Brand Buffoonery

Anti-brand stickers and transfers | Anti-sweatshop links

Why I think
Gap is crap
Nike is shite

by Philip Tagg (2005-6)

Once upon a time people used to form groups around common interests. They would decide for themselves what marked them out from others. They would develop their own way of interacting with each other, their own type of speech, music, images, clothing and patterns of behaviour.

Today it seems that many people in our society, notably the more socially vulnerable groups, have lost the right and ability to form their own collective identities. Instead of original and self-determined expressions of identity, the logos of huge corporations like Nike and Gap are plastered over every other person's T-shirts, bags, fleeces, college sweaters, hoodies, running shoes and baseball caps.

Some unscrupulous companies actively recruit young people to grass on their friends. The recruits are expected to tell the marketing mavericks what is currently cool and uncool among the young so that secrets of group identity can be sold on to corporations who, in their turn, expect the young to pay through the nose for the dubious privilege of advertising corporate logos instead of proclaiming an identity of their own making and volition. If you don't believe this, check out Naomi Klein's book No Logo or visit the site of a sick outfit like Look-Look.

Worse still, many of the corporations whose logos are most frequently flaunted on people's clothing have an attrocious record on human rights. Child labourers suffer under appalling conditions in third-world sweatshops. Such exploitation means extra profits for the companies who sell supposedly trendy trainers and coporation-stamped track suits. If you don't believe this, check out books like Hidden Agendas or Heroes by John Pilger, or Sweatshop Warriors by Miriam Ching Yoon Louie, or No Logo by Naomi Klein; or visit a site like Nike Watch. or any of the others listed on this page. As US film director Michael Moore put it, “when will we get to the point where we realise that the rest of the world shouldn’t have to live in poverty so we can have nice running shoes?”. Or why not take a leaf out of a Californian schoolgirl’s book.

Every year a few of my new students can be seen parading their Nike swooshes, Gap logos, Reebok blobs and Adidas hemp leaves round campus. Those students have paid Nike and the like for the brand-marked clothing but it is the corporations who should have paid the students to act act as billboards for their products. The students are clearly unaware of the issues involved and need some background information. Those uninterested in ethical issues may at least be concerned about their ‘street cred’ (e.g. being branded as ‘fcuk-wits’).

As lecturer in music rather than in politics, marketing, business studies, ethics or economics, I cannot make my own opinion known in the classes I teach. I can, however, express my views on my own website — hence this page. I can also exhibit part of my own political identity as a fervent anti-capitalist by showing opposition to brand buffoonery — hence the next part of this page.

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Anti-brand posters, stickers and transfers

The pictures below can be printed out as posters or as stickers (on sheets of labels). They can also be used as transfers that can be ironed on to T-shirts, college sweaters, baseball caps, etc.

'Why pay to advertize CRAP suffered by child labour in 3rd-world countries?'
(158×116 mm)

(16×17 mm)

(26×23 mm)

"Hitler wore khakis"
(113×156 mm)

…"think globally before you … wear Nike" (113×156 mm)

"Child Labour, Greed and Profit. Shite. Just stop it." (154×137 mm)

(19×17 mm)

(18×17 mm)

Niker Woods
Tiger Woods smiles at million-$ Nike promotion deal (75×69 mm)

To use these pictures, just double-left-click on any of the small images above. Then right-click the picture when shown full size and choose "Save picture as..." Enter a name for the picture and save it to your own hard drive.

To make a transfer for linen, cotton or canvas materials (e.g. T-shirt, baseball cap, bag), open the picture file with your picture editor (e.g. Adobe Photoshop), and flip it horizontally or vertically so it becomes a mirror image of the original. Then print the mirror image on to the shiny side of transfer paper compatible with your printer (paper available from stationers and online from companies like Epson or Arista). After that just follow the instructions that come with the transfer paper you buy. Good luck!

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Some sites relating to child labour sweatshops in the third world and the apparel industry

Statement from Sule (California, January 2001)

“I am 100% against child labour. I learned a lot about it 3 years ago when some men came to my school to talk about it. The children are worked so hard that they develop carpel tunnel syndrome in their hands. Imagine having carpel tunnel syndrome by the time you reach your seventh birthday! The "employers" force young girls to take the birth control pill so that the girls will never have an excuse to quit working. When you buy products from the Gap, Nike and J. Crew you are simply paying for a name. The clothing is very cheaply made. Not only are those poor young children forced into working but they usually get payed barely more than a dollar a month. Do you think that you could survive on a dollar a month? I doubt it. More than half of the people at my school buy most of their wardrobe at the Gap. I, however, refuse to buy that merchandise. I would feel far too much remorse and it would hang over my head like a dark rain cloud. btw, if you want to try to avoid buying products that were made by young hands, check to see where it was made”...

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