Paul Samuelson was a Nobel Prize winning economist, the founder of modern economics. But he was perhaps best known as co-author of the intro economics text book used pretty much by everyone who took intro to economics anytime between 1948 and 2010.
At one point, later in his career, Samuelson did an ad for a moving company. I’m pretty sure the ad was on the radio, and I seem to recall a print (small b&w) version. But I can’t remember the moving company. And I can’t remember whether the ad was local. (Samuelson was a professor at MIT.) But I distinctly remember that there was an ad, and that there was some blowback around it – if only because people made fun of it. I mean, what made Samuelson an expert on moving companies?
Once I got done making fun of the ad, which I did with my husband the economist, I forgot all about it.
That is, until I saw an ad for Birkenstock that just appeared in The New Yorker. Their spokesmodel? Nobel Prize winning biochemist Thomas Südhof.
Although, to some degree I fit their historic brainy, lefty, Cambridge-y profile, I’ve never owned a pair of Birks.
Some of my best friends, however, are Birkenstock wearers. And a few years back, when Birkenstocks had something of a brand bump, for a while becoming the “it” sandal, my sister(s) – I think both of them – got Birkenstocks, as did my niece Molly.
I don’t know what my holdout was. Maybe that they just didn’t look like they’d fit my feet (the only part of my anatomy that’s long and narrow).
Anyway, I was surprised see an ad for them in The New Yorker. Not that New Yorker readers don’t, at least some proportion of them, match up with the brainy, lefty, Cambridge-y profile I imagine. I’ll bet that Paul Samuelson wore Birkenstocks. But there’s also something of an urbanity about The New Yorker that doesn’t immediately scream Birkenstock.
Nevertheless, there it was, in the expensive upfront section, a full page, four-color ad for Birkenstocks featuring Thomas Südhof.
I had never heard of Thomas Südhof, but it’s never a surprise when I don’t know who the celebrity is who’s pictured in the ad for the pricey watch, the pricey car, the pricey hotel.
To begin with, I don’t have fabulous facial recognition – that was my husband’s bailiwick. We’d be watching a movie, and he’d see someone in the background and ask, “Is that Dana Wynter?” Since I could never remember whether Dana Wynter was a man or a woman – always getting him/her confused with Dana Andrews – I was no help there.
And then there are always celebrity holes in what is otherwise my fairly broad and not all that shallow name recognition – i.e., I’ve heard of them and vaguely know what they’re famous for - for famous people.
Seriously, until she and her husband cheated their kids’ way into USC, I was apparently the only person on the face of the earth who didn’t know who Lori Loughlin was.
Anyway, I was curious about what Birkenstock was up to with this ad, which featured an informal portrait of Südhof, wearing his black leather Birks, taken in his office at Stanford, as well as a close up of the sandals (off of his feet) that showed them to be well worn and sweat-stained.
Were there other famous people I’d never heard of out there touting their Birkenstocks?
Well, seems that Birkenstock is running what they’re calling a Personality Campaign:
The BIRKENSTOCK Personality Campaign
… is about diversity and character featuring authentic individuals in their own BIRKENSTOCKs.
Character? Authentic individuals? Well, I’ll be darned. That leaves Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo something-or-other out. (Not that I would have recognized them either. Nor would I have known their daughters who are, I guess, full-time influencers now that they’ve left USC to avoid anticipated scorn.)
BIRKENSTOCK is a truly universal brand; worn all over the world, by all kinds of people regardless of age, gender or race. Worn Birkenstocks take on the life of their owner, representing the many years and thousands of steps in one’s life. They become a part of your story. They are your story.
British photographer Jack Davison travelled around the world with the aim of capturing these stories. He created authentic and truly intimate portraits of real protagonists and their real Birkenstocks in their real surroundings.
I haven’t read such hooey since I picked up the J. Peterman catalog that a neighbor left in our building’s recycle basket.
Give me a real antagonist, any old day.
Anyway, here’s the list:
The portraits showcase photographer Ryan McGinley shot at his agent’s house in New York, his second home, actress Luna Picoli-Truffaut in her mother’s house in Paris, Ballerina Romany Pajdak in a training room in London, free skier Tom Leitner in his house, somewhere in Bavaria and New York filmmaker Sean Frank. Further portraits feature Thomas Südhof, Nobel Prize Laureate of Physiology or Medicine in his Stanford University office and Louise Constein in her favorite Berlin park.
I may have heard of Sean Frank. Maybe. But I guess I just don’t known many authentic protagonists. And Louise Constein? Who dat? Her “bio”, later in the page, says that she’s a teenager. That’s it.
I googled and found out that she’s a model, but, she’s no Luna Picoli–Truffaut.
By the way, I didn’t see a ton of diversity. Sean Frank is the only person-of-color on the list.
Me? Think I’ll stick with my tried and true Clark’s. Plenty brainy, lefty, and Cambridge-y. And I don’t need to be an authentic protagonist to wear them. Or a teenager, either.