Nice to meet you. Do you come in stonewash?

I bought a pair of jeans yesterday called Jenna.

It was sort of an impulse buy. What actually brought me into the store was my interest in Uma. She was a jacket, and she was 30% Off.

But on the way to the fitting room, I grabbed Jenna, and from that moment on, we were pretty much besties.

The other jeans I tried on just didn’t compare. You know how sometimes you meet someone and you simply don’t click? Yep, Stacey (blue denim, slightly higher butt-cut) and Helena (Japanese selvedge fabric, apparently, which also apparently doubled her price) both left me cold. We had nothing to say to each other. But Jenna, well – Jenna introduced herself to me on her swingtag, in a sassy little screen-printed blurb, and straight away I felt like I knew her:

JENNA. STRAIGHT. Hot in the city. I’m looking for an urban kinda person, with a bit of an edge. I have my finger on the pulse and have been seen with all the right people in Hollywood. I like to mix things up a bit. Just as comfortable with your friends as I am with celebs.

Golly.

Was I buying a pair of jeans or an internet date?

Jenna. Kicking back in my room.

I suppose Jenna simply brought home to me the extent to which marketing is just about making friends. The truism is that we don’t perceive brands as brands. We perceive them as people. Brands are people. Products are people. Which means social media isn’t so much a medium as a mode of thought.

I left the store wondering.

Did Jenna have a Facebook page?

The naming of products, the how and why of it, is a fascinatingly complex business.  And other than IKEA (its own incredible story), and ships (a ‘superstitious tradition,’ which really says it all), fashion brands are probably the most overt in tagging things with human names, employing the magical thinking that transforms mere stuff into people. Clothes, after all, are our skin. They’re arguably “the most intimate objects we own.”

What I wish is that someone would do a study of fashion naming conventions. There’s the celerity genre (Uma, I suppose, and Helena). There’s the stock-character genre (all-American Stacey).  But what about era? Or ethnicity? In one store I browsed, in shoes alone, there’s Ciara, Lotti, Fergie, Raisa, Fernado and Buddy. Add a backing track, and it’s basically Eurovision.

Actually, I need two.

I pondered this on the way home, then got Jenna out of her bag to photograph her for this post. I sat for a moment sadly staring at her.

If only, like a real friend, she had an opinion on this stuff.

But she just sort of sprawled out, and looked hot.

Which I suppose was kind of the point.

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One thought on “Nice to meet you. Do you come in stonewash?

  1. There’s an author called Robert Cialdini (pronounced “chal-DEE-nee”) who explains this stuff in his seminal book “Influence: How and Why People Agree To Things”. (Although the sub-heading changes in different editions.)

    There are six ways to influence people. By calling a pair of jeans Jenna, they’re using the technique called Liking, where you buy stuff that seems to say I Like You.

    The other 5 techniques they could have used include the following:

    1) Social Proof (buy it because everyone else is buying it, and everyone else must be right).
    2) Scarcity (very few people buy these jeans, and anyone who does are clearly a better type of person). (Alternatively: These are the jeans that They don’t want you to know about, but we’re telling you about anyway, because you’re special.)
    3) Consistency (you’ve bought this style before, and if you don’t buy it again it means you’re some kind of hypocrite).
    4) Reciprocation (I’ve given you something for free already, and if you don’t reciprocate then you’re awful).
    5) Authority (A panel of scientists, judges and doctors have decreed that these are better jeans. Who are you to disagree with such luminaries?)

    Calling the more expensive jeans Helena, which sounds a little bit exotic, in a European royalty kind of way, kicks in the Scarcity factor, which justifies the more expensive price tag. But it would only work if our society secretly aspires to be European royalty. Probably, more of us want to be a hot rap star from the Black Eyed Peas instead. Is Fergie a more expensive shoe than, say, Lottie?

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