Nike’s Find Your Greatness ad campaign is pretty good

July 26th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I was talking to someone on Twitter the other day about whether or not it was unfair that black superheroes tended to shoulder the burden of addressing racial issues in comics & movies, like the stereotypical angry black man or the uncountable comics where a black hero points out to his white mentor how grimy life actually is when you’re colored.

I agreed that it was unfair, but that we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. White characters will never shoulder that burden because white is treated as the default. They get to have regular adventures because they are treated like regular people. Black people are special. We’ve got baggage.

So the choice is either deafening silence, which is in and of itself an implicit suggestion that things are a-okay, or one type of character being expected to deal with one type of story before they can move on to regular stories. My point, I think, was that it was unfair, but necessary, because you can’t expect white characters to shoulder that burden and someone has to.

I really like this Nike campaign. “Find Your Greatness.” It’s another hit for Nike after a long line of them, and I love that it focuses on regular people instead of superstars. All the spots are pretty good, though I think the one with the diver is my favorite/the cutest.

But I think it’s notable that in a campaign that includes a wide variety of people, from black kids to Chinese martial artists to a kid who plays baseball with just one arm, the only spot to be explicitly educational, in a cultural sense, is the one that features Muslim women wearing headscarves. (The conceit of the campaign is that it’s documenting athletes in not-England Londons, but I’m not sure where in this case.)

The voiceover: If we think greatness is supposed to look a certain way, act a certain way, and play a certain way… we certainly need to rethink some things.

It’s not a complaint, exactly, more of a plain observation. I think it’s interesting that this is the one that has the “Be more accepting” message. The other short spots are of the motivational variety. “If greatness doesn’t come knocking on your door, maybe you should go knocking on its door.” “Greatness isn’t born. It’s made.” “Greatness is a scary thing. Until it isn’t.” “Sometimes, greatness is about overcoming insurmountable adversity. Sometimes it’s just fun.” That kind of thing.

But this one, the message is more pointed. Americans hate Arab peoples and distrust Islam. The role of women in Islam has been boiled down to “oppressed, forced to wear oppressive clothes.” The role of men has been boiled down to “sexists, murderous, terrorists.” That is the narrative right now. Don’t believe me? It was just last year, 2011, that Representative Peter King put American Muslims on trial for the actions of a few.

The narrative needs to be corrected. Which means that people need to be educated. Which means that these messages of empathy and acceptance… need to be said. It needs to be said, it desperately needs to be said to correct the poison we’ve been tainted with, but it is only ever said by, or by way of, the people who are victims of false and hurtful narratives.

That’s the rock and a hard place. It needs to be done, but it’s unfair at the same time. Why should I have to reprogram your idiotic beliefs when I had nothing to do with them being invented? But if I don’t… then the poison continues. And if that poison doesn’t directly affect your life, you’re probably not going to be particularly active about getting rid of it. It’s like being trapped in someone else’s box.

“Find Your Greatness” a great campaign, and I love the message behind it, even the “Stop being so mean to Muslims and Arabs you incredible jerks” one. This one’s my favorite spot, though:

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“Insides fish sticks, outside tartar sauce”

March 28th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

“Insides fish sticks, outside tartar sauce” is something Young Jeezy said on his hit song “Put On” with Kanye West. It’s probably my favorite color-related punchline. Yes, that is a category in rap, and yeah, dudes like Young Dro have raised color-based wordplay into an art form. (Sidebar: “The platinum is grey like grandpa/ Spray the Chevy all kinda sour apple colors/ Diamonds up in my charm look like pineapple suckers” aYO!) I could explain this line, but it’s easier to show you these images I got from this guy’s site:



“Insides fish sticks, outside tartar sauce.” I live for that sort of thing. Anyway.

Back when I was young, black, and depressed in the early 2000s (yeah, big deal, ya big dummy), I spent a lot of time wearing two things. Video game t-shirts, because I got them free from both my GameStop job and my “write about video games on the internet” job, and shirts in varying shades of black. I didn’t wear black because I was all wrapped up in the idea of being sad. I wore black because I was basically lazy. (Same reason I wore the game shirts, too.) Black matches everything, it looks nice longer than white does, and… well that’s about it, honestly. It’s a versatile color.

But if your closet is full of black shirts, some with funny jokes set in Helvetica or involving ampersands, guess what: black is awful boring. When you add in the fact that my shoes tended to run toward dark browns and blacks, I figure I was looking double terrible.

So part of my ongoing attempt to become an actual grown-up is expanding my personal palette. Black is probably always going to dominate — black hoodies are the best hoodies, especially when they have little details like blue interior trim and a small white logo, and my black Polo Rugby with the big skull is never not going to be my favorite shirt — but there’s plenty of room for me to add some sauce into the mix. To experiment, to broaden my horizons, to wear actual colors instead of just being as lazy as I can be when it comes to clothes shopping.

I’ve been thinking of my ongoing wardrobe expansion primarily in terms of colors and color combinations. The specifics of the clothes isn’t that big a deal — as I’ll discuss in a later post — but the colors are what’s most crucial in my mind. You can’t tell if a shirt is a polo or a tee at a distance, but you can tell that it’s bright blue or ugly orange.

My first move was to figure out what colors I didn’t want. I’m open to whatever colors happen to be present on a shirt, but the dominant color is what I tried to pay attention to the most. I’ve never particularly liked orange, and yellow tends to be way too bright for how I like to look. And honestly, yellow needs another color for it to work for me. Lakers gear is a good example of that, and so are the Blue Angels. I could probably swing pink, but the problem with that is that I don’t really like pink as a dominant color, either. As a flourish? Sure. Dominant? Nah. I love it when I see somebody rocking a garish pink, though, like they just got beaten up by mob of angry Lisa Frank binders, though. That’s a statement.

I do like reds, though, like you’d see on a Bulls or Hawks jersey. I like basically every shade of blue, too, from so pale it’s basically white to navy to sky blue. Green is pretty okay, but not a favorite of mine when it comes to clothes colors. I love brown, too, usually a deep, fall-y, 1970s detective suit-y brown. My oldest pair of shoes right now are a pair of brown Nike Ace 83s, and they’re my official beaters, something to wear when I’m feeling lazy or making a quick run somewhere.

“Wow, David!” you’re thinking. “You like brown, blue, and red? You’re soooo brave and progressive. Should I give you my phone number and hotel key now or later?” Shut up.

I made a conscious decision to branch out, too. I want to rock some things I’ve never rocked before. I want to blaze some trails I’ve never been down. So I decided to pick a color I don’t usually get down with and figure out how to run it. It took about one second to eliminate orange from the equation (I guess I really hate orange). I flipped through some fashion blogs to look for inspiration. (I reblog the stuff I like sometimes.) I don’t remember what I saw, but I eventually decided on purple.

I’m not really a purple type of dude. It’s one of those colors I decided was for girls when I was a kid, because young boys think stupid things, so I sorta wrote it off. But at the same time…purple is a Lakers color. Purple is my grandmom’s favorite color. It’s a royal color. And if I’m uncomfortable with it for stupid reasons… I might as well get comfortable with it for good reasons. I might as well own it like I invented purple.

It basically took buying one shirt, this lavender polo from Old Navy, to turn me around. I like polos in general, and this one forced me out of my comfort zone shortly before depositing me in another. It looked nice when compared with my skin tone, and oh man. Oh MAN. Why didn’t anybody ever tell me how well purple and black go together? A stiff black and a deep purple is crazy. It looks SO good. On me, of course, but also on other people, I guess.

I’ve expanded a bit since then, mostly buying purple shirts, but my favorite purchase is probably this purple Nike web belt I picked up for twenty bucks. It’s varsity purple, according to Nike, and in the same range of purple as the Lakers logo. I think purple jeans might be a bit much, but shirts, watches, belts, shoes, jackets? Yeah, I’ll do that. My next purple grail is this Jordan Brand Varsity. It’s mulberry, but it looks like the exact purple I need to match this belt and the details on my Chris Pauls.

The other half of this color thing for me is how colors work together. Wearing a new color doesn’t mean anything if it looks stupid. Mixing and matching colors is fine and fun, but I’m really fond of what I’ve been thinking as “spot color.” I’ve got a black suit, and I like to have black suit with a black shirt, and then a white tie with white kicks. Or black jeans, black shoes, red shirt with black detail. All black everything and then a purple belt or white kicks. Building up a shape with items that are the same (or similar) colors and then a splash of something else for some flair. Creating a visual style that has a certain level of flash.

I like clothes that are solid colors, or feature one color above all the others. Not exclusively, of course, but just as a matter of general preference. It lets me get away with the spot color thing pretty well, in a way that a shirt that’s grey on blue wouldn’t. I still own way too many black shirts, too, and I don’t want to ditch them. How do I make them look better? By making whatever colors are on that shirt stand out by being conscious of the rest of my clothes, all the way down to my shoes. I’m all no show socks everything (almost, I keep tripping over ankle socks when I do laundry), so socks don’t really matter any more.

Picking colors was another fashion choice that I made and then decided I felt good about. I’m wearing and contemplating wearing stuff I normally wouldn’t, and my wardrobe is looking nicer accordingly. I’m going to Emerald City Comiccon this weekend, and I briefly entertained the thought of going all purple and black everything. I’ve got the wardrobe to pull it off now, but I feel like it’d be a bit much. I’m probably just going to pack a couple of purple-oriented outfits for Friday and Saturday (I already know exactly which, in fact) and then match the rest of what I have to wear to whichever pair of Air Force 1s I decide to pack and how the weather’s looking (rainy).

It’s a nice feeling to get up in the morning and go “What do I want to look like today?” rather than grabbing jeans and a shirt at random in the dark and trusting that everything’s gonna match. Versatility and diversity is crucial.

(I donated all the video game shirts to charity.)

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“The dress code’s strictly white tee, Air Force 1s, and some Dickies.”

February 21st, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Yesterday, during a crisis of confidence and an expectedly foggy bad mood that had me surfing the internet in a grey haze, I decided that life is too short to not do things I like, so I’m going to make it a point to only ever wear Air Force 1s forever, or until I get bored of them (unlikely) or die or something. I remember being younger and telling jokes about how I’d like to own seven pairs of Air Forces, so I could wear a different pair each day of the week. I dunno how I didn’t realize it before now, but I make enough money for that to not be a totally irresponsible prospect, and on top of that, I’m a little under halfway there already.

My goal is, with a few exceptions, to be all Air Force 1 everything. I like the lows way more than the mids and highs. I have a pair of mids in white on white, and they’re nice and all, but I messed around and got them half a size too big and I don’t really like wearing high tops, anyway. Lows are just more comfortable overall, and I like how they look with my clothes. I’ve got lows in black on black, black on grey/elephant skin (one of my favorite patterns), and khaki (or was it tan?). I’m donating a lot of my shoes to a charity, though, so now’s the time to re-up in something interesting. I need to get up on some blues and reds and start color coordinating better. Purple’s definitely on the list, too. I’m in love with these Kobe Air Force 1 Supremes, but the online site is out of my size.

This isn’t going to be a hard and fast rule. A huge exception will be made if I can find a pair of red and black Jordan XII Retros, my holy grail and a recreation of my favorite Jordans. If I find those, I’m never wearing anything but them until they fall apart, and then I’m going to find someone who owns them in my size and jack theirs. I bought a pair of Chris Paul’s 2’Quicks today because they were on sale, looked nice, and had a splash of purple on ’em. I’ll definitely have to keep my brown Ace 83 beaters around for when I have to do work or something. I love those shoes. They’re crazy comfortable. But barring a few small exceptions (I’m going to say that I’ll hold myself to… less than five, including the ones I’ve mentioned here), I want a closet full of Air Forces, and also an apartment in San Francisco big enough to fit all of them.

Comfort is what it comes down to, really, with fashion and flexibility a close second and third. My Air Forces are the most comfortable shoes I own, and I love how they feel. Just the right amount of padding, just enough space to breathe but not so much that my feet are swimming in the shoes… I could probably roll laceless if I wanted to, which is always nice with the right outfit.

I’ve been thinking a lot about fashion. Your clothes are one of the first things people notice about you. You send a message with the clothes you wear, whether you want to or not. What message am I sending? I’ve been really drilling down and trying to figure that out lately, and culling clothes that aren’t on-message. I’m going to be writing about it more in the future (probably tomorrow, matter of fact), but I think starting with the shoes and working my way from there.

I want to branch out into more colors, patterns, and configurations as a whole, and having a foundation that I can look at and not get bored with, that also can be accessorized and color-coordinated with the rest of what I wear, seems like a good idea. I bought two pairs of shoes today thanks to an incredibly well-timed sale. I went out expecting to spend a certain dollar amount for a specific pair of shoes, but I threw an extra 10 bucks into the mix and walked out with two fantastic alternate choices. I like the Jordan brand CP 2’Quicks I got, which are black, white, and purple. The other pair of shoes were Air Force 1 ’07s in velvet brown & birch-khaki, and I like them, too. The Air Forces are different enough from my tan ones that I have more wardrobe options now, too. I’m not going to go all-out sneakerhead (I’m not that rich!), but I want a nice, respectable collection of fashionable choices.

I feel good about this. It’s nothing in the scheme of things, obviously, but I feel good about it. I think it’s important to do things you feel good about while you can.

Now I just gotta figure out how to keep these dumb shoes clean. I may have to go back to storing them in the box, just so they stay pristine.

(I feel good about other decisions made in yesterday’s ugly haze, too, especially ramping up how many different ab exercises I do a day [as part of a revamped workout regimen] and eating more vegetables [because… wait, why am I eating all this broccoli, anyway?], but this one will have an immediate and obvious effect on my life.)

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