I recently came upon these two ads in magazines and noticed how they both evoke old-money wealth and luxury.

I found this Rolex ad in The New Yorker. Notice the ivy-colored background and the connection to Wimbledon, an event (for a sport) often associated with the upper class.

The text says,

Defined by unparalleled grace, manicured courts, pressed tennis whites and achievement that’s second to none, Wimbledon stands alone. Timeless in its tradition, endless in its list of legends, history is no stranger to Wimbledon. Nor is the world’s appreciation of it. Rolex proudly celebrates its 30th anniversary as official timekeeper.

“Manicured courts” and “pressed tennis whites” bring up images of aristocratic lifestyles, and the ad connects Wimbledon (and, therefore, Rolex) to “tradition” and “history.”

I can’t remember for sure where I found this ad for the Toyota Corolla, but I think in Glamour (don’t ask).

The text, which is clearly to be taken less seriously than the Rolex ad:

Ascots, tiaras, and sway bars, oh my! Once you purchase the 2009 Corolla, you’ll start living the dream. To ensure a smooth transition into high society, we’ve equipped the Corolla with revised suspension, springs, and sway bars, which will keep any recently acquired tiara firm upon your brow. If you’re more of the fetching ascot type, consider the comfortable ride an accessory to your necktie. Whatever flourishes you fancy, the Electronically Controlled Transmission and Vehicle Stability Control will distinguish your dominion over the road. Live the dream for less coin.

I thought it was interesting that the second ad (for a car not generally associated with the upper class) is trying to evoke the idea of luxury, but in a joking wink-wink way, whereas the Rolex ad clearly has no element of parody about it–the connection to “tradition” and “pressed tennis whites” is completely serious.

Ads often connect buying products with giving women freedom and independence. For instance, of course we knew we’d come a long way, baby, once we got our own cigarettes:

The Chase Freedom credit card gives you the liberty to spend money on all kinds of things:

All of these ads use the theme of women’s independence and freedom as something to be purchased. Women don’t get more freedom by struggling for it, and there aren’t any real obstacles; these companies have commodified independence for you, so all you have to do is buy their product and you’re set!

See also here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Found at The Situationist.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

I found these Ray Ban ads at Copyranter,

I also found this cassette tape belt buckle (here), cassette tape bag (here), and boom box pendant (here).

These remind me of this T-shirt with pictures of safety pins on it.  When you’re so old school that you, um, buy a t-shirt with… well I guess you’re just buying a t-shirt.

Elizabeth, over at Blog of Stench (and now a regular Soc Images blogger), brought our attention to a New York Magazine article about the Obama sock monkey doll (the company set to manufacture it has apologized and canceled production). Here is a picture of the doll:

From the article:

We were happily cruising around the Internet yesterday when we stumbled upon a link on Andrew Sullivan’s blog that gave us one of those moments Dave Chappelle joked about in Killin’ Them Softly: “Have you ever had something happen that was so racist that you didn’t even get mad? You were just like, ‘Goddamn, that was racist.’” That’s how we felt when we saw, a Website peddling an “Obama” monkey doll.

The response the author got after contacting the company:

To Those with Heartfelt Queries,

We chose twenty-two customer queries today that we believe merit a response. You touched us with either your concern, intelligence, humor, sensitivity, and/or your thoughtfulness. We thank you. There are other queries we received today as well that we chose not to respond to, because of their spewing of venom and their aimlessness.

We at TheSockObama Co. are saddened that some individuals have chosen to misinterpret our plush toy. It is not, nor has it ever been our objective to hurt, dismay or anger anyone. We guess there is an element of naviete on our part, in that we don’t think in terms of myths, fables, fairy tales and folklore. We simply made a casual and affectionate observation one night, and a charming association between a candidate and a toy we had when we were little. We wonder now if this might be a great opportunity to take this moment to really try and transcend still existing racial biases. We think that if we can do this together, maybe it will behoove us a nation and maybe we’ll even begin to truly communicate with one another more tenderly, more real even.

This is only our introductory plush toy. If we choose to move forward with a Republican candidate, we’ll begin with an elongated and slightly lumpy, fuzzy Idaho potato. Had a different Democratic candidate won the nomination, we were prepared to move forward with the cutest, fluffiest 12″ chestnut and golden-haired squirrel, with a short Farrah-like do in a brown pantsuit and call her Squirellary.

In earnest folks, we’re so sorry we offended anybody.

Best Regards,

TheSockObama Co.

Thanks, Elizabeth!

NEW: Consider also…


Thanks to Green Ink for pointing this out in the comments!

WOW, AN UPDATE:  Click here to see the TheSockObama Co. aggressively, and I mean aggressively, revoke the conciliatory words they offered in apology (thanks to Breck C. for the tip!).  Some highlights:

We at TheSockObama Co. have some questions to pose. What’s really going on in America? In the good ol’ fashion spirit of entrepreneurialism ; free enterprise has been censored, and TheSockObama politically plush toy has been discriminated against in the marketplace of the United States of America…

Double standards appear to be a common thread here. It’s okay for there to be hundreds of thousands of Google sites containing references to our current president’s resemblance to a chimpanzee. However, it’s not okay to make that same association regarding our possible next president. Isn’t this the very definition of hypocrisy?

TheSockObama is no longer scheduled to go into mass production… Have the bullies won here?

…the blogging dens of resistance quickly began their fury of emails. An electronic battery of fiery darts flowed swiftly but silently through the veins of technology. Feverish fingers frantically clicking coast to coast, crashing and burning our tragically naive – yet sparkling website. A steady stream of repetitive verbal eloquence graced our Customer service inbox with tasty tidbits like, eff-ewe and every other colorul expletive you could possibly imagine. We thought we had heard it all. Hey thanks. This is America, right?

…With the number of Customers we’ve had to disappoint in our first week of business; are we saying it’s okay to take something out of the marketplace that other people want to buy? Are we now censoring one another’s liberty as Americans to freely purchase goods and services on our own terms? Is this the kind of America we want?

Lisa analyzed their “anti-apology” and what it means for U.S. race relations over at the Huffington Post.  Check it out.

Also, it appears they are still selling the sock monkey, now at another website.  The website has exactly the same design as the original one.

See our follow up to this post here.

Soon after reading my post on “ethnic” fashion, Robin noticed an article in the New York Times about “tribal” elements in fashion. According to the article, “The tribal trend, seen on spring runways awash with ikat, batik, and African wax prints, is hot this summer.” We helpfully learn, “The specimens are rarely authentic, mind you. Rather, designers have appropriated ethnic elements and given them a modern spin.” According to one designer,

“It’s a dialogue between what’s traditional and new, and between East and West,” she said. “Our weavers in Uzbekistan find it really surprising and a real struggle to begin with. At first they don’t like the reworked designs, but over time they acquire appreciation.”

A quote from another designer:

“The enticement of ethnic dress in modern culture is like going on a guided safari,” he said. “We can enjoy the element we are familiar with and attracted to, while not giving up our daily comforts. We can wave to the lion from the safety of our S.U.V.”

So wearing “ethnic” clothing is like going on a sightseeing trip where you can look at savage animals but in a safe way that doesn’t actually bring you in contact with them…interesting. “We” (non-ethnic) people can pick and choose a few things from other cultures but without giving up “daily comforts,” or, like, knowing anything about other people or thinking through thorny issues like who that “we” encompasses and who is doing the defining of “we” and the ethnic “them.” I have to say, the “We can enjoy the element we are…attracted to…” made me think of sex tourism.

Notice here that, first, “ethnic” or “tribal” is applied to an enormous range of cultures spanning the globe that have little in common except not being from Western Europe or the U.S. Also, we see that “ethnic” fashion = traditional = non-modern = wild/animalistic = Eastern, whereas “modern” fashion = Western = non-ethnic. Because there is no ethnicity in the “West.” Except when designers use “traditional” Aztec or Mayan or Mexican or Laplander or etc. etc. prints in their “ethnic” designs.

Here are some pictures from the accompanying slide show:

This purse is $565. The weaving is what the quote from the first designer above was saying she struggled with Uzbeki producers about, since they didn’t like her reworked versions of their “traditional” patterns. I wonder how much of that $565 goes to those weavers?

The caption to the photo of these boots is “cultural gumbo.” They are $350.

These bangles come in cashmere, tweed, and cotton and are $45-125. The article does not tell me if I am being “ethnic” and going on a fashion safari every time I wear my black cashmere cardigan. Maybe it has to be brightly-colored cashmere to be “tribal.”

These shoes are $715. They are ethnic because they are silk and I guess maybe that’s supposed to be a vaguely Asian-y print on the black ones. My years of training in a rigorous sociology Ph.D. program also give me the critical thinking and analytical skills to tell you with certainty that they are hideously ugly.

These clutches are $450. They are ethnic because they use a style of dying called ikat, and also probably because they have a vaguely animal-print design.

Great find, Robin!

NEW: Katie J. sent in a link to Pepperlime (part of the Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy empire), which features shoes that let the wearer “go tribal”:


The other day I came upon this fashion spread in a magazine:

I’m not sure which magazine–I want to say Lucky, but I’m not certain. I just scanned in part of it–I cut out a few things that weren’t that interesting so I could get it in a single scan.

Anyway, I noticed it’s called “Ethnic,” and I started thinking about that label, what makes these “ethnic,” and the choice of that word to describe fashion. The most common element to the collection is animal prints–zebra, leopard, snakeskin, croc, peacock feathers. There were a couple of things that I believe were supposed to be recognizable as “African” prints. I guess those brown shorts are “ethnic” because of the material they’re made from.

But why do we call these fashions “ethnic”? Why not “global”? Or “nature,” since the main themes seem to be animal prints and natural fibers? Or “international”? Why do animal prints, feathers, and grass fibers = ethnic?

It made me think about the way that the things that certain groups do or have go unmarked–so here, there is a category of fashion that is “ethnic,” while apparently all other clothing is ethnicity-less. When I carry a woven bag or wear a shirt with tropical-looking leaves on it, I’m being ethnic, but if I put that purse down and pick up a blue leather one, or change into a shirt with a maple leaf on it, I’d stop being ethnic and go back to being…well, presumably plain-old white, the non-ethnic, non-marked category.

I just thought this might be interesting for a discussion about race and which groups are marked as having a race or ethnicity and which ones (in the U.S., primarily whites) are treated as though they do not have a race/ethnicity and thus aren’t relevant to discussions about racial issues. Or maybe when talking about race/ethnicity as a marketing tool, as something you can put on and take off at will.

Rap is fascinating in that, in the short history of the art form, it represents both the power of resistance by marginalized and disempowered groups and the power of appropriation by mainstream culture and capitalist commodification.  With this in mind, I bring your attention to the cover of Nas‘ new album cover (tentatively set to release on July 1st) (found here):

The image immediately brings to mind (I can only imagine deliberately) the famous photograph of the back of a whipped slave from 1863 (found here).  I’ll go ahead and put it after the jump, as it’s a very real and troubling historical photograph:


Larry brought my attention to Save the Ta-Tas, a breast-cancer awareness company. I can’t quite decide what to make of them–the website says a “portion of gross sales” is contributed to fighting breast cancer, but not how big of a portion. So presumably you are fighting breast cancer by paying $24.95 for t-shirts like this one:


I assume it’s a for-profit company. And the t-shirts are kind of funny, and they’re bringing attention to a worthy cause. And yet it’s another example of consumption as activism (see here, here, and here; there are other examples if you search under the “activism” tag). I mean, you could just donate $25 straight to a breast cancer awareness organization and know all $25 went there, as opposed to knowing some unspecified “portion” of it did. I guess if you’re going to buy a t-shirt anyway, you might as well buy one that will provide some money to an organization you care about, but if your interest is in actually funding breast cancer research, there seem to be more efficient ways to go about it.

On the other hand, I am fascinated by this product:


Despite what your dirty little mind might be thinking, the website informed me that Boob Lube is to be used for breast self-exams. Why you would need lube for that, I cannot say.

Thanks, Larry!

NEW: 73man pointed out the Irish Women’s Health Care “Two Tits and a Vote” campaign to get people to demand that politicians help provide more access to breast cancer screening. Here’s a photo from the campaign:

Note that the Mona Lisa stamp in the background has huge boobs.

This campaign is unlike the first one because it’s not attached to a corporation, as far as I can tell. But it seems like there would be a way to bring attention to this issue without using the body of a model-thin women with big boobs.

Then again, I guess maybe those are the type of boobs politicians would be most worried about being damaged.

Thanks, 73man!