Friday, July 08, 2005

I'm Hatin' It: High Fashion, Meet Ronald McDonald

Apparently the McDonald's Corporation has ponied up the cash to get Steve Stout's marketing concern to update the company's dress code. Stout, whose firm has paired rappers with athletic shoe campaigns and pop stars with eau de toillettes has made moves to solicit "trend-setting" high fashion pointers from Russell Simmons and Sean "P-Diddy" Combs in an attempt to redesign those polyester costu --, er, uniforms that the company's minimum wage workforce is forced to don when they punch in for fry-duty. What kind of crazy is that red-haired clown trying to sell us now?

I couldn't believe the above when I heard about it but, sure as you're born, it's" true, yo! In addition to input from the style houses of Simmons' Phat Pharm and Combs' Sean John, the people at "the house the clown built" have queried re-design ideas from the fabric cutters at Abercrombie & Fitch, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren...
I won't front, my first "official j-o-b was working at a McDonald's back in the late 80's and my lesson about "the way things are" began in earnest. The Mickey D's I worked in was across town in the suburbs, so the staff was comprised of older ladies in the A.M. (during the school year) and the night/ closing shift held a complement of college students, baby daddies moonlighting to make extra scratch on the side and high schoolers who fancied getting more than $20 a week for allowances (like myself). I'd head up to "clown country" after school, punch in and begin cooking heavily-salted, greasy cuisine cuisine that now clogs arteries all over the globe. I did what I had to do but I knew at some point it would end...


If I said that I enjoyed toiling in the cotton fields of Big Mac lettuce and special sauce, I'd be telling porkie pies -- one of the happiest moments of my life was when I got emancipated from the grip of the golden arches and went to university. But many, especially these days, don't have that option. What does all of this say to the people who don't have a choice but to take a minimum wage job to make ends meet in an over-atrophied job market? It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that bling? "Get rich now, or you're a no-talent ass clown. Here, put on this red nose, baggy pants and big shoes." The latter reminds me of a description I read about the invocation of corporate soft power on the American braintrust in Matthew Fraser's book Weapons of Mass Distraction...


"Recognition of America as a "hyperpower" is usually based on material facts -- specifically, the superiority of American hard power(military, wealth)...global domination has been achieved largely through non-military means...Hard power threatens; soft power seduces. Hard power dissuades; soft power persuades"... Later in the book, Fraser points out how we're returning to the feudal times just before the Treaty of Westphalia (the death rattle of the Roman Empire which signaled the inception of nation-states) ...'McWorld' describes a bleak Disneyland civilization where values are transmitted by MTV, Macintosh, Microsoft and Big Macs. McWorld symbolizes the triumph of market forces and consumer reflexes. McWorld may be materially successful, but it risks degenerating into a vast global shopping mall of populated by a universal tribe of soulless consumers..."


I guess I was taken back by "Rush" Simmons' recent chip-stacking endeavor because it looks like he's making a mockery of the brown people who helped put him where he is. Some might posit that he, Combs and Hilfiger are just trying to make lemons out of lemonade but I don't think so, sport. They're cashing million dollar pay days from coffers lined with loot skimmed off the sweat of minimum wage workers -- the American equivalent of sweat shop mules. That ain't right... In my youth I gave Russell Simmons (along with Rick Rubin) a lot of dap for introducing the world to his little brother Joseph's groundbreaking hip hop group Run D.M.C. but he's long since morphed into something else. It seems dude's cashed in his soul chips at the croupier of conformity and now he just wants to get paid which, in all fairness, is to be expected. I've heard if your poor, become wealthy and then slip back into poverty, the wind blows colder through the poor house the second time around. I wouldn't know...I'm still working on the second part. That said, I won't crack open a can of "Hater-ade" on these two cats. During the election season last year he seemed to be making some positive strides to get the hip hop nation informed about what the presidential 411 was, so did Puffy for that matter. Remember those God-awful "Vote or Die" advertisements? I will say this: a positive anything beats a negative nothing. Besides, dissing the super-wealthy is like shooting fish in a barrel...so thank you, please drive around...


In a perfect world, people like Puffy, Simmons and Hilfiger would think before signing checks and attaching their names to crass corporate concepts like this one. Although it reads like largesse, it's not. As I read over the story, I immediately wondered would it really take tens of millions of dollars to revamp those crappy outfits? Why wouldn't the McDonald Land Machers redirect that cake toward the pockets of the paper-hatted army in their employ. Times are tough enough...the job's crappy enough...it sucked when I was a kid...and the situation seems to have worsened exponentially since the 80's. Why add insult to injury by paying millions of dollars to wealthy fashion plates of the haute couture cognoscenti in an effort to "stylize" working poor employees in post-modern double knits? People can't even afford to buy the "regular gear" that the hired guns hawk over on the less toxic side of town. There are only so many directions one can go with bell-bottomed "wops" (cheap pants) anyway...Laters...

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