30s are back, rich kid, and hip is irrelevant to everyone now except maybe Republican Senators posturing on their motorcycles for Banana Republic. The Baffler goes well with a volume of the complete Artie Shaw on Bluebird (all out-of-print, all vinyl only, of course). Also good to have on hand is a copy of the collected plays of Clifford Odets (out-of-print) and the USA trilogy by John Dos Passos." (1995) The implication being, of course, that unless you have it, you can't really get it--which also echoes Gladwell's rules of cool. (back)