Jun 10, 2012

Labelling the Joke

Has anybody else noticed clothing is becoming increasingly self-aware?

I'm referring to the phenomenon of the faux-comedic label, or in some cases, the hipster-ironic label.

I first noticed this trend about 10 years ago when I got my first Crumpler bag. The label went into humourously ranty details about how the bags were so tough, they'd survive monster trucks, or space, or your little brother etc etc.

It was amusing at the time, but I get the feeling the urge to offer opinion and commentary on labels is getting out of control. Here are a few recent examples I've come across:

This was attached to a pair of jeans, but reads more like an eHarmony profile than a description of pants. I guess they're trying to cash in on the endless search for a perfect pair of jeans with a plaintative appeal to your vanity. It's love at first trite.

I would've been tempted to put back the sneakers had I read this label before purchase. I mean, it's great you have confidence in your product, Puma, but does the word "humility" mean anything to you? It's basically saying "Hey, you're some office lackey who's bought joggers because, let's face it, you've stacked on a bit. Most of the people who wear our shoes are the complete opposite of you - they're good looking celebrities with sexy bodies, unlike that doughy bag of misshapen lumps you're planning to haul around the park in our sneakers. So our products are not only good enough for you, to be honest, they're better than you, and you should feel a little bit grateful we've decided to accept your cash."

Also, I'm yet to understand the equation:  Somebody wearing these shoes in a magazine = They Work. I've seen pictures of Katy Perry attempting to wear clothes in a magazine, doesn't mean it works.

This is the label from a geeky t-shirt, sold through one of many online retailers specialising in short-run geeky t-shirts. Packages of this sort regularly turn up at Chez Clumsy. They're usually for The Wah. Science-based geeky t-shirts must form a vital part of his Zombie Apocalypse Survival Plan, because I've never seen someone so dedicated to accumulating them.

This label is more your out-and-out cheeky comedy. "One shirt, no shoes, no service"? Ha! That's just like that thing they say outside pubs except you can't wear a t-shirt into a pub, get it? And at the bottom "Not to be used as pants" - because it's a shirt! Who'd wear a t-shirt as pants? No one, that's who, because your testes would dangle out the neckhole, and wouldn't that be embarrassing/erotic?

Now, it's not that I don't appreciate the little label jokes. But it makes me think about the people who are employed to come up with this stuff. Is is carefully market-researched? Or is is just the demented ravings of someone in the production design department? I'd like to think the latter, but in this day and age, it's likely to be the former. At least for the big multi-national corporates - they'd hire a bunch of PR graduates to sit around and brainstorm brand-appropriate "humour".

I'd love to know if there is any efficacy data behind all these cheeky labels. I'd imagine most people only read the label after they've purchased the item, and are removing it, or looking for washing instructions. But do the labels have any impact on the purchase decision? Is anyone out there looking at jeans and thinking "These really represent the vapid narcissistic values I hold dear"?

Do you have any examples of cheeky labels on products you've bought?


  1. Oh, you are so on the money with this. I'm pretty sure someone is paid handsomely to come up with this tripe.

    The ones on personal care products really get me. Seriously, I'm just buying soap and shampoo ... not a way of life. And as I'm not planning on ingesting it, does it really need to contain vitamins?

    If there were a couple of words I'd nuke from labels tomorrow, I'd start with "organic" and "pure".

  2. I checked the label on my jacket yesterday and it's got something funny written there. I forget what it is though. So not THAT funny.

  3. "Science-based geeky t-shirts" are part of EVERYONEs Zombie Apocalypse Survival Plan. I can't remember any label humor, however I would so base a purchase decision on such labels.

    at least you don't Belabell the point.

  4. Have seen the Puma ones, and Mambo have been doing this for eons. Also have a Top Gear shirt whose tag proclaims 'These products were tested on animals; they didn't fit'. Clarkson presumably.