Ugly brands have been dancing in surfing's glory for too long. No more!
And here I sit, on my veranda, flipping through the latest Vanity Fair whilst sipping Dr. Pepper from a paper cup. It is an almost perfect cloudy day and yet my eyes hurt because they are being assaulted by very hideous Michael Kors advertisements. One after the other after the other featuring saturated tones, pouty faced models and clichéd copy.
For those who don’t know, Michael Kors is a very gauche American fashion brand that aspires to mimic high-end labels at a price point. Its collections are neither inspiring nor innovative. It aims directly at what the middle class consumer thinks is fancy. And it is totally working. Last year, the company did over three billion in revenue and its stock is booming.
The masses enjoy Kors’s take because they can feel luxe without actually being luxe but, really, it ain’t good. It is ugly. And reductive. And gauche. And for sure Vanity Fair’s staff know it ain’t good but will gladly take the company’s dollar bills because publishing is a tough biz and gift horses are not to be looked in the mouth.
But VF staff should look that gift horse directly in the mouth and think to themselves, “Away with you. We are an institution. We set the tone of what is worth conversing about and Micheal Kors, just like True Religion and Von Dutch before, is not it. Yuck!”
Which, of course, brings us to surfing. I spent a few minutes perusing various surf websites this morning and had the same general feeling. What the hell is D’Blanc doing “presenting” anything? Its product offering may not be the worst thing ever but its utterly tacky messaging sure is. The company was created instantly and overnight from a large wad of private investment cash but imbued with grime in order to mimic some sort of salt-of-the-earth hipster sensibility. A straight marketing ploy bereft of spirit. And why is Neff allowed to play? Neff is so bright gumball goobery that I am really at a loss for words. It is really the most goobery thing I have seen in years. Just say the damn word. Neff. Neff. Neff. It sounds like Michael Kors.
Publishing can be an ugly business and Vanity Fair and surf media are so scared of folding that both will take almost any dollars they can find. The art of curating taste and demanding beauty is long gone or maybe in the case of surf media never was. But remember those awesome Schroff ads or …Lost ads or the 1998 ad from Guinness beer (above). Watch it five times in a row and feel that heart beat. Amazing advertising, you see, is transcendent. It makes the spirit soar. The kids get inspired and make better things and learn the difference between real and dumb and we all benefit. But how do the kids know what to eschew when the media companies show no difference between the genius and the base?
At the end of the day, I don’t pretend to know what the best fashion/image is but I know what is not. And, thus, I can say, here on beautiful BeachGrit, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled Neff yucking masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming Rip Curl’d shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, Vissla-loathing to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”