Thursday, November 4, 2010

Logology (Still from The Official Preppy Handbook)

Sometime in the 1980s the cart began leading the horse. Don't look at us; preppies were certainly not to blame. Fashion followers mistakenly thought the logo was the point. (This is the place at which we would write “LOL,” except we loathe “LOL.”)

But wearing a logo-laden outfit or accessory points to the wearer's painful insecurity. If you think you are being ironic, think again.

Here's the rule of thumb: The first logo that preppies loved was the Lacoste crocodile. It belonged to the French tennis star René Lacoste, whose nickname was Le Crocodile. It was an authentic, since he himself wore la chemise in 1927, after having been the top tennis player in the world in 1926 and 1927. (He won seven grand-slam singles titles in France, Britain, and the U.S. In 1961 he also invented the first metal tennis racket, which was sold in this country as the Wilson T2000.)

The shirts, made by La Société Chemise Lacoste, became an international sensation in 1933. Initially they had long tails, crocodiles of 2.8 centimeters in width, and embroidered labels with the size in French: Patron, Grand Patron, etc. There was no need (not then nor now) to change the size of the beast.

Fred Perry, the British tennis champion of the 1930s, put his laurel-wreath logo in blue on white polo shirts in 1952 (a few years after inventing the sweatband). Fred Perry shirts were successful immediately.

Brooks Brothers introduced its golden-fleece logo as the company symbol in 1850, but, for casual sport shirts, they sold the Chemise Lacoste until the 1960s. Then they stopped selling Lacostes and segued into men's polo-style shirts with the golden fleece embroidered. Until 1969, the sheep suspended by golden ribbons was made only in men's sizes.

Ralph Lauren was already making men's wear when, in 1971, he embroidered a little man astride a polo pony on the cuff of some women's shirts. The ponies, 1 1/4 inches high, moved onto his many colored cotton polo shirts in 1972. The logo, now one of the world's best known, somehow grows up to five inches high (“BIG PONY”) though sometimes stays small.

Vineyard Vines' little pink whale appeared in 1998, and so far the whale has shown admirable restraint in staying 1.05 inches wide by 0.43 inches high (as per the universal style guide).

When labels began to understand the strong appeal their logos offered, they went wild. Gone were the subtle stripes, woven ribbons, tiny metal trademarks, and interior decoration that had been prized. Now the logos took growth hormones, and there seemed nothing too big or too crass to sell. Today's customer is more discerning and somewhat disgusted. Removing logos has become something of a hobby for purists.

When Juicy Couture arrived, emblazoning bottoms with the word “juicy” on its pricey sweatpants, we were dismayed when our daughters thought they wanted them. We steered them back to sanity. We believe that the Juicy Couture tracksuit phenomenon signals the end of civilization as we know it. Nothing less.

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