Posted by: nickgerlich | March 12, 2008

Jean Pool

I was cruising through central Texas yesterday, on my way to Houston. I love driving through Texas (and you’ll be treated to a related blog on this tomorrow). Instead of hooking up my iPod and transmitting it through the FM radio, I decided to go old-school and use only the radio for my entertainment.

So I played radio roulette.

There’s an amazing number of Christian stations in Texas, far more than I remember up north. But this doesn’t surprise me, given that we reside in a metaphoric belt buckle. I also found lots of talk radio stations, and quite naturally, the topic of the day was the primary election. And every other advertisement was from either Hillary or Obama: “I’m Hillary Clinton, candidate for President, and I approve this message.”

But something caught my ear, someone I hadn’t heard in a long time: The G-Man, G. Gordon Liddy. Now there’s a blast from the past. With nothing to do except stay between the lines (and watch for DPS), I took my finger from the Seek-Scan button.

Gusset JeansBut it wasn’t Liddy himself that piqued my curiosity. No, it was one of his advertisers, Gusset Jeans. Liddy waxed poetic about these American-made jeans, how they’re only available online, and very reasonable at $39.95.

But I nearly drove off the road when he said, “And there’s not one Chinese thread in these jeans.”

Now you lost me, G-Man. Don’t tell me how to shop, and definitely do not put down China. I’m a little sensitive there. And if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were campaiging for Obama in the anti-NAFTA state of Ohio.

Yes, the Gusset website is nice. It looks like a prime example of a specialty clothier leveraging technology to overcome distribution issues and make their goods available to the masses at reasonable prices (I think it’s called direct marketing). There are many others doing this as well (perhaps a future blog there?). I just don’t like it when I hear economic jingoism, a guilt trip wrapped in denim, but available in relaxed fit for those with a bloated misguided sense of patriotism.

OK Dr Gerlich, tell us what you really think.

You see, I want companies like Gusset to thrive, but trying to pressure people into buying them because they are American-made is lame. No, sell me these jeans because they are the best jeans anywhere, the best kick in the pants for my money. Last time I checked, this is still a free economy, which means I can have access to virtually anything. This puts the burden not on shoppers, but rather on the manufacturers. Make the best product at the best value, and you will make the sale.

I heard all these arguments in the early-1980s when the Japanese were first making inroads in the automobile industry. I drove Toyotas back then. Even my Dad, a career GM person, drove Toyotas. And the Summer of 1979 I spent toiling at a GM factory in Chicago, where I had no choice but to join the UAW, taught me many lessons about the economic futility of pricing oneself out of the market (that locomotive factory is now closed…go figure).

I’m going to give Gusset the benefit of the doubt, and order a pair. They actually look good, but not because there are no Chinese threads in them. Vote with your brain, not your heart.

I am Dr Gerlich, Professor of Marketing, and I approve this message.

Dr “Jean Genie” Gerlich


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