In my previous conversation with “Benedetto” — that’s the codename for my mailman — we learned that “Old Lady” is a common term of affection, even if I don’t think it is; but one thing I forgot to mention was how that conversation started.  Benedetto struck up our dialogue with a fascinating claim: “The North Face are Ghetto Clothes.”

We started talking about clothes because Benedetto was wearing a new pair of gloves that he’d taken out of the trash.  They were brand-new “liner” gloves that he planned on using inside his regular “post office” gloves for his daily deliveries.

I asked him how much money he gets a year for his Post Office uniform, and he told me he gets a yearly voucher of $320.00USD.  His shoes “with the green tag” are $190.  His standard-issue wool pants are $70.00USD.  His shirt is $40.00USD.  He buys three things a year and he’s already over his voucher.

Then our conversation took on a strange angle as we turned the corner together — he complimented me on my new water-repellant Carhartt jacket and told me he has a similar one in denim at home — and then he told me how great the quality of the Carhartt stuff is for so little money.  I fully agreed with him:  You can’t beat Carhartt for the value.

“You seen the North Face stuff, Dave?”

I told him I had seen it around, but that I’d never checked out the prices or purchased any of the gear.

“Stay away from The North Face, Dave.”

I nodded with a peculiar look on my face.

Benedetto continued, “Be careful because The North Face is ‘Ghetto Wear’ and it sends a bad message.”

“Ghetto wear?” I asked.

“Yeah, you know.  What the poor people in the Ghetto wear every day.”

“I thought The North Face is expensive stuff?”

“Oh, it is.” he said, “The North Face coats cost $400, $600 even a $1,000!  I’ve been working for the Post Office for 30 years and I can’t afford to buy a North Face coat.”

“That’s a lot of money for a coat!” I exclaimed.

“It is a ton of money.  That’s why I call it ‘Ghetto Clothes.’  All these kids.  Not in school.  No job.  No heat.  No paint on the walls.  No parent that works a real job on a timecard.  But they’re all wearing these thousand dollar jackets in the ‘hood.  How do you think that happens, Dave?  How do you think kids with no jobs and zero prospects can afford The North Face?”

“Umm…” I muttered, while thinking “drug dealing” in my head, but I didn’t want to take away his thunder.

“The answer is ‘drug dealing,’ Dave.  They’re pushers and I don’t like it.  And I don’t want them in my neighborhood, but how do you deal with a thousand dollar coat?  What do I tell my son, who’s in school and doing good, that he doesn’t need a thousand dollar coat, even though everyone around him is wearing 100% North Face stuff?  How do you teach a kid to value an education over a piece of sewn material?”

“I don’t know, Benedetto.  That’s a tough one.”

“When you get it figured out, Dave, let me know.”

12 Comments

  1. David,

    I’ve always made that connection — or at least always have since I have started riding the subway again and noticed that people headed for office work generally did not wear North Face gear as I suppose it is really meant for ‘roughing it’ in the wild and not the wilderness of the city.

    1. That’s a cool observation, Gordon. I know The North Face is serious cold-weather gear — and that’s why it’s so expensive — but you’re right about a certain segment of society wearing the brand. It isn’t really the mainstream working core who buy The North Face in the city. It’s the more casual young, and their want for branding to demonstrate a certain, unattainable, status via particular memes, and so the clothes “make the man” instead.

    2. North Face is what Middle Class, and Upper Middle Class white people wear. My college has it as a uniform. Carhart is Ghetto wear, because carhart is bulky, not warm, and looks like it is five sizes too big. Possible Carhart works in a ghetto environment because you can hide a machine gun underneath. I see retired people wearing Northface, I see people at the golfclub wearing Northface….but I never see “urban ” types wearing it. Maybe don’t listen to your mailman.

  2. I know this is late but here in Chicago, it is de rigueur yuppie wear. You can’t can’t swing a dead cat in yuppie neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, and Wrigleyville without hitting someone in The North Face clothing. However after this past Christmas season, I am seeing more “urban” people wearing the clothing which means that you will see a decrease in the clothing by next Winter season.

  3. I’m a T-Shirt and jeans guy. I don’t care about brands, I care about bands. I couldn’t tell you who made any of my clothes, but I can talk for days about the various pop-culture references printed on them. To me, North Face stuff looks ugly – unflattering simple shapes and solid, drab, faded colors – but I’m sure it would keep you warm. I always lumped them in with cheap Wal-Mart and Costco clothes (Cherokee? Faded Glory?)! I never made the assumption that a North Face wearer was well-off, if anything I figured they got stuck wearing grandma clothes because they couldn’t afford anything else. So I was shocked to see what they charge for this stuff. Even their logo looks cheap! My guess is the ghetto image is more closely related to the shiny, puffy jackets from the 90s rap videos than the fleece turtlenecks and windbreakers I’m used to seeing.

  4. Your mailman’s opinion is so wrong. What you call the ghetto, they call home. But anyway, North Face’s clothing is a style every kid (or some) are choosing to wear . You’re right, some kids are doing bad things to get what they want. But some Suburban kids are doing the same. So there shouldn’t be any finger pointing at someone who’s far, when there’s someone in front of you doing the same. People need to stop stereotyping people. Because there’s so many people that are innocent and can afford things, but always called poor just because where they live And tell you’re mailman to sit down and think about how or why he joined the ” Mailman” career.

    1. >You are absolutley correct Meagan! Lets see a few things here. Why is it that EVERYONE in “urban” americas has to be some type of criminal to be able to afford anything? How do you know if they have a job or not? Or the parents for that matter. I live in Chicago and it happens to be a cool brand for the teens and I dont see that DIMINISHING the product at all. If anything it gets that bottom line a whole lot bigger. Do you think The North Face cares whom buys its products? NOT!!

      Another thing some of those items that are out there are KNOCK OFFS so SOME of these “ghetto” kids, as you the mailman put it, buy fakes. Fakes last time I checked were far less than retail.

      Anyway, it never ceases to amaze me how a group of people want to LABEL, “urban” kids “ghetto” or other oppressive names. BTW, my kids are both taking AP courses in HIGH SCHOOL and can probably out smart you in anything MAILMAN.