Old Navy brings back some American icons
I saw Beverly Hills, 90210’s Kelly Taylor on television the other night and it made me happy.
Sure, now she’s Jennie Garth, a mother and former television actress, but to a nation of men in their late 20s to mid-30s, she remains a glorious beacon — a light that reached from a craggy shoreline out into the dark and rough waters of our adolescences.
A girlfriend introduced me to 90210 the summer we began dating — it was the summer we started driving. We’d watch two or four episodes a day, depending on our schedules as lifeguards at the neighborhood pool. The show would run at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. and the two different time slots were staggered by nearly half the series. When the 90210 kids were going to high school for the first time in the morning, later in the day they were going to college. 90210 was everything a kid thought high school and college could be: beautiful people being beautiful friends and dating each other in a carrousel fashion.
In high school a lot of kids started wearing WWJD bracelets but I wanted WWDD jewelry around my wrist. Whatever whim Dylan McKay was riding was the one I would chase. The wealthy, James Dean-ish figure, he was lost and on the run, a free spirit who could afford to be free. He was as wealthy as the other kids’ wealthy parents and his fortune came from a mysterious and unknown origin. His father was dead then he wasn’t then he was dead again. Dylan had a motorcycle but was sensitive enough to strap a stray cat on the back when he decided it was time to run. He was the struggling man too old for his skin long before the likes of Tim Riggins tried to play a similar role in a much less affluent manner.
So the other day when I saw Kelly Taylor and Dylan McKay on television —Brandon was there too but he was always in the way — I realized the idols of a generation are now old enough to sell their generation children’s clothes. We wrote about how Facebook has aged on this blog and the surfacing of the 90210 stars in commercials geared toward young parents is further evidence of change. Pop culture fights age and the people who once defined the culture slide in occasionally in advertisements.
Kelly Taylor has still got it. Kelly Taylor will always have it. (I imagine her having it a long time from now, the way Sophia Loren had it in Grumpier Old men (1995). Garth may not have the career of Loren had but I’d never complain if she kept showing up.) Dylan McKay is still cool. Brandon is still in the way. And we’re still baffled as to how Andrea Zuckerman got into the whole mix in the first place.
Pop culture ages with us and the key figures who helped mold the culture grow up and play their pop culture characters in commercials. I don’t shop at Old Navy. As Ryan Gosling’s character said in “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” I strive to be better than Gap. Old Navy is like the Zuckerman and Gap is the Brenda and Kelly Taylor is, well, while she’s in an Old Navy commercial, she’s something timeless, like Louis Vuitton, maybe, or Dylan’s Porsche. I don’t know. Bottom line: I don’t shop at Old Navy.
The people who taught us how to grow up or showed us the things to avoid move us still. And when they pop back up in silly commercials selling clothes for new, young families, we feel both time slipping away and the happy tickle of a memory brought back. Like a Thursday morning before work in the heat of summer when Kelly was at Dylan’s when she should’ve been at Brandon’s, when Andrea was preaching about something, back when my wife was still my girlfriend1. Kelly Taylor coming back is like a light flickering once more, a light so bright I might stoop so low as to purchase a pair of $12 khakis with cargo pockets and a built in belt.
No. Never mind. Who are we kidding?
Now, if Old Navy can get a grown up Kelly Kapowski/Valerie Malone in the ads as well, we may start talking.
Marketing is striking a nerve and Old Navy struck one. Old Navy brought back many memories and years of context and made me actually think about clothes so cheap one would be weary to wash them. They played with the past and, in a nostalgic and happy way, they won.
1I wrote about her and an old Camaro I once thought was McKay-ish and other memories when I tried to sell my golf clubs. Then a bunch of people read it.
** Steve Sanders and David Silver were intentionally left out of this blog and I assume out of the Old Navy commercials.
*** Jim Walsh reminds me of Coach K so I never bought into his lectures.
**** One day I’ll find my Peach Pit.
***** If I find my Peach Pit and a guy like Noah is there, I’ll set the place on fire.