The Emperor’s New Collection: Revisiting Tommy’s “Old Navy” Moment

Blurred Lines

tommy-gigi-ss17A long time ago — we think it may have been the late ’90s — some important lines in our culture got blurred.

Musicians started looking suspiciously like models; and attention from the media for simply being attractive, in a familiar sort-of way — or simply behaving badly — became a curious form of recognition.

Around this time — as marketers realized it was easier to churn out the familiar than look for rare talent — success increasingly became a measure of how many people were reached, rather than the quality of the thing doing the reaching, or the message itself.

Success became a measure of how many people were reached

In terms of marketing, of course, it’s eminent common sense. And it’s a movement fueled by bean-counters, and the greed of backers and stockholders and board members. And at the psychological level, it’s based on immaturity unchecked: that toddler-holdover-idea that if you can have two dollars — rather than one dollar — you should have two dollars: even if you were having a perfectly good life with the first dollar.

if you can have two dollars — rather than one dollar — you should have two dollars

And even if — in the process of acquiring the second dollar — you become a bit miserable, or produce a lower form of dialogue.

As a result, reaching the greatest common denominator became paramount, and that meant creating adrenaline spikes: whether those spikes were achieved through hyper-sexuality — the marketing equivalent of high fructose corn syrup; or becoming an entertainer with the antics of a 5-year-old; or in churning out clothes, and then lining up sycophants to create a feeding frenzy based — not so much about the food on offer, mind you — but upon the frenzy itself.

reaching the greatest common denominator become paramount

Such it is with the latest collection from Tommy Hilfiger. Is it a terrible collection? No. It’s hard to dislike a cotton “band jacket” that recalls Hendrix’s Prussian officer’s pelisse. Even if — as many frenzied purchasers will probably soon realize — it’s fated to spend most of its time in the closet. (Unless you’re in a band, in which case you really need to rock that out.)

It’s hard to dislike a cotton “band jacket” that recalls Hendrix’s Prussian officer’s pelisse.

But ultimately, a flat collection — that looks like something from Old Navy — reminds us that we live in a world fueled mainly by dollars and decimal points: and fueled by a kind of collective madness.

After all, when profit matters most, the lowest common denominator wins.

And when it comes to fashion, even if the emperor’s clothes aren’t quite real, they’re still available for sale.


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