Friday, August 19, 2011

Bewildering headlines

click photo to enlarge
I consider myself to be reasonably well informed. I get the "Guardian" newspaper daily, read news websites, watch some television (though not a lot), listen to some radio, buy and read books, and discuss many topics with family, friends and acquaintances. But, for all that there are many parts of modern life in which I can claim little or no knowledge. Television, celebrity and sport are three such areas. Consequently I can be completely puzzled by a headline such as this one that I saw on the BBC News website: "Abercrombie alarm at Jersey Shore".

To have any hope of decoding it I would have needed to know two salient facts: that Abercrombie and Fitch sell clothes (I thought it was one of the big three global credit rating agencies) and that "Jersey Shore" is a so-called "reality" TV programme about "rowdy, hard-partying" and "loud" young Americans. If I had known those particulars I wouldn't have read the article. As it was, my interest was piqued by the indecipherable quality of the headline and what I gleaned made me, firstly, laugh out loud, and then slap my forehead in despair. Apparently Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino (one of the men featured in this programme) wears clothing made by Abercrombie and Fitch and they want him to stop doing so. You might wonder why they don't want the exposure that he presumably gives to their brand. The article revealed all in a quote from the company: "We are deeply concerned that Mr Sorrentino's association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image...We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans." If you find that incredible (I find the idea of a clothing company having "distressed fans" simultaneously preposterous and wonderful), it gets worse. It seems that Abercrombie and Fitch have offered Mr Sorrentino, and the TV company producing the show, a sum of money to wear another clothing brand.

The thoughts that this set racing through my mind came thick and fast. Would it be O.K. for him to wear any other brand, or would Abercrombie and Fitch specify which one? A competitor perhaps? Is causing distress by wearing clothing an actionable offence? Are there out-of-work-actors and newsworthy reprobates already combing the stores for "aspirational" brands intending to have themselves photographed, then inform the manufacturers, and commit to wearing something else on receipt of a payment? Moreover, isn't an aspirational brand - even one "rooted in East Coast traditions and Ivy League heritage" and "the essence of privilege and casual luxury" - a product that is bought by people with a poor self-image, limited self-confidence, debatable intelligence - or all three - and isn't it therefore, by definition, the sort of clothing that should be avoided because it advertises this to the world and in so doing says the opposite of what you intend? Or am I over-thinking the matter of aspirational clothing? If that is remotely possible!

All of which has little or nothing to do with this composition featuring people and a mural at the Design Museum, London. For a different shot at this location (with a different mural) see here.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 47mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On