In today’s issue of The Maneater, the student newspaper at the University of Missouri, there’s an article about a college freshman who started a clothing line by the name of South Butt. It started as a spoof of the popular apparel comapny North Face. Now, the company has ordered him to cease and desist, alleging trademark infringement and the like. (The article, especially the quotes traded by the attorneys, is hilarious.)
Now, I first saw the name “South Butt” in Columbia a few weeks ago, I think in The District (that’s “downtown” to all you non-CoMo folks), maybe on a sign or something. It seemed pedantic and mildly crass and if the North Face connection even registered with me at the time, it was only a vague kind of awareness.
Now that I’ve learned more about Jimmy Winklemann and his story, I’m backing this company and its product line. Here’s his explanation of how he got started:
“Freshman Jimmy Winklemann started the compnay two years ago after being annoyed by the popularity of The North Face brand. ‘In St. Louis, lots of high school and grade school kids were wearing them,’ Winklemann said. ‘No one was climbing a mountain in their North Face jackets. They just wanted to be cool.’ “
Let me tell you that this is exactly how I felt during my high school years. Rich kids and their upper-middle class peers walking around with a North Face fleece on, complete with a North Face backpack, to which was strapped a Nalgene bottle, preferably with a caribeaner somewhere in the mix, and at least one Dave Matthews patch on their bag or bumper sticker on their car. Ab-so-lute-ly re-freaking-diculous.
Keep in mind, this was in the topographically and elevationally-challenged Midwest, and while some of these young lads and lassies surely traveled around the world, the majority of them were not engaging in the sort of intense geo-recreational adventures of the kind North Face has built an image on. You know, like the “coldest, most unforgiving side of a mountain” in the Himalayas, according to their corporate website.
Lots of good stuff to dig in on here…..Maybe I can get Winklemann to do a podcast interview with me or something.
One thing that jumped out at me though was that this whole thing would have gone away a lot quicker for North Face had they simply been able to buy him out early. Winkelmann said he has only taken in around $5,000 annually. Maybe he would have taken a quick check for three or four times that to sign over the company to North Face and let it die in oblivion? Now the controversey will only increase exposure and grow his business.
Now the next question is, can Winklemann find a way to punk the DMB?
And oh yeah, I almost forgot.