First there is a trend and then along comes the opposite. So it was that Jimmy Winkelmann looked around his posh, private high school and noted the trend among his peers. Expensive North Face brand fleece jackets being worn by the in-crowd. So what, thought Jimmy. Someone should invent an opposite brand and call it The South Butt and create their own trend. And then he thought, hey, maybe there’s something to think about here. In short order The South Butt line of clothing was on the market, netting Jimmy a few thousand dollars a year.
It was quite the surprise to Jimmy the day The North Face lawyers sent him a cease and desist order for copyright infringement. In 1966 two guys in California created the line of outdoor clothing that would eventually become the giant retailer we all know as The North Face. The north face of a mountain is said to be the most difficult to climb. For their logo they chose a graphic interpretation of the half dome at Yosemite National Park and their slogan continues to be “Never stop exploring.” The folks at The North Face envision a serious commitment to “performance” wear for extreme athletes.
The South Butt brand turned the North Face logo on its butt, so to speak and took on the slogan, “Never stop relaxing.” In Jimmy Winkelmann’s opinion, the kids at his high school weren’t doing much exploring beyond the halls of the high school anyway. Few were thought to be climbing any face of any mountains. Rather than take The North Face letter at face value, Jimmy went to his dad, who then went to his squash-playing buddy, a lawyer, who is said to have taken Jimmy’s case for a good bottle of wine.
The controversy with its accompanying free media attention is driving business at The South Butt in a way Jimmy possibly never imagined. All of this leaves serious considerations for the rest of us. Should we skateboard if we wear Tony Hawk brand clothing? Should we be throwing the football if we’re wearing a Number 4 jersey? Surf if we wear Hollister? Or is it all just make believe?
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