Monday, August 14, 2017

Allbirds | Lefsetz Letter

I’m thinking of buying a pair.

Publicity comes last. Unless it comes first, then I ignore it.

If I turn the pages of the paper, of a magazine, click online and find a story about something I already know about, with soft touches saying how great it is, sans facts and figures, I ignore it, for it is hype.

Hype no longer works. It’s ink, usually physical, sometimes digital, to make the perpetrator feel good about themselves, so they can point to the words and get kudos from their boss. This is their job, to spread the word, in a fake manner. Kinda like that story in today’s “Times” about the War On Drugs. Isn’t it funny that it’s their first major label album. Who else has the connections to get it placed, the pull, which is why you sign with a big company.

I ignored it. Even though fans like these victory laps, they illustrate their crush has finally made it. But usually the opposite is true, it’s the beginning of the end, kinda like that squib in today’s rapidly declining, in size and influence, L.A. “Times,” saying that Arcade Fire is overrated. It’s a reaction to the hype about the new album, that’s the thing about media, it’ll turn against you, especially if it thinks it’s being manipulated.

But fans are already long gone. Once it’s penetrated the mainstream, they’re out.

Unless they’ve never heard about it before, like Allbirds.

Felice wants me to get a real pair of shoes. To forgo the athletic footwear and look like a real person. But it’s my last holdout against selling out. Used to be that was the ethos of the music business, you didn’t want to look like one of them, when it was still a rebellious enterprise, when it could still make you rich, when corporations were still the enemy and you reveled in your outsider status instead of doing your best to fit in.

Now once upon a time I used to have real shoes. Clarks. Not Wallabees, like I said, I don’t want to look like everybody else, rather Treks And after that, a pair of Earth Shoes, purchased in 1974. And back in the sixties I had loafers, even Scotch Grain ones, but the only pair of real shoes I’ve owned since were bought in ’96, for my nephew’s bar mitzvah, they’re my go-to when athleisure won’t do, to go with my one and only suit, for funerals and other occasions where I don’t want to draw attention to myself. They’re Dressports, and they too have rubber souls. But every once in a while I wonder if the joke is on me, especially after a buddy showed up in Carhartts and I thought maybe I wanted a pair. Why do I want to look like a member of the working class? Why am I stuck in the seventies?

And then I saw the story about Allbirds yesterday. I’ll link to it below, you’re not gonna read it anyway. That’s the truth, no one has time to click through, we’re all begging for your attention, worried you’ll go elsewhere, you’ve got no time for anything but trusted filters.

And the truth is you don’t have to click through, I’ll tell you everything you need to know right here.

Allbirds are woolen shoes that are the footwear of choice for the digerati.

Not the wannabe digerati, the people you see at the Soho House, but the real rulers, who don’t care what you think about them, who you envy, who you have no access to, the titans of today, like the rock stars of yore.

Today’s “rock stars” are accessible. They’ll sit and sign your merch, show up for the selfie. But the rulers of Silicon Valley you cannot get close to, they live behind closed doors, where they’re changing the universe.

Used to be you wondered what the musicians did when they were offstage. Now you know, they hunger for the spotlight, they’re in cahoots with TMZ, looking for press, they don’t wan to be forgotten, even though they appeal to small niches to begin with. Jay Z ain’t so big, and Katy Perry can’t go clean, and if you don’t know what that means it proves you’re an outsider, and we all want to appear insiders, which is why I might buy Allbirds.

They’re only $95. It’s only the wankers who save up to buy exclusive items. Winners know it’s all about experiences, the physical is disposable, and the cheaper it is, the more it demonstrates you’ve gotten the message.

It’s this paragraph that closed me:

“At a gathering last month hosted by the venture capital firm August Capital on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, Calif., about 1,000 entrepreneurs and investors mingled on a concrete patio over margaritas and deviled eggs to celebrate summer. Guests wore other shoes – New Balance, Top-Siders, Tevas and a rare dress shoe were spotted – but the furry-looking Allbird was by far the most common.”

“A rare dress shoe.” This is my crowd. Go to a music biz gathering and casual is out the window, unless it’s studied, with three figure t-shirts, casual is formal, if it’s worn at all. But in Silicon Valley, it’s all what’s in your mind, clothing is utilitarian and superfluous. Which is why Jobs wore a turtleneck and Zuckerberg a t-shirt and hoodie and I know, I know, it’s all effect, but once upon a time I wanted to look like a rock star, tried to comb my hair like Dennis Wilson’s on the back cover of “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” and failed. We all grew our hair long after the Beatles. Then the Allman Brothers looked just like us, on stage and off. But now…

That’s when I realized I am not immune to fashion, reading this article.

Larry Page wears them. Even better, Ben Horowitz. That’s a litmus test, you either know who he is or not, the same way I had Rod Stewart on my dorm room wall after “Gasoline Alley,” but before “Every Picture Tells A Story” and the hit “Maggie May.” People would flinch, they had no idea who the guy with the rooster hair and legs spread wide was.

But I did.

And soon everybody else did.

And when everybody gets Allbirds, I’ll throw mine out.

But before that…

P.S. I want to appear hip. Signifiers still matter. Just not the ones you think.

P.P.S. This is how trends are started, even how Beats headphones triumphed (and I believe the NBA had more influence than musicians wearing them).

P.P.P.S. Rebellion puts your product over the line. When athletes refused to wear the sponsored headphones, and insisted on wearing Beats, that’s when you knew they won, we never want to look like we’ve been co-opted. And it does not matter what the nobodies do, it’s only when you’re a winner that it counts,

P.P.P.P.S. So build a story, it’s how you get signed to a label today, they can see through the hype. Have press stories about you look like victory laps, not sales efforts.

P.P.P.P.P.S. I’m still on the fence. But one thing’s for sure, for the next month everywhere I go I’ll be looking at people’s feet, to see if they’re clued in. And if they are, if they’re wearing Allbirds, I’ll smile and think they’re in the know, for a while anyway…

“To Fit Into Silicon Valley, Wear These Wool Shoes”

Final note: They’re not for men only, women wear Allbirds too, like Mary Meeker. Carrie Bradshaw is history, if you’re saving up for Manolo Blahniks the joke is on you, because the people who can afford them are not wearing them, at least the thought leaders who count.


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