Taking Embroidered Emblems Off Your Clothes?

We were amused by  Khadeeja Safdar’s recent story in the Wall St. Journal about consumers removing logos from their branded sportswear.  Seems like a lot of work, why not just cover up the obnoxious company logo with a cool embroidered patch?

Crocodiles (and Polo Ponies) Go Missing as Scalpel-Wielding Consumers Revolt

Since its debut in 1926, the Lacoste crocodile has adorned polo shirts on everyone from the brand’s tennis-star founder to President John F. Kennedy.

Yet you won’t likely find one on Max Ilich. The 47-year-old consultant has extracted the iconic reptilian from at least 10 of his Lacoste shirts. “It’s a tricky surgery,” he said. “But I was pleased with the results.”

Mr. Ilich, who lives in Hampton, N.H., borrowed a scalpel from an ex-girlfriend, a surgeon, to cut out the embroidered crocodile without tearing through the fabric. Then he washed the shirts about four times to hide his work.

He wears Lacoste shirts because of their quality but finds logos “pretentious,” he said, and resents being used as a marketing platform.

“Why would I do someone else’s advertising for free?” Mr. Ilich said.

A branding backlash has some people working hard to remove logos and names from their clothes and accessories. Blogs and online discussion forums offer tips on scratching off the Ray-Ban logo from lenses, peeling away the Ralph Lauren emblem from new pairs of leather shoes and using a felt-tip marker to hide the Under Armour symbol on sports gear.

For embroidered logos, some brand-phobics use a seam ripper—a small tool for unpicking stitches—but the method is time consuming. Each thread has to be pulled out carefully to keep the underlying fabric pristine.

Vinyl logos attached to sportswear are particularly challenging. Some people have tried to dissolve them with nail polish remover. Others just wear the garments inside out.

“This isn’t a trend we’re seeing with Ray-Ban,” said a spokesperson with Luxottica, the company that owns the brand. Ralph Lauren and Under Armour declined to comment.

In the 1990s and 2000s, consumers flashed brand names with pride. Some shoppers now, though, shun such uniformity and prefer unlabeled clothing, which has prompted a few logo-heavy brands to shift course.

“Nobody wants to be branded anymore,” said Aaron Levine, head designer for Abercrombie & Fitch.

Gabrielle Gutierrez, 33 years old, said Abercrombie shirts were an ideal fit, but she didn’t want to display the brand’s moose insignia. “It was a bit of a dilemma,” said the neuroscientist, who lives in Seattle.

Ms. Gutierrez said she learned one way to “de-Abercrombie-ify” her shirts. She bought iron-on patches from the clearance bin at a Jo-Ann fabric store to cover the Abercrombie moose. Her shirts now have eyeballs, smiley faces and palm trees, a style she described as “personalized and subversive.”

Abercrombie recently launched a marketing campaign and changed its logo to cultivate a new image for its clothing line, after its highly sexualized branding began to alienate too many buyers.

Ms. Gutierrez hasn’t revisited an Abercrombie store since the change. She stopped shopping there because the logo kept getting “bigger and bigger,” she said. “It became impossible to cover.”

Research shows that midtier brands often have the loudest logos because their buyers want to signal wealth. Seasoned luxury shoppers may prefer more subtle branding.

“People in the know can recognize a high-end brand from the little things such as the stitching,” said Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, who dismissed logo removal as “ludicrous.”

Discerning shoppers who can identify a Brooks Brothers shirt from the six-pleat shirring at the cuffs or an Alden loafer from its distinctive stitching are “part of your tribe,” said Jerrod Swanton, age 37, of Springfield, Ohio.

eyeball-patch-afGabrielle Gutierrez used an eyeball patch to cover the Abercrombie & Fitch logo on a shirt. PHOTO: GABRIELLE GUTIERREZ

He writes a clothes blog called Oxford Cloth Button Down and said he prefers not to advertise how much he spends on clothing or where he shops. “It is becoming more and more challenging to find articles of clothing without the logos,” Mr. Swanton said.

He and several of his blog readers shared their disapproval, for example, when Brooks Brothers added a logo to one of its classic sweaters.

“Some styles come with logo and others without,” said Arthur Wayne, a spokesman for Brooks Brothers. “We leave it to the customer to decide.”

Lacoste was a pioneer in logo-branded clothing. By the 1980s, its shirts had become staples of preppy wardrobes, and its tiny green crocodiles seemed to spawn Ralph Lauren ponies, Tommy Bahama marlins and Abercrombie’s moose.

Professional tennis player Rene Lacoste was nicknamed “The Crocodile” after he won an alligator-skin suitcase in a wager with the French Davis Cup captain, the company said, and the logo first appeared on his blazer.

lacoste-croc

French tennis player Rene Lacoste wearing a blazer embroidered with a crocodile motif. PHOTO: TOPICAL PRESS AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES

Nothing personal, Mr. Ilich said, but he just doesn’t want it showing on his Lacoste shirts.

Lacoste said no executive was available to comment.

Jeff Taxdahl, owner of Thread Logic, a custom logo embroidery company based in Minneapolis, has a warning for logo tamperers. “Unless you’re fairly skilled at it, you would destroy the shirt,” he said. “And once you get the threads out, the outline of the image may still exist due to the needle holes.”

That is a risk some shoppers are willing to take. Ian Connel, 33 years old, who lives near St. Paul, Minn., said he tried it out on an Abercrombie shirt.

“I don’t want to be seen in their stores, let alone wear the moose,” he said, though he likes the brand’s snug fit.

He turned the shirt inside out and painstakingly removed each thread. “It has a few small holes,” he said, “but it’s still better than having the logo.”

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The Chicago Embroidery Company, in business since 1890, can help clothing manufacturers and others create distinctive emblems that consumer will want to wear, not scrape off.  Visit them at www.c-emblem.com , sales@c-emblem.com , or call 312/664-4232.

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