posted under: branding

living the bri-nylon lifestyle in the ’70s

Speaking of time machines and synthetic textiles in the last post made me think of Bri-Nylon. Which made me want to look at it again, which led me to a site with vintage ads for Bri-Nylon. The purple prose in this ad from 1973 is hilarious. It reads like a parody of a parody.

“Fantastic car. . .”
She slithered into the soft luxury of the passenger seat. He watched her long legs as she swivelled round, arranged her skirt and self-consciously crossed her legs.

He shut the door and walked round his most prized possession. The car had been his for one whole week.

He got into the driving seat, lit a cigar and leaned back to savour the moment.

The seats were soft and comfortable. ‘Bri-Nylon’ he mused; surprising the impression it makes.

‘Bri-Nylon’ he mused; surprising the impression it makes. That should win some kind of award. Excited by the value Bri-Nylon adds to his ‘most prized possession’ the hero pauses to contemplate the synthetic mysteries of Bri-Nylon, remembering how he chose it for its ‘practical virtues’. Which were copied straight from the brief—Bri-Nylon wears and washes well, it’s cool in summer, warm and inviting in winter. With that, the ‘practical virtues’ messaging has been folded into the seduction story, freeing the copywriter to cut to the chase and deliver the big payoff: ‘Your place or mine?’ The seductive power of Bri-Nylon is mighty.

Strange that the man is described as getting into the driver’s seat, yet in the illustration, only the woman is sitting in the car. But I expect that was wholly intentional, the purpose being to invite the male reader to imagine himself sitting behind the wheel and next to the passive chick (the prize), who waits only for him, ready to frolic and luxuriate in the Bri-Nylon surfaces.

And what can be said about the gem from 1970, below? Bri-Nylon pajamas for men—and why not? It’s what every man needs for those moments in life when cotton just won’t do.

This ad is actually trying to position the value and appeal of the Bri-Nylon leisure lifestyle, yet succeeds in making it seem humiliating and horrifying—aesthetically, bodily, and in every way imaginable. You have to wonder what they were thinking—and that goes for the manufacturer, the product designer, the art director, the models and the consumers who bought these pajamas.

Bri-Nylon-pyjamas-for-men-1970What was the lure of Bri-Nylon? Who would willingly want to dress and look like the men in the ad above? Yet somehow, culturally, this totally synthetic clothing experience was seen as a positive and embraced. Was its appeal and acceptance driven entirely by advertising?

Or should we look for a socio-political motivation? Was it the unrelenting pressures of the Cold War on the collective psyche that made the adoption of a Bri-Nylon leisure lifestyle seem like the answer, the way forward for the free man and woman of the Western world? Just joking of course. And not being a costume or fashion historian, it might have been equally embraced in the Soviet bloc for all I know. But note the existential angle slipped into the copy. Positioning Bri-Nylon as the differentiator (literally, ‘It’s the Bri-Nylon that makes the difference’), they assert: ‘Stretch pants are news. Stretch pants are fun. . . Bri-Nylon helps you enjoy life.’

Does anyone need the assistance of nylon stretch pants to enjoy life? In a word, no. And dressed like that, encased in shapeless stretch synthetic fabric that doesn’t breathe and spreads over the body with its own agenda (what’s all that bunching action around her ankles?) it would be impossible to enjoy anything.


christmas truce letter from the trenches

dougan letter trenchesFrom the Guardian:

It was penned 100 years ago in the freezing trenches of the western front; a letter from a British army officer to his mother describing in vivid detail the extraordinary Christmas truce as soldiers from both sides laid down their weapons.

Second Lt Alfred Dougan Chater, of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders, writes of the moment when the men met in no-man’s land, exchanging souvenirs and cigars as impromptu truces were held along parts of the front between Christmas and New Year, with joint burial parties for the dead.

The letter has been reproduced by the Royal Mail, with permission from the Chater family, to mark the anniversary of the historic truce and the role played by the postal service during the first world war.

Remarkably, Dougan mentions nothing about Sainsbury’s or having a Sainsbury’s branded experience of the truce that day in 1914.

Dated Christmas Day and signed “Dougan”, the letter reads: “Dearest Mother, I am writing this in the trenches in my ‘dug out’ – with a wood fire going and plenty of straw it is rather cosy, although it is freezing hard and real Christmas weather.

“I think I have seen today one of the most extraordinary sights that anyone has ever seen. About 10 o’clock this morning I was peeping over the parapet when I saw a German, waving his arms, and presently two of them got out of their trench and came towards ours.

“We were just going to fire on them when we saw they had no rifles, so one of our men went to meet them and in about two minutes the ground between the two lines of trenches was swarming with men and officers of both sides, shaking hands and wishing each other a happy Christmas.

“This continued for about half an hour when most of the men were ordered back to the trenches. For the rest of the day nobody has fired a shot and the men have been wandering about at will on the top of the parapet and carrying straw and firewood about in the open – we have also had joint burial parties with a service for some dead, some German and some ours, who were lying out between the lines.”

He writes of shaking hands himself with several of the German officers and subsequently describes another “parley with the Germans in the middle” where cigarettes and autographs were exchanged and “some more people took photos”.

Watch the Sainsbury’s 2014 Christmas commercial ‘Christmas is for sharing’ and read my post about it here, or listen to what Russell Brand thinks of it here.

For some real, unbranded history, visit the First World War galleries on the Imperial War Museum’s website.

Final fighting fronts

russell brand on sainsbury’s christmas ad

Yes, in their 2014 Christmas commercial that re-imagines the 1914 Christmas truce, Sainsbury’s has reduced World War I to nothing more than a branding opportunity to exploit. Which means they’re also exploiting the people who died after this historical event ended and killing resumed. It’s a piece of history they’re trying to rebrand as a Sainsbury’s feel-good moment, and it’s a cheap manipulation, an attempt to transfer some of the mythology of that poignant historical moment to the Sainsbury’s brand. As Russell says, ‘football, love, chocolate — is nothing sacred?’ You can read my original post on Sainsbury’s 2014 Christmas commercial here.

sainsbury’s christmas truce, 1914

sainsburys xmas 2014
truce 2
History as advertising becomes advertising as history. Compare 1) the sanitized, sickly sentimental 2014 Sainsbury’s Christmas commercial Christmas is for Sharing, which uses the 1914 Christmas truce between German and British soldiers in WWI as a feel-good branding opportunity, with 2) this 15-minute piece of oral history about the truce, told by the men who lived it, in Radio 4’s documentary Voices of the First World War. Under the Christmas is for Sharing clip on youtube it says, ‘The chocolate bar featured in the ad is on sale now at Sainsbury’s. All profits (50p per bar) will go to The Royal British Legion and will benefit our armed forces and their families, past and present.’ As if that makes exploiting this moment of history (and the people who lived it) to position and promote the Sainsbury’s brand okay. It doesn’t. If its philanthropic intentions were genuine, Sainsbury’s could simply make the donation without subjecting its target audience to the highly manipulative, beautifully shot (but poorly acted) 3 minutes and 15 seconds of branded history.
In the last of the series for 1914, veterans of the First World War recall the few hours of impromptu ceasefire on 25th December 1914, when German and British troops mingled and played football in No Man’s Land on the Western Front. Drawing on the recollections of soldiers in the oral history collection of the Imperial War Museum and the BBC archive. Narrated by Dan Snow.
About the series:
There are now no living veterans of WW1, but it is still possible to go back to the First World War through the memories of those who actually took part. In a unique partnership between the Imperial War Museums and the BBC, two sound archive collections featuring survivors of the war are brought together for the first time. The Imperial War Museums’ holdings include a major oral history resource of remarkable recordings made in the 1980s and early 1990s with the remaining survivors of the conflict. The interviews were done not for immediate use or broadcast, but because it was felt that this diminishing resource that could never be replenished, would be of unique value in the future. Among the BBC’s extensive collection of archive featuring first hand recollections of the conflict a century ago, are the interviews recorded for the 1964 TV series ‘The Great War’, which vividly bring to life the human experience of those fighting and living through the war.