by Art Chantry ( email@example.com)
THE notions section of your drug/hardware/grocery store is a place barely anyone ventures any more. that’s the little section where you find things like scissors and thread and replacement zippers and hooks and buttons and yarn, etc. why it’s called the ‘notions’ section is still a mystery to me. but this used to be one of the most important sections of every neighborhood store.
we now live in a society that doesn’t value our possessions in quite the same way as our, well, parents generation even. when we wear down the heels on our shoes, we toss them out. we simply buy a new pair of affordable (cheap) shoes made in some other country by economic slaves. no problem.
when we decide our clothes are too worn or ‘unfashionable’ (that old bugaboo) we toss them and get new ones. and if we split a seam or (heavens!) lose a button – we toss them as well.
back in our parents day (and especially earlier) these things were too expensive to just toss out like toilet paper. we attempted to build wear into our possessions. we would repair our cars, paint our old furniture, patch our socks. we would then “hand them down” to the younger siblings and offspring as a sort of inheritance on the run. it was the way the world worked. no longer. sounds downright weird and unsanitary now, doesn’t it?
it’s marvelous how we’ve been marketed by corporations (in essence marketed ourselves) into new ways of thinking. we now scorn the used and broken and desire the new and fresh. this goes unquestioned.
i had an old girlfriend back in high school. her mother was quite a character. one of her obsessions was with the ‘new’. if she ever found anything around her house that seemed at all ‘old’ she would toss it out and replace it with something ‘new’. that meant that she was extremely susceptible to marketing ploys.
the results were that if she had a can opener (remember those things?) with a WOODEN handle, out it went. she’d replace it with a bright shiny new can opener with a colorful plastic sanitary handle. same for anything around here – clothing furniture, pets (no joke). sh
so liked the color ‘white’.
her crowning achievement in my young eyes was when she decided the old rust and weathered wood wagon wheel stuck in the flower bed in front of her house had to go. all that rust! all that wood! icky! she replaced it with a white plastic fake wagon wheel. it was horrible. but, she felt soooo much better.
we have all become lesser variations of that woman. this is the modern world.
when i find old marketing from notions sections, i am delighted. it’s sort of wonderful to think that repairing your old cloths was such a large specified defined market that they even developed sales trickery to sell things like these buttons! i mean, they’re just buttons. if you can’t match those on display to a single button style replacement, you’d simply buy a set of four and replace ALL the buttons. so simple and beautiful.
how do you get a woman (especially a naive younger woman) to pick up your brand? with nifty graphics and gimmicks, of course! note this little (10¢!) card of buttons for your young husband’s (or son’s) ‘sports’ shirt! a handsome comely young fella – a ‘sportin’ fella’, as well. note the golf club hidden under that button second from the bottom! subtle, but sophisticated. this is no slacker. this sportin’ fella is wealthy enough to afford golf as a habit! you MUST replace his buttons, or what will people think? maybe he’ll even love you better!
my favorite ‘button marketing” concept is displayed on some buttons i found sold as “movie star buttons”. they’re simply flashy replacement buttons for your personal wear. to sell them, the marketer (called “prevue”) created “movie star buttons” – guaranteed washable – ironable!. all those young women who bought the movie magazines (the original teenyboppers) would of course not be able to resist this movie star tie-in with their notions, eh?
apparently it was successful enough to attract studio endorsements and participation. big shot stars like lucille bremer, star of “adventures of casanova”. wasn’t that a bob hope movie? that means she was one of those ‘chicklets’ in sleazy of bob’s bawdy romp. ick.
or how about “edith mae zilli”, chosen prevue movie button queen of 1948! this photo was actually taken at the contest finals at the asbury park pool, NJ! yes, the big stars endorse movie star buttons. if you buy these buttons you, too, will be among the elite. if you are extremely lucky, you can be like edith mae zilli! or even (dare i say it?) lucille bremer!! wow.
it’s so hard to imagine a world where this stuff worked and was even avidly believed in and partcicpated in. we’re so far away from this sort of world-view. we’re all too cynical and worldy to believe int his nonsense., right?
one thing that sepearates humans from the rest of the animal world is that we can build actual dreams to live in. and as woody allen once said, the difference betwen a neurotic and psychotic is that neurotics only build dream castles. psychotics move in.