Why Everyone Wears NASA Branded Clothing

Once you start noticing them, it’s hard to stop.

There have been several trending pieces about the phenomenon in recent years. And NASA Media Liaison Bert Ulrich – who oversees the use of NASA logos in film, TV and apparel – confirms that demand for NASA-branded apparel is far from running out, at least based on the number of logo deals he has approved. He’s been in the job for more than two decades, so he’s seen the trends come and go. (mainly flow)
Some of the latest sales booms can be traced to a surprising place: U.S. luxury fashion house Coach, which launched a NASA-branded clothing line in 2017, Ulrich told CNN Business.

Coach originally approached NASA to ask if it could use the “worm” logo, the retro design the space agency used from 1975 to 1992. NASA, which banned the use of the worm after it was retired in the 90s, changed his mind. about it, allowing Coach to use the logo, said Ulrich.

And the “worm” has since returned to official use and cemented its widespread adoration, at least among die-hard space fans.

After the Coach clothing line was released, things exploded.

“Before 2017, we were doing five or 10 [logo approvals] one week. We’ve gotten to the point where we’re releasing an average of 225 a week,” Ulrich said.

Last year there were “over 11,000 requests”, he said, an all-time high.

Not all of these requests are approved, Ulrich added. But the reason there’s so much interest in pasting NASA logos on everything from Vans sneakers to trucker caps may have something to do with the fact that these companies don’t have to license the logo. . It’s all free, and NASA doesn’t make a dime for it.
That’s not usually how licensing agreements work, but because NASA is a government agency, much of its assets — including photos, logos, and even technology designs — are in the public domain. If a business wants to print NASA logos on t-shirts or coffee mugs, all they need to do is email NASA’s merchandising department as required by law. Usually it lands in Ulrich’s inbox.
Ulrich’s job is simply to make sure the logo is used in a way that conforms to space agency-approved aesthetic guidelines. No use of unapproved colors, for example. And, of course, NASA wants to make sure its mark isn’t used for any unfortunate purposes, such as in a way that suggests NASA endorses a company or product. If a company misuses the logo, NASA’s legal office will often send a cease and desist letter, Ulrich said.
After Coach launched its NASA clothing line, high-end designers including Heron Preston and, more recently, Balenciaga, launched their own lines. Pop singer Ariana Grande had a song and a whole line of NASA merchandising. There were also Adidas, Swatch, Vans and countless others over the past decade.
Through this lens, it is possible to explain the phenomenon through what we will call “the Miranda Preistly effect”. Remember that scene in 2006’s “The Devil Wears Prada” in which Meryl Streep’s character Priestly verbally dresses her inept young intern in fashion? She explains that the blue sweater she’s wearing is actually “cerulean,” and is as much the product of fashion-obsessed industry moguls as anything on the runway. According to Priestly, designers and the fashion media essentially curate trends, and even consumers who are less interested in fashion are influenced by these decisions.
A guest wearing a NASA bomber jacket during London Fashion Week men's collections at Matthew Miller on January 7, 2017 in London, England.
But that’s only half the story, according to Jahn Hall, the creative director of Brooklyn-based design agency Consortium, which works on set design and styling for various brands.

Before Coach, kids bought NASA t-shirts at vintage stores because they liked the nostalgic feel, the nostalgia of a piece of classic Americana, Hall said.

“You start with kids in cities like New York buying like old Disney products or old NASA t-shirts, and then suddenly some like ‘cool hunters’ in the fashion industry, like at Urban Outfitters, see it and suddenly think, ‘We should transform some NASA-branded t-shirts,'” Hall said. “It’s a kind of trend reverse engineering.”

It was probably only after the “cool kids” started wearing NASA t-shirts on the streets that designer brands picked it up and sold it back to them.

Hall, the Brooklyn-based creative director, said that in his mind, wearing the NASA logo was more about showing off what the logo stands for than declaring his love for outer space.

It represents “that kind of quintessential American optimism that we can do anything,” he said.

It is not politically affiliated, he added, and can be marketed to young liberals and rural conservatives, sparking the same nostalgia.

“People who work for brands like Heron Preston and Balenciaga are as enamored with the fantasy of space travel as anyone else. No one is immune to that level of nostalgia, so it only makes sense that these brands want to incorporate this 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 can connect with Heron Preston or Target, but everyone gets modern Americana from brands like NASA, Disney, Peanuts and The Simpsons,” he said. “Things like NASA sort of act like this magic equalizer.”

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