Wednesday, December 06, 2000


This was going to be an article about chads, or Chad, or St. Chad. An analysis of the virtues of Presidential candidates and the economic impact of a Bush Presidency. Then I yawned, and remembered this line from American history: "All men are created equal."

It's a nice thought. When each of us is created, or when each man is created, we are all equal to one another. Unfortunately, when you are spitting up on yourself and feeling your own shit squish against your thighs under a diaper, it doesn't really matter that you are equal to the infant in the next house!

In the scheme of our families, equality is a very serious matter. If we were fortunate enough to be the eldest child, we enjoyed excitement and privilege that our younger siblings never knew. We are the first-born, and depending on your family's heritage that could be a blessing beyond belief. If we were the youngest sibling we enjoyed different privileges and excitement. Those of us trapped in the middle have tasted, ever so briefly, the joy of being the youngest; but, it was short-lived. As soon as another sibling came along that magical place in life was usurped.

Most of us are trapped in the middle. We are too endowed to sink further down the chain and not endowed enough to rise any further. We are not the child of a President or grandchild of a Senator, and our mediocrity will not take us to the White House.

Childhood is rife with the confusion of finding our place in the pecking order. When we move to the playground as toddlers, before the magic imprisonment of pre-school, everyone is pretty much equal. When we enter the kingdom of school the pecking order is established. Those with the better toys, the better bikes, the better sports equipment are usually held in a higher regard that those with less. Many of our fears become rooted in our personal security as it relates to other peoples' perceptions of us.

High school and college present more complicated challenges of our status in life: sex and style. For most of us at this stage of life it is more accurately described as (1) the perception our friends have of our sexual activity and (2) what we try pass off as fashion. Our displays of sexual prowess or chastity, depending on our values, and the clothes we wear, begin to outwardly define who we are socially and where we are in the pecking order of young America.

Then there is our later social life in bars, clubs, and restaurants. Here, sex and fashion continue to define the insidiousness of status. Some of us relish our spot at the top, while those of us at the bottom usually find solace and garner attention as freaks, clowns and perverts. Most of us, however, live in the middle. We are of middling intelligence, we have a middle-management position, we live a middle-class lifestyle, all of which is funded with a middle-income paycheck. Our status is somewhere in the middle.

We live in a culture that is fetishistic about status. As adults, our address, our employer, our car, our vacation spot, and our clothing speak to our station in life, our place in the pecking order. This is unfortunate; but, that's the way it is. We pander to our greatest fears when we indulge in displays of status. And we never stop our pursuit of a higher station in life, of more status.

A small percentage of the population is in possession of the status most of us desire. Some of them have earned that status through hard work and many successes; some have been born into their status; some have gotten status as personalities with a modicum of talent. But they have status. The more stylish of those who hold status are those who appear to maintain and display their status effortlessly.

In the first half of the Twentieth Century, American fashion was very simple: men wore suits, women wore dresses, and everybody wore hats and gloves. When looking at pictures of urban social gatherings of pre-war America, it is usually impossible to determine the class and/or status of those portrayed, as the clothing of the time did not belie the participants' station in life. Everybody owned a suit or a dress, and when it was time to be seen at an event, you wore it.

The advent of hip-ness and the invasion of self-serving European clothing designers turned Americans into caricatures of famous people in Fellini films! America's obsession with status now had an outward manifestation: attire. One could pretend to be a member of a different socio-economic group by dressing in clothes that supposedly represented a higher or lower station in life, depending on one's goals. Those with no status began to trade dignity and self-respect to display the appearance of status. Some dreadful trends have made their way through our culture. One in particular seems to be here permanently and needs to be addressed.

The most pedestrian attempt to display status is the designer logo. An immature and unimaginative trend, if ever there was one.

Levi Strauss & Co. has been putting a tag on the outside of its products for over 100 years; but, Levi products have never been a status symbol. In the 1970s, Calvin Klein brought us his little white tag on the back of denim jeans, then he put his name on the waistband of our briefs. Young men began wearing IZOD's Alligator and Ralph Lauren's Polo shirts with the silly little emblems on the chest. Today, it's Tommy Hilfiger's faux-patriotic red, white and blue flag emblem; and Skechers and Fubu have splashed their ugly post-industrial logos on our shoes and other gear. Even the Caterpillar machine manufacturer sells clothing and footwear emblazoned with their CAT logo. Personally, I find the entire trend rather tedious, and not very stylish at all.

So who wears designer logos? Rarely, if ever, will you see a person possessive of actual status wearing clothing that displays a designer logo. A person who has been blessed with status and style does not need to wear clothing that is made to appear like quality clothing with the stitching-on of a designer's name or logo.

Think about it, it's really rather simplistic: labels should be on the inside of clothing, not the outside! Is this a surprise or mystery?

People with no status often purchase expensive clothing with designer logos in hopes of showing some fashion sense. This is a failure. When I see someone wearing a designer logo, two things come to mind: the person has no sense of fashion and no status or dignity. The lower the status, the bigger or more prevalent the logos. There is nothing more distasteful than who live in the middle-income tax bracket wearing over-priced, low-quality clothing with a Tommy Hilfiger, Fubu, Gucci, CK, or other logo. The worst offense is a t-shirt emblazoned with a huge Gucci logo, worn as a "dressy" top.

Status is not external, it is private. Your economic status is defined by your bank account and financial holdings, which you do not share with strangers. Your social status is defined by the circles in which you travel, and those people already know who you are. Your professional status is defined by your job, and rarely do you appear in groups of strangers wearing a uniform that announces your position. Your spiritual status is defined by your behaviour in social settings, and displays of spiritual bankruptcy are frowned upon even in the least savory environs. Your true status is never really known by strangers. What makes a person think that clothes emblazoned with a logo will somehow convince others that they have more or less status than is already obvious?

Maybe you will say that you do not wear designer logos to display status. Be careful how vociferously you announce this! Because if you do wear designer logos and you are not wearing them as status-symbols, that means you think they are fashionable, stylish and appealing. This is even less impressive!

All men may be created equal, but shortly after creation, the societal food chain starts having an impact on the quality of your life. How do you want to be perceived?

Be smart and stylish! If you want the world to know that you have no status, and no style, then wear clothing splashed with designer logos. If you want to be seen as sophisticated, make a deal with yourself to stop purchasing these tedious articles of clothing. There is only one way to eradicate the designer logo, and only you can help.

Shop til you drop!