Red squares being worn in Quebec these days had me thinking of branding lately. When you place a red square on your clothing you are using an abstract symbol to communicate a critical idea to an entire culture, society. When you wear branded clothing you are simply approving ideas completely outside of your self that have been created for mass consumption. The first is an expression of individuality that may require some courage, while the second one is an expression against individuality that requires conformity.
Saw this image on wikipedia earlier today.
It might be easy to get the idea that those apparently well dressed men standing on the rails are from the office checking out the daily goings on, but they are most likely foreman congregating over a certain problem or idea. It was fashionable for foremen to wear suits at even the dirtiest of jobs, a uniform that would remain popular in some workplaces until the second world war. It was a way of separating the real grunt workers from those with middle class aspirations, pro company men. And the photo also creates the illusion that there were more suited men than those up to their knees in cattle manure.
Can you imagine shoveling cow manure all day with the word ARMOUR dominating your viewpoint? And getting paid not even enough to feed a family of 4, thus forcing your spouse and children to work as they became able? Would you love the company?
Corporation hated unions then and they still hate them today.
Today we would wear ARMOUR t-shirts and and running shoes and whatever other products they would brand without paying any attention to what the company is really all about. We would wear them because other’s do and we desperately want to fit in, to pass for normal by the world around us.
“In its early years Armour sold every kind of consumer product made from animals: not only meats but glue, oil, fertilizer, hairbrushes, buttons, oleomargarine, and drugs made from slaughterhouse byproducts. Armour operated in an environment without labor unions, health inspections or government regulation. Accidents were commonplace. Armour was notorious for the low pay it offered its line workers. It fought unionization by banning known union activists and by breaking strikes in 1904 and 1921, employing African Americans and new immigrants as strikebreakers. The company did not become fully unionized until the late 1930s when the Meatpacking Union succeeded in creating an interracial industrial union as part of theCongress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).” From this wiki page.
It would be monumentally naive to believe that the corporations of today deal in better faith than those in operation before the advent of labour unions. The only reason unions exist today is because of laws. The Right Wing in the United States has been breaking unions, slowly but surely, for over 30 years. The rise of WalMart as a business model and union breaking is not a coincidence, because WalMart, for example, couldn’t work without cheap foreign labour. So the corporations are not on our side at all, they just want our money. Still, we allow ourselves to be branded, we wear the logo as if confirming our presence, as if all is well in the world, as if we LIKE demonstrating how superficial, shallow, and hopelessly uncritical we have become. And we dress our kids with brands that imply middleclassness. We accept wearing company names on our bodies and we accept what the corporations tell us through their political representatives. And we vote for the corporation that appeals to our sense of security, the one that promises to protect the middle class while actually eating away at it’s foundations. Look there! screams the thief while he picks your pocket.
We don’t just love Big Brother, we want to wear his clothes.