Guess who’s found their inner geek.

In Couture, Planners on January 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Who’d have thought! Back when I was a kid growing up in rural Buckinghamshire, wearing a cardigan was something that Uncle Walter did. He had a white-hair comb-over, a big pimple on his chin and sported crimpelene trousers and slip-ons. His cardigan was burgundy with brown leathery buttons. I recoiled each time I saw it.  Nothing signified more a descent into senility than the willingness to wear such a garment. Now fast forward to the 21st century and cardigans are the height of cool. My big-cheese friend-in-high-places toppish-banana (but not right to the top because Sir Philip’s in the way) top man at Top Man tells me that the cardigan is one of their biggest sellers to teenagers. All hail the cardigan!

I’m not going to digress and speculate about what the Earl of Cardigan (he of Charge of the Light Brigade fame at the Battle of Balaclava) might have thought of this because then I’d have to stray into woolly headwear too. No, I’m going to focus on why the advertising industry has clasped this garment to its bosom and appropriated it as its own. Today, no self-respecting adman dares be seen without one. They’ve all jumped at the chance to say rebelliously to the world, ‘I’m a nerd who’s proud to display his inner Uncle Walter.’ The same has happened with dorky black-rimmed glasses. I walk into a room of fellow CEOs and they’re all wearing them. Some of whom I suspect aren’t even short-sighted. Why this sudden infatuation with geekiness? Is it that they’ve finally woken up to the fact that the centre of gravity has swung from Madison Avenue to Silicon Valley? That the nerd who invented the Apple Mac is now far cooler than the designer it’s aimed at? Can’t admen simply be happy in their own uniforms of black suits and black polo necks, like me? It would seem not. Advertising has always been a derivative business. We take a bit of this, add a bit of that, find some inspiration somewhere else, mix it together and bingo we’ve got an advertising campaign. Who cares if it’s not original and a bit of a mish-mash.

So, next time you’re out and about and you see a forty-something guy wearing a cardigan or a pair of geek’s glasses, chances are he works in advertising. If he’s wearing both, he’s a planner.


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