The Man In The Gray Flannel iPhone
It was a complicated tale, but one of the key threads was about conformity.
The icon of 1950’s conformity was the suburban male office worker, commuting by train to “the city,” trapped in an unfulfilling life of materialism, social climbing, and status anxiety.
Like all cliches, this had elements of both truth and fiction. Even though most of us weren’t there to experience it, in our mythology this caricature has served us well as a short-hand for the zeitgeist of the period.
While commuting to “the city” the other day, it occurred to me that there is a new and evolving type of male big city office worker.
I saw this person a lot last week. There was a very large tech-related convention in San Francisco and public transit was jammed with these guys. They wore clean jeans and had colorful oxford shirts with their tails out. They had expensive eye wear and messenger bags thrown over their shoulders. They were thumbing away on their iPhones which were attached to their heads via earbuds.
There is no way of knowing whether the future will be kind to these “types” or if they will become the contemporary equivalents of the “gray flannel suits” who have been universally lambasted by smug hipsters and intellectuals.
Which brings me to the point of this post. We in the trendspotting business are always ready to assert that whatever the latest mania is will have a transformative effect on society.
In fact, viewed with a sensible perspective, most of our behavior is highly regular and remarkably recursive. Sixty years later, we can still make a pretty good case for the guy commuting by train to “the city,” trapped in an unfulfilling life of materialism, social climbing, and status anxiety.
Mostly what has changed are the clothes and the gadgets.
– The Ad Contrarian is Bob Hoffman, ceo of Hoffman/Lewis advertising in San Francisco and St. Louis. Hoffman is the author of The Ad Contrarian and 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising. Reprinted from his blog The Ad Contrarian.