Monday, January 1, 2007

Why Do All My Clothes Have Logos On Them?

It's Not Just a Job...It's a Wardrobe

I bought some new pants the other day and wore them at the last AUGI CAD Camp event of the year in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, the black dye in the pants was not completely set and rubbed off onto everything they touched, including my nice white AUGI CAD Camp shirt and the new Lance Armstrong "Livestrong" bracelet that Jeff Rowe had just given me after I had lost the last one. (The bracelet is now sort of know, what you get when you mix yellow and blue).

I washed the shirt in a strong detergent when I got home, but to no avail. The shirt is most definitely no longer white and never will be again. I also tried soaking the bracelet in dishwasher detergent, but the color change appears permanent. Which of course made me wonder why the dye would come off the pants so readily yet refuse to leave any of the items it deposited itself onto.

But what really got me wondering was when I went to get a clean shirt to wear to a social event and found only a scant few that didn't have some sort of logo on them. Out of dozens of nice clean dress shirts, only a handful were suitable choices. The others all had some sort of logo. I'm not talking about Ralph Lauren polo ponies or Izod alligators. I'm talking computer software and hardware company logos. How did my wardrobe come to this?

The question, of course, is rhetorical. I know full well how this happened. For the past 20-plus years, I've worked in the computer industry in one regard or another—as editor of a computer magazine, as president and CEO of a software company, as an independent consultant, and now as an applications engineer for a software reseller. Many of the shirts in question represent companies I've worked for or worked with; countless others tokens of appreciation given by companies with which I've consulted or covered over the years.

There's even a whole subcategory of speaker shirts from 14 years of Autodesk University.

And that's just the dress shirts. There are plenty of other casual golf shirts, not to mention stacks of T-shirts. In fact, the T-shirt collection has been purged repeatedly over the years, yet still includes quantities I'm too embarrassed to mention.

Then there are the jackets and wind breakers. Although less numerous, there's still a sizable collection.

Of course, I do have my favorites, such as the old teal and blue Autodesk CAD Camp windbreaker, this from the "old" CAD Camp, the Autodesk dealer/third-party developer conference that used to be held every summer in San Rafael, California. When the weather turns colder, I often wear the Red Deer fleece jacket, particularly since although bearing a logo, it's a pretty obscure reference. "Red Deer" was the code name for AutoCAD 2004 before it was released. Autodesk presented these jackets to the press at a preview press conference. This jacket always elicits the question, "Why is the deer blue?" since the deer is embroidered in Autodesk's corporate color. And anyone who knows my love of auto racing will immediately understand why I like the SolidWorks fleece vest with the Skip Barber Racing School logo. Another favorite is the leather SolidWorks jacket given to press at a SolidWorks event several years ago. It's definitely the classiest piece of logo-wear I've ever received, but I have to be a bit more careful about when I wear it. It wouldn't be right to show up for an event wearing a competitor's logo.

The same rule must necessarily be applied to many of the other useful industry gifts, such as briefcases, computer bags, and leather notebooks. Although one time I did bring a competitor's briefcase with me on a corporate visit. Company A had flown me in for a week-long event, but since Company B was located nearby and knew I was coming to town, they asked me to come by for a 3-hour meeting while I was in town. But Company B made no offer to reimburse me for my travel from downtown to their suburban office, so I thought it only fair that I show up bearing a bag emblazoned with Company A's logo. To this day, I have no idea if my point was made, or even if this minor slight was noticed, but I felt somehow vindicated.

Most of the items are the kinds of things you'd expect—shirts, hats, bags, and so on. But I've also received socks, sun glasses, a pair of beach shoes, night shirts, fleece blankets, and even a pair of sweat pants. Anyone remember when HP bought Apollo Computer?

I've lost count of all the logo-wear and other logo merchandise I've received over the years. I guess I never really thought about it all until recently. Nor am I complaining. I don't mind having a closet full of shirts with corporate logos on them. And when the T-shirt pile gets too big, I just donate some to Goodwill. There are plenty of homeless people out there wearing computer industry emblems.

I guess I'll just have to go shopping to buy a few new shirts without logos to wear on those occasions when wearing some company's logo is just not appropriate. And I'll try to make sure that the dyes are all colorfast. But it's actually kind of cool, and I really DO appreciate it when a company gives me something that I'll actually use even after their event is over.

And if nothing else, looking back over this small selection of logo-wear reminds me of one of the reasons I still love what I do. It's not just a's a wardrobe.