Thursday, March 25, 2021

At least it wasn't S-M-U-K.

     You expect to see weird fashion in the New York Times Style section. Laughably odd, futuristic haloes and shiny rubber pants that blob out at the cuff instead of tapering in, the fertile, the uninhibited imaginings of an army of ambitious young designers intended only to catch attention, shock, perhaps hint at the future, certainly never be worn by a human being in the living world. Hardly worth the puff of a sigh, since they'll vanish in a moment anyway and be replaced by something even stranger.
    Other places you expect nothing but staid tradition, your L.L. Bean, your Eddie Bauer, perhaps offering up a new kind of plaid in this year's crop of flannel shirts. A duck boot that isn't green, maybe.
    So it was with surprise that I flipped open my Lands' End Men catalogue this week and saw, well, just look at it. The grey sweat pants/aqua poplin diver-and- beach-umbrella motif Hawaiian shirt over a white striped blue tee would be terrible on any normal human being, and looks pretty bad on their model. 
     But turns out that was only prelude. 
     Before we get to the matter-at-hand, I suppose I should admit that I do wear one of those black Lands' End puffy jackets simply because my wife bought it for me, it's warm, and everybody else has one. 
    Otherwise, the company already pretty much lost me. First, because I discovered the far better made, far more stylish and classic L.L. Bean. There's just no comparison.
    Second, Lands' End divided their t-shirts into regular t-shirts and "Super Ts," the former being of such poor quality I'm not sure what they're for. Straight to rags, perhaps, just cut up directly out of the package and start dusting.
     Anyway, I'm thumbing through the catalogue, basically just trying to shake off the shock of the guy at the right, and they do manage a spread of seersuckers—I've got a few, very comfortable on hot days—and linen and madras shirts.    
    Then this: "We spell comfort S-L-U-B." Again, you really have to see it, as disbelief is a definite risk, and documentary evidence important. Here you go.
     Slub? Really? A misspelling of Yiddish schlub perhaps, which I think of as an inept, pitiful, weak, put-upon man. ("A person regarded as clumsy, stupid, or unattractive" is how the Free Dictionary defines it). Is that really their target market?
    How can this happen? I mean, I know Lands' End is going for the WASPy, Connecticut boathouse ethos, but it's still clothing, still the rag trade. I have to imagine there are Jews somewhere, working, perched on stools, needle and threads in hand, mouthful of pins, somewhere in the background. They could have consulted them.
    "Slub?" They present it as a kind of concrete poem acronym for    

     It looks like an Onion parody, doesn't it? I knew almost half the country was cracked when Donald Trump nearly was re-elected after four years of stomach-churning failure and shameful idiocy. But somehow I never expected the nation's bottomless dimness to bleed into clothing catalogues. Companies lately have been bastions against the most extreme government missteps, drawing away from the staggeringly wrong, at least a little.
     I've given this too much thought already, and ought to wrap this up with a conclusion. I blame ... COVID. Think about it. Their catalogue staff, scattered at a dozen separate apartments and laundry rooms, trying to put together something based on the CEO's cracked notion, "let's get comfy," lowercase, natch. They actually copyrighted the phrase, "let's get comfy," which sounds to me like something a hardened heiress would purr trying to seduce Sam Spade as he looks for clues on the San Fransisco wharf front in a Dashiell Hammett novel. 
     Expanding on comfiness, someone floats the shlub idea. In person, the I-just-ate-a-bad-clam expressions of their colleagues would have killed that in the cradle. But you can't make out expressions on Zoom so well, and once it survives birth the Shlub Idea, now official, takes on a weight and momentum of its own, until I'm holding the catalogue in my hand, shaking my head and filing away the story so I can repeat it by way of explanation when Lands' End goes out of business in a couple years.


  1. I just checked my calendar to make sure it wasn't April 1 and Neil wasn't pranking us. I mean, surely Neil knows how to use google. And surely he did. And surely he knows that "slub" is a kind of knit and that most people....well many..well many women, know quite well what a "slub tee" is, as its a casual mainstay in our wardrobes. If you google "slub tee" you'll get dozens of hits. And if you google "slub" a nice explanation of the kind of knit this is. So yeah, Neil must be having a little fun with us and waiting to see how many "Hey man, why are you so ignorant" comments he gets, only to say CHECK THE CALENDAR PEOPLE! DON'T YOU KNOW I DO THIS EVERY YEAR....But no....hmmm....its more than a week from April 1. So I don't know what in the heck to make of this slub issue.

    1. Everyone is ignorant of something.

    2. Of course. But doesn't the fact that "slub" is in fact an actual word that refers to a type of fabric completely undermine your entire second half of your column? Your thought that this might be some sort of "misspelling of schlub" Your thought that LLBean wouldn't use this word (they do....selling several slub items." So what gives? Was your premise wrong? Am I missing something here?

    3. If you insist. The premise is, I didn't know. Which is not unprecedented when I delve into the world of fashion. I never claimed to be the All-Seeing Font of Knowledge.

    4. Of course you don't. But why the hesitancy to admit that the premise falls under the weight of fat. Thatthe reason no one "killed the idea" was not that you couldn't see their "I-just-ate-a-bad-clam expression" over zoom. It was because anyone sitting in a meeting of any clothing company knows what 'slub' is and knows that it refers to a type of fabric used in comfortable clothing so the idea made complete sense. A more interesting idea is whether when you are trying to market to those who are fashion-ignorant using the expression "slub" might not be a good idea. As it could be misinterpreted.

    5. I had no idea what s-l-u-b was neither did my wife with her stack of fashion flyers and pamphlets stacked on the credenza . im 62 she's 46.

      all the while I read this piece I was amused because of my complete ignorance of slub , the fabric. now that I know , oops, my bad, never mind.

      like Neil said we're all ignorant

  2. "I've given this too much thought already"

    Quite the contrary. You've made my morning by giving this thought. This is what the human mind is made for. Let others design electric cars and rockets to Mars. Most of us are hard wired to reflect on why people aside from ourselves are so foolish - and you are the master. Bless you.

  3. "What Were We Thinking" it was called, if my memory is correct. GQ apologizing for fashions they had once praised, that in the passage of time seemed as ridiculous as the ensemble on your Land's End model.

  4. Neil...Recieved the same catalogue. I actually own 2 of the S-L-U-B shirts. Don't wanna get schmaltzy about it, but love 'em. Not schlocky at all. Don't even understand you writing about it. Some kind of entertaining shtick I guess. On the advertising,don't be too hard on it.Just written by some schmo trying to make a living. His big mistake though, the female version of the shirts are labeled S-L-U-T SHIRTS. Not schmoozing you, a very nice piece you penned. Jim B

  5. Bigsby & Kruthers, Mallards, Baskin, Mark Shale. As a young entrant into the corporate world, I always shopped at Baskin for the traditional uniform back in the day. I went in to the Michigan Avenue store one day looking for a pair of khaki pants, and they said they didn't carry them anymore. Went out of business about a year later. Know your customers, don't chase trends.

  6. "I've given this too much thought already"

    Annie seems to differ with that opinion. LOL!

    IMHO, when Lands' End goes out of business, it won't be because they decided to turn SLUB into an acronym, but because they made a calculated decision at some point to trade quality for ... well, I'd say affordability, but it's not like the stuff isn't overpriced. I always preferred LE as the Midwestern, home team alternative to the snooty East Coast LLB, but it ain't what it used to be. Not that I bought a whole lot of stuff from either, since I'm too cheap.

    Note: thanks to the redlining feature of this comment box, I now realize that "Midwestern" should be capitalized. Of course, it's not on-board for slub, either...

  7. My late father-in-law was a “Vice-President of Manufacturing” for a bit at Lands’ End, based in Dodgeville WI.
    I bought a few (polo and rugby) shirts a while back; they held up quite well. But I agree their merchandise in general Isn’t up to the standards of some other, higher-end clothing makers.

  8. I'm an electric transit junkie. I have ridden on streetcars, (AKA Light Rail Vehicles) trolley buses, subways, and elvated lines all over North America (Haven't gotten to Latin America, Asia, or Europe yet, and probably never will). I have the souvenir T-shirts from such cities as Chicago (CTA's Skokie Swift), Minneapolis, New Orleans, San Francisco...and Seattle.

    Some years back, Seattle opened a new LRV line known as the South Lake Union Transit, and sold rather ugly olive drab T-shirts (with a red and yellow trolley on them) to mark the occasion. A huge stink ensued, locally and elsewhere. After a lot of hoo-ha, the name of the line was changed.

    I have never worn my "I rode the S.L.U.T." shirt on the mean streets of Cleveland, and probably never will. That wasn't such a good idea when they came out, and it's an even worse idea now. I would look like more than a schlub...also like a sexist, misogynist, male chauvanist pig. I'd probably be better off (and safer) wearing my "Yid Army" shirt.

  9. Some men, including myself, you can tell what decade I'm in by bad haircuts. If it wasn't for my wife I'd still be dressed in the 80's. Catalog probably geared to the women to go dress up their men. But Neil's observations are second to none.

  10. Don't know/don't care about slub, but I bet that guy in the ridiculous outfit had his lunch money stolen a lot.

  11. He does look silly now that you mention it, but this is how every young person in Austin dresses now so I'm used to it. Thanks for the guffaw: "Straight to rags, perhaps, just cut up directly out of the package and start dusting."


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