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Marketing Geniuses of the Nineties

March 4, 2011

Recently this friend of mine e-interviewed a certain local writer and I had the entertaining privilege of reading the results. The writer was saying how people hate poetry because it was taught to them poorly (true: it’s a Mr. Science Canadian Fact that almost all high school teachers teach poetry in the douchiest of ways). She then offered an anecdote about a classmate of hers experiencing one of the standard poetry humiliations that we can all recall from our own childhoods. As I read the story I had a flashback to 1991, when my grade seven English teacher assigned everybody in the class the project of memorizing a poem. She chose the poems, and the one that she casually dropped on my desk was, on the surface, a detailed description of a couple’s bed linens. But in fact what it was was a fairly explicit and even more implicit study of their sexual relationship–or as it is now known, “bedroom bidness.” It was full of fucky words and phrases that an eleven-year-old child would never use (“filigree,” “delicate intertwining,” etc.) (the fact that, 20 years later, I still have bits of this poem in my head proves the extent of the trauma I suffered). In hindsight, I suspect that the teacher didn’t entirely understand what the poem was about and gave me that one as some sort of vocabulary challenge or compliment. After that experience it’s kind of a surprise that I still read poetry at all, let alone out loud to rooms full of people. But who can understand human beings.

Anyway, those memories kickstarted a trip down Memory Lane. One thing I’m always impressed by is people who can make money selling something that’s patently useless and/or poorly made and/or just, like, a terrible, terrible idea. The ’90s were full of that kind of stuff. In a lot of ways, including fashion-wise, I still have a hard time believing that my late childhood actually happened.

Exhibit A: Hypercolor. No “u.” American spelling. Hypercolor was a kind of fabric that changed colour when exposed to heat–specifically, the kind of heat emanating from the pits and crotches of a nation of pre-teens. Who in God’s name thought this would sell? But no, the real question is, why in God’s name was that person right? Mental images from Estevan Junior High haunt my dreams. I never had Hypercolor because I wasn’t cool. (Or maybe it’s that I wasn’t cool because I never had Hypercolor? I never figured out how that worked. It was so pointlessly complicated and pointless.) But everyone else had it. And wherever a 12-year-old was sweating profusely for no reason, Hypercolor was there. Wherever a tween was getting up after sitting in the same spot for a long period of time, Hypercolor was there. Wherever a class had just emerged from the rigours of a phys. ed. lesson, Hypercolor was there. I offer the maddest props to the marketing team behind this trend.

Lookin' good!

Lookin' good!


Exhibit 2: Those fucking ridiculous jester hats. I don’t know what brand name they were, but you know what I’m talking about, those fucking jester hats. When were those unleashed upon the children–1994ish? I know I was in high school. All of a sudden one day my brother brings a friend home and he’s wearing a fucking jester hat. And then pretty soon everyone was. And other kinds started becoming popular, there was a Cat in the Hat one and a bunch of others. How did it even come about that some business person had the idea of reviving the fashion of the 15th-century King’s court or whatever? Who comes up with that and follows through on it? It was so fucky, you went to school and there were all these teenage boys who normally were way too cool to wear any kind of winter clothing but who were now sporting these fleece fucking jester hats in every colour of the fucking rainbow, like Dr. fucking Seusses as far as the eye could see. It made absolutely no sense. It didn’t last long–one season as I recall. But whoever came up with the concept is probably still buying groceries with the profit.

A merry lark in the Court of the King!

A merry lark in the Court of the King!

Oh, and Exhibit 3: Ikeda lock-up jeans: a modern take on the chastity belt. I’ve tried to have this conversation with a number of people in the last few years and nobody remembers lock-up jeans, and I couldn’t find a photo of them for this post, either, but I’m positive they were real. I had a pair in my closet! The premise was, these were a normal pair of jeans but except instead of a button at the top of the fly you had a tiny padlock that was actually for real. The jeans came with two tiny tiny keys with which the jeans’ owner would have to open the lock in order to change for gym class, go to the bathroom, etc. Figuratively if not literally, these were Bad Idea Jeans. The keys, as mentioned, were tiny. You might well ask what would happen if a 14-year-old were to lose her key. Well, friend, let me tell you: that person would be holding it until she got home and found her spare. So on days that you wore these jeans, you were super paranoid. You spent the whole day feeling around in your pocket to ensure that you still had the key. The key to your pants. Surely such a phrase should never have to be thought or written, but there it is. Ikeda made millions of dollars off these jeans. I swear to fuck they were a real thing.

I was going to put in something about No Fear but compared to these other three, No Fear was a great idea. At least No Fear t-shirts never led to bright green armpits or a six-hour desperate need to pee. Marketing geniuses of the nineties, I salute you.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tash permalink
    September 15, 2011 3:56 pm

    To the author of this awesome article, click on the link, the jeans were indeed real, hehe

  2. February 13, 2013 5:03 pm

    I had a pair of Ikeda Lock-up jeans, as did my sister.

    One evening our family and friends of ours’ family went out for dinner at Pizza Hut. Before our food had even arrived, I really needed to use the bathroom. I get in there and start digging for my keys…checking every pocket over and over again with increasing urgency…to no avail. It turns out that I had inadvertently forgotten the keys at home. Needless to say I ended up shitting myself. I then had to try to inconspicuously flag down an employee to get my mom to come to my rescue. I ended up waiting…standing in my own filth…for twenty minutes while my dad raced home to locate my keys and find me a change of pants.

    It took a lonnnng time to live down that incident!

  3. Louise permalink
    March 12, 2013 9:40 am

    I have a pic of these lock up jeans…however, wont be posting it! lolol

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