I got something really Kuhl as a Christmas present this year. It’s a “Men’s Jak Rabbit #1007,” a sort of fuzzy-soft jacket sweater with a zipper pocket over the heart area for toting, I suppose, warm feelings about the cell phone I don’t own.
I’m not sure how much the “Men’s Jak Rabbit #1007” cost my lovely daughter, who carefully picked out something she knew I’d like. The tags that come with my Jak Rabbit #1007 are especially interesting. One tag says that it’s “Crazy Soft” and made of “100% polyester Italian fleece.” The flip side tells me that it has “Micro fiber faux leather accents for added style,” and a “Signature Kuhl thumbloop for added warmth.”
I love the thing. It’s so fuzzy, smooth and toasty I can’t keep my hands off it, though I’ve become a bit wary about how to preserve the privacy of my virtue when I see others eyeballing it. I’m a rather thrifty guy, but I don’t dare ask my daughter how much it cost. I don’t want to drop even a tiny hint that she might have been fleeced. I’m content to be wearing it right now, as I write, certain it’s giving my literary style a softer touch. That alone makes it worth what she paid for it.
The Kuhl people must be foreigners, maybe German or Swiss, and they take their fleeces seriously. “It’s really not even fair for the competition,” says one of the Kuhl tags in both English and French, “to put this jacket in the ‘fleece’ category. The superior quality and ultra-soft hand put the Jak Rabbit in the premium category and at the top of the podium.” I’m not sure it belongs at the top of a podium, but to me the Jak Rabbit #1007 feels like a top of the line product, especially for those with good taste in France. What is called “ultra soft” in the English version of the label comes off as “ultra doux” (“ultra sweet”) in French. It must be both.
But to tell the truth I admit that my Jak Rabbit #1007 has a special place close to my heart because it’s made of “100% polyester Italian fleece.” Because a tag, in bold letters, informs us that the Jak Rabbit #1007 was “BORN IN THE MOUNTAINS” I can’t help thinking that its fleece had its origins in the Italian Alps. Everyone knows that any quest for authenticity involves a search for origins, call them roots. Though my ethnic roots are in southern Italy, a region looked down upon by Italy’s righteous Northern League political party, I’m satisfied to know my Jak Rabbit #1007 takes me back both to my European and Italian roots, however snow-covered. My new fleece makes it clear that my sense of ethnic pride is not skin deep.
It also fits the free-spirited and free-thinking urges at the base of my philosophy of life. The remarkable tag that Kuhl attaches to its product speaks to the worldwide youth movement I still feel in my oldest bones. The Jak Rabbit #1007 is “born,” we’re informed by the tag, “from our rebellious philosophy to question everything, break the rules, and reject the status quo.” I agree, but I also know my Jak Rabbit #1007 will require me to live dangerously, like all Kuhl products, which are said to “resist, defy and oppose the norm. Wearing them tells you they represent not only the freedom of movement, but also freewill.”
Since freedom of movement and free will are at the core of the American Dream, my Jak Rabbit #1007 comfortably fits my patriotic needs.
The philosophical depth of the Jak Rabbit #1007 provides a new high. Experts who keep track of advertisements inform us that Americans, on average, experience 600-625 “exposures” to ads every 24-hour day. If each ad exposure is five seconds long then the average American spends two hours out of each 24-hour day and night exposed to ads. Though it’s hard to know how ads affect us while we’re asleep, it’s obvious that they’re participants in the conversations that go on while we work and play. And because so many ads are entertaining and fun, how can we not thank them for influencing our sense of what’s true and real?
I’ll try to be truthful here about one thing that bothers me about the ads I’m
exposed to every day: In a society that values free markets and free expression you’d think that more ads, like the Kuhl ad, would offer consumers a little free will.
The tags on my new Jak Rabbit #1007 offer some wonderful educational opportunities for harried teachers in our beleaguered schools. The Kuhl tags make it clear that certain foreign words like “faux” have enormous prestige these days. The name of the product itself offers shortcuts that bad spellers can use. Biology teachers stand to gain by engaging students in experiments designed to identify the authenticating qualities of fleece. And a geography curriculum is waiting to be developed by educators eager to help students find France and Italy on a map, while demystifying them about how a Jak Rabbit, after being “BORN IN THE MOUNTAINS” leaped across the Atlantic to be manufactured by nameless workers in El Salvador.
Doubtless some of the educational issues in the Kuhl ad will require the expertise of higher authorities in our colleges and universities. The Kuhl ad might inspire philosophers and scientists, for example, to elevate class discussions of free will to new depths. Departments of psychology could expand their experimental, developmental, and clinical approaches to consumer behaviors to include the paranormal. English departments could use Kuhl ads as creative writing models useful to the writing of fiction and poetry, or as examples of a prose style that leads to jobs. Business departments and whole colleges of commerce, currently so frustrated by the economy’s failure to benefit from the marketing wisdom passing through their graduation lines, would be able to develop post-doc seminars on the commercial value of the laughable.
One truth remains: I love my daughter much more than I love my Jak Rabbit #1007, however Kuhl it is, and I deeply appreciate her gift. I also mean it when I say that from the 600-625 exposures to ads I experience every day none provides the soft, warm, and fuzzy pleasure I derive from my actual Jak Rabbit #1007, and I’m convinced I arrived at that conclusion by way of my own free will. The ad for the product, moreover, is special for the way it draws attention to how truth in advertising affects public discourse and thoughtful responses to the important concerns real people have to deal with every day.