“You shouldn’t have been wearing branded clothing!” If you do, you risk ending up with a black eye, empty pockets or even worse: in an emergency room. ‘Steaming’ has become more and more common over the years. A modern term for an ancient practice, ‘steaming’ is basically extortion. This violent phenomenon has taken on some odd shapes in our society. In this BLA we discuss what steaming can do to your brand. We also searched for the target group and origin of these ‘steamers’. We would like to point out to no people were harassed during the making of this BLA.
Aggressive commercials: the clothes make the steamer
Steamers operate in groups. They surround their victims and demand money or goods. With or without violence. The steamers often select their prey with care. If you’re wearing a Lacoste or Hilfiger top and you’ve accessorised with a nice bag that has a Gucci key chain dangling from it, then you might be next. A brand can put a target on your head. It also works the other way around. A brand can give other people a certain perception of your character. Wearing Lonsdale doesn’t make you a fan of boxing legends but an aficionado of the far political right.
Why? Because a certain group of people have adopted a clothing brand that affirms their convictions based on the logo or the brand’s past. Without your approval, your brand gets the worst publicity possible. It gets directly linked to aggression and crime. Lonsdale is perceived by many as a skinhead and neo-Nazi brand. The past has proven this to be dismal PR. Lonsdale has tried time and time again to abandon this image, but to no avail. If you’re wearing that brand, you’ll be seen as someone who follows that stereotypical set of extreme beliefs. Your target group shrinks dramatically and you can forget about your original client base. “I won’t buy that, I won’t be able to set foot outside with it!”, is a common excuse. An unsafe feeling is the most destructive of emotions to be linked to your brand.
Of course the brand steaming issue doesn’t stop at branded clothing. Most steamers are loitering youths that steal out of necessity, power play, frustration or for kicks. They pick out the best possible prey. And in this case they base their attacks on the victim’s appearance and apparel.
Things used to be better…
But where does this brand violence has its roots? Often, people turn to skinhead and neo-Nazi culture for the origin of brand violence. Believe it or not, but skinheads weren’t originally affiliated with Nazi beliefs in any way. The first skinheads, the so-called ‘modernists’, formed a group during times of economic repair and the abolition of compulsory military service in Great Britain. They would listen to rhythm & blues, ska and modern jazz. They were left-wing and shaved their heads to distance themselves from the long-haired hippie subculture. Three brands played key parts: Lonsdale, Fred Perry and Ben Sherman. By their clothing they made references to their grim working class upbringing. Out of respect for former Wimbledon champion Fred Perry they would wear his polo shirts.
A new crisis came along and only the hardcore skinheads stuck around. Virility, violence and physical prowess were of central importance to them. What’s remarkable is that this group was made up of white working class kids and Jamaican immigrants. This group of British sports aficionados disappeared in the early 70s, but 10 years down the line their image was copied by a group of extreme right youths. To this day, neo-Nazi’s wear Doc Martens boots and polo shirts by Fred Perry, Lonsdale and Ben Sherman.
Why do they pick a certain brand?
Even in Fred Perry’s logo, which is a laurel wreath, the neo-Nazi’s see an important symbol: victory. Every piece of clothing has a deeper meaning. You could even tell a man’s political preference by the colour of his shoelaces (red or white). These brands have been trying to rid themselves of this reputation for years and donate a lot of money to anti-racism movements and actions against senseless violence. Lonsdale still has the dubious honour of being the top favourite neo-Nazi brand, Ben Sherman and Fred Perry have managed to create a different image. They’re increasingly popular as decent sportswear brands and their past is less and less of a nuisance.
Neo-strategy for a suffering brand?
Steamers aren’t modernists, skinheads or neo-Nazi’s. They’re loitering youngsters and outsiders who see the society as a dog-eat-dog world. Brands play an important part in that, because they are an expression of your lifestyle. Is there a solution at hand? Not yet. Perhaps Lonsdale should just own up to their target group and focus on them? Or perhaps they should sponsor a ballet school. Or maybe expensive brands should make lighters and ballpoint pens since those are objects that get stolen most? The choice is yours.