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North Face and Brands as a Symbol Of Success

We have this joke, called the North Face Gang. Using ASL (American Sign Language), several of my friends have adapted the "N" and "F" to symbols for this cheeky club. It's amazing how none of us noticed it before, but once you start looking for it, you're going to see it everywhere: North Face products. They're taking over this world. In fact, if you don't own at least one North Face item then you're a completely loser, incapable of anything and unlikely to ever amount to anything in this world.

Think I'm lying? Try this the next time you're in a restaurant or a public place, start looking around and count the North Face apparel. I think you'll be very astonished by how many people are adorned with this symbol of capitalism: a  form of fashion called wilderness chic.

I first became aware of the phenomenon in Belgium while travelling with about twenty Americans all from much more expensive U.S. Universities than I arrived from. I'm standing there in the frigidness of Europe with a micro-thin cotton jacket from Family Dollar while each of them wore (what I later learned) was a $150-$200 very warm fleece North Face jacket. I was familiar with the name prior to Brussels and I knew it was for hikers, etc.- but why were they wearing them? Well the answer is, to be cool, to fit in.

When I flew back to the States and went out for beer with friends, I explained to them this phenomenon, and then we together began this game of counting the number of drinkers entering the bar with North Face. By the end of the night, 90% of the patrons were wearing the garb and accessories made for braving the wilderness in the ironically moderate climate of North Carolina. Never Stop Exploring? The only thing they were exploring was a menu of beer. We turned it into a drinking game, whereby every time you spot a North Face Jacket you're forced to take a shot. Needless to say we were all drunk by the end of the night.

If you know me, I'm an outsider generally and would like to believe I don't give into trends. I rarely buy name brand clothing but I wondered, could simply owning a status symbol, something that immediately says to others, I'm one of you, open doors for me? So I decided, especially since I needed one anyways, to buy a North Face backpack for school. The cost? A staggering $99. I could hear my coupon-clipping father cursing in my head as I swiped my card through the reader.  Did it change my life? Probably.

Let me give you an example. The other day, I was walking to from the parking lot to university. E-lot is about a kilometer from the school through a rather shady part of town on Lee Street in Greensboro. Though I never try to judge the characters I see on the street, on this one occasion I witnessed a young woman randomly talking to herself, acting a bit out of the accepted norm. At first I was cautious of her as I approached, but then I saw she was wearing a North Face back-pack and instantly realized that this woman wasn't going to rob me. No clearly, she has enough money to own North Face, to be a part of the club, she was okay. Suddenly everything was fine, and we had an unspoken understanding as we passed each other, winked and I flipped her my N.F. gang sign.

With a little more research, I find an article on CNN about the same phenomenon in Korea. The title of the paragraph: Losers and back-breakers:
North Face jacket wearers can be immediately classified according to the type of North Face jacket they wear. This is apparently a common phenomenon in elementary and middle schools in particular, where the jackets are so popular they have been dubbed "the uniform worn over the uniform," or "back-breakers," 
So for God's sake, if you live in America and have children in school, buy them a North Face Jacket or they will never amount to anything. On the other hand, if you're too cheap or poor, you can subsequently buy a knock-off embroidered patch from Spain on Ebay and have Grams sew it on to your Wal-Mart Jacket. If you're even more of a anti-establishment sort of person, there's the (now defunct) South Butt (or Butt Face) line of clothing, which is, a pun of the N.F. brand. This, of course, unless your school has banned the brand because of the theft, and violence associated with it (it has happened).

So what's the take-away? Well, there are only two types of people in this world. The Wal-Mart Gang, and the North Face Gang.  Social economic status has never been easier to understand in America. Don't dress Wal-Mart in a North Face World.

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