Once you start noticing them, it’s hard to stop.
Coach originally approached NASA to ask if it could use the “worm” logo, the retro design that the space agency used from 1975 through 1992. NASA, which had barred the use of the worm after it was retired in the 90s, changed its opinion on the matter, allowing Coach to use the logo, Ulrich said.
After the line of Coach apparel came out, things blew up.
“Before 2017, we did five or 10 [logo approvals] a week. It’s now come to the point that we get out on average 225 a week,” Ulrich said.
Last year, there were “over 11,000 requests,” he said — an all-time high.
Before Coach, kids were buying NASA t-shirts from vintage stores because they loved the nostalgic feel, the wistfulness of a piece of classic Americana, Hall said.
“You start with kids in cities like New York buying like, old Disney product or old NASA t-shirts, and then suddenly some like ‘cool hunter’ in the fashion industry, like at Urban Outfitters, sees it and suddenly goes, ‘We should turn some NASA-branded t-shirts around,'” Hall said. “It’s kind of a reverse engineering of trends.”
It was probably only after the “cool kids” started wearing NASA T-shirts on the streets that designer brands picked up on it and sold it back to them.
Hall, the Brooklyn-based creative director, said, in his mind, donning the NASA logo is far more about brandishing what the logo represents than declaring one’s love of outer space.
It represents “that sort of quintessential American optimism that we can do anything,” he said.
It’s politically unaffiliated, he added, and can be marketed to young liberals and rural conservatives alike, drumming up that same nostalgia.
“The folks who work for brands like Heron Preston and Balenciaga are as enamored by the fantasy of space travel as anyone else. Nobody is immune from that level of nostalgia so it makes sense that these brands would want to build that into their own collections,” he said.
It’s happened with other logos and franchises, he notes, like Balenciaga doing projects with “The Simpsons” or Coach with Mickey Mouse.
“These enduring symbols speak to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status. Not everyone may connect with either Heron Preston or Target, but everyone gets the modern Americana of brands like NASA, Disney, Peanuts and The Simpsons,” he said. “Things like NASA sort of act like this magic equalizer.”
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