[Mike is on semi-vacation this week so TOP is on half-speed till Wednesday the 24th.]
This could have huge repercussions. Millions of Sports Illustrated readers now know about Nike.
I have never been able to take this feature of capitalism seriously. Yes, I know it means big bucks to the companies. Yeah, I know there are contracts and agreements and all kinds of negotiated conditions that pertain. It's all Very Serious to somebody. But it's all about what kind of pants a guy wears. Ultimately, about as trivial as trivial gets. As much as I know I'm supposed to care about such things as a good little consumer, I can't bring myself to.
Trivial styling details in pictures were a problem for me as a professional photographer. One of my nicest portraits was of a girl wearing a tank top that showed a bit of her bra strap (that was in the '80s, well before such details were easy to fix). It didn't occur to me that I should be bothered by it. I actually thought it was kind of charming, in a casually louche way. To me it looked...Summery. Well, the mother was "appalled" that I would even show them the proof. They picked a different—inferior, in my opinion—frame. And never came back to me for another portrait.
You know what they say: Oh well.
Another time*, I worked and worked on a magnificent family portrait that encompassed five matted prints. It was one of the best things I had done and I was very pleased with it, and couldn't wait to show it to the client. Alas, the gentleman immediately noticed that the tongue of his belt, the bit that sticks past the buckle, was lying over, rather than under, the belt loop of his pants, which is not sartorially correct. Again, no Photoshop to make easy corrections. This fashion disaster occasioned weeks of arguments over payment, which he finally rendered, reluctantly, when I showed up at his house to repossess the unpaid-for artwork. He probably asked me forty times why I didn't tell him about the offending belt loop during the shoot, whilst we still had time to make amends and save the whole star-crossed project. Why, why, why? I assured him again and again that I hadn't noticed.
The truth is, though, that I wouldn't have said anything if I had noticed, because it looked fine to me, and I had no clue where the ends of belts are supposed to go, and I don't care anyway.
There were dozens of such incidents over my near-decade as a working pro. The problem, I finally realized, is not just that I am insufficiently perfectionistic; it's that I'm naturally accepting of quirky little details that are visible in photographs. Not only do I not mind them, I actively like them. I like looking for odd little details in pictures, and I like that they're there. Working and working on making an advertising shot perfect goes against my interests and instincts. I get gratification neither from the work of perfecting, nor from the perfected result. Hence, I'm not very good at that sort of thing.
Some people feel differently. In the past year or two, I've showed at least three pictures I can remember that caused a few readers to complain about imperfections.
I eventually realized I was never cut out to be a pro, and this is only one of the ways. The nice thing about being an amateur in photography, of course, is (as I always say) that no one owns your photography. You can't stop people from having their opinions about what you do, but all the same, nobody can tell you what to do.
I like that.
Meanwhile, the Great Pants Scandal: Michael Phelps made an understandable mistake; Nike sponsors the Olympics and even though Under Armour sponsors him, he's required to wear Nike at various Olympics-sponsored events. It's logical enough that he could mistakenly believe that a medal-themed cover shot featuring three Olympic standouts was an Olympics-related happening. Could have been worse; at least he didn't claim that a fake Brazilian policeman forced him at gunpoint to wear Nike pants.
Meanwhile, here's a tiny, tiny consolation prize for Under Armour: before reading about this whole shocking imbroglio, I had never heard of Under Armour. And now it gets a free link from me! And I just ordered a pair of its shorts!
...And I think I will from now on. After all, it is reeling from its terrible Sports Illustrated cover setback, and I root for underdogs.
No, that probably does not ease the sting. One hopes Under Armour will eventually recover, though, and not perish from the world on account of all this.
(Thanks to David)
*I've told this story before, because, I admit, it still bugs me a little.
P.S. I would love to believe that if I were in Michael Phelps' position, I would be my own man, turn down payola, and wear whatever kind of pants I damn well pleased. However, the only reason I could say such a thing is that I am not Michael Phelps and nobody cares what I wear (Lee jeans, mostly). The truth is, if Under Armour paid me $5 million dollars a year to wear my underpants on my head at all times, I'd do it. I could probably even be had more cheaply than that, and I do not want to explore how much more cheaply. So much for lofty principles.
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Jack: "Beer and Photography: If you think sports attire companies care about what athletes are wearing, imagine how beer companies care about what brand you are drinking.
"Back in time, when you lived in your old neighborhood outside Milwaukee, there was a contingent of business people trying to gain support for a new baseball stadium. They were in NYC visiting the then-new Yankee stadium. Included in the group was the CEO of Milwaukee-based Miller Brewing, who left the group early. Since the rest of the group was hoping the brewery would contribute heavily to the new Milwaukee stadium, they tried to correct one of their group from ordering a Heineken beer. That person, head of the local business group, replied something like 'the Miller CEO is gone—not a problem.' Well it became a problem when a photo of the group showed up in the paper with the offending bottle clearly visible. Miller Park got built, but that particular beer drinker works in Columbus, Ohio now."
hzb: "Generally I've found perfectly perfect objects sterile, and 'imperfections' much more interesting: a wire intruding in the wrong place, repaired cracked ceramic, insect spot on a leaf, misapplied lipstick...I've certainly found not everyone shares my opinion, and too often focus on the innocuous 'flaw' rather than the overall subject in context.
"Some years ago, through investigating Japanese knives online, I discovered Zen aesthetics (wabi-sabi, shibumi, and kintsugi being some of the ideas), as well as many Japanese photographers. It's had an important impact on Western design in many fields and definitely speaks to me."
hugh crawford: "In 1980 or so I was working in a studio where we did a lot of editorial photography for New York magazine. We did a photo where several models were wearing brightly colored cashmere sweaters. We needed crew-neck sweaters but the only sweaters the stylist could find were V-neck sweaters from Bloomingdale's. Standard practice is to get clothes that are large for the models and pin the cloths in the back so they fit, so there was no problem with just having the models wear the sweaters backwards. Of course everything in the photo is identified by brand and retailer including perfume (!), so Bloomingdales was given a credit for the sweaters. When the issue hit the stands a ruckus ensued that included the president of Bloomingdale's calling the editor of the magazine to complain that hundreds of customers were coming to the store to buy sweaters that they didn't sell."