Over my recent vacation, I read Peter Benchley’s JAWS, a book I had read several times as a teenager but never since then.  I remembered the book being extraordinary and have often implored people to read it, assuring them that it is far better than the film that was based upon it.

Sadly, JAWS did not stand the test of time.  Re-reading it this week, I found the story to be rather disappointing and surprisingly predictable.  The relationships that the characters have to one another differ from the book to the film, and I was surprised to discover that the characters in Spielberg's version of the book are more multi-dimensional and more fully realized than those of the book.  While I can see why the teenage version of my would have loved the book, I find myself preferring the movie today, a statement that I have only been able to make about one other book:  John Grisham’s The Firm.

However, in re-reading the novel, I stumbled upon something quite surprising: the protagonist’s aversion to Lacoste shirts (the polo shirts with the alligator emblem).  Martin Brody is Amity’s police chief and grew up in a home of modest means, surrounded by those wealthier and more fortunate than he.  As such, he grew up despising the trappings of wealth, and he centers this aversion on the the “five dollar shirt with the fifteen dollar alligator on it.”  As I read this section of the book, it was as if Benchley was peaking into my own mind. 

A few years ago, I wrote my own diatribe on the lunacy of the Lacoste shirt and my aversion to wearing any item of clothing with a brand name attached.  I’ve despised this label-obsessed fashion trend for as long as I can remember, but suddenly I find myself wondering if this loathing for designer tags somehow originated in my early reading of JAWS. 

The way that Martin Brody speaks of Lacoste shirts, we could be sharing the same brain.   

So I find myself wondering if my feelings about fashion and my rejection of labels were born from my own life experiences (not unlike Brody’s) and my own common sense or if this opinion began with a teenage boy’s attraction to a protagonist who was heroic enough to survive the attack of a killer shark and come out as the hero.  

I’m hoping for the former but fear the latter.

Either way, here is the piece I wrote about Lacoste shirts, edited only to update the links but otherwise intact.  It’s a little over-the-top, laced with sarcasm and unnecessary diatribe, but I was probably annoyed on the day that I wrote it.   


I hate these shirts.

These too.

And while I’m on the subject, I think sticking a brand name on your butt is ridiculous as well.

Sticking a goddamn alligator on a shirt in no way makes the shirt look good. It serves as nothing but a status symbol, and I can’t imagine why any adult with an ounce of self- esteem would want to wear a small, green carnivore above his or her breast for all to see.

Same with any store or brand name plastered all over an item of clothing. I understand why an insecure high school kid might need to display a label like Abercrombie on his or her body in order to feel good… (actually, I don’t understand it, but I’m pretending in order to seem more reasonable) …but for any adult to turn him or herself into a walking billboard is stupid. Pathetically insecure.

And just plain sad.

And when I say adult, I’m talking anyone over the age of 18. If you’re old enough to carry a gun in Iraq, you can find the inner fortitude to throw away to your ridiculous adolescent predilections and the need to convince others that you are worthy because of the particular assemblage of thread covering your body.

And don’t get me started on handbags. The amount of money that women spend on handbags so that other women can admire them (because men don’t give a damn about the bag that a woman carries) is outrageous. It's nearly criminal.

All this may seem fairly obvious to you. You may be thinking that this is nothing new and that everyone knows how foolish fashion can be. But then why are so many people participating in the nonsense?

Because they are.

If you doubt me, take a look around the mall or the grocery store the next time you’re out and about. Count the number of people who are wearing the identical pattern of Burberry plaid, sewn into their scarves, rain boots, watches, umbrellas, and even bikinis (although a bikini might be hard to find at Stop and Shop). Are these Burberry-draped clones concerned with individuality? Personality? Intelligence?

Or are they attempting to project the image that:
- they are just like everyone else?
- they can look just like everyone else?
- they can afford the outrageous cost of Burberry?

Because you can’t tell me that this many people find the same pattern of brown and red plaid beautiful.

Honestly, have we forgotten that it’s what’s on the inside that matters?
Or did we fail to learn that lesson entirely?

Of course, if you own any of the items mentioned above, please don’t be upset with me. I’m sure that you’re a huge alligator fan who has always adored red and brown plaid.

Or maybe your first or last name is Abercrombie, at which point a shirt like this would make perfect sense.

And perhaps you’re the kind of optimistic person who purposely donates excessive amounts of money to Donna Karan with the expectation that she will pass on the profits to her sweatshop laborers.

After all, who am I to judge? If Elysha didn’t pick out my clothing, I’d look like crap.

I wouldn’t look like everyone else and I wouldn’t look like a walking billboard, but crap nonetheless.