29. LaCroix, Canada Goose, and Carhartt are cool. Why?

Some brands are not cool even though they try. Others start out great, but lose cachet over time. There are brands that turn out to be cool. LaCroix, Canada goose, and Carhartt became the hottest things around without changing their products. How did that happen?

The production was made by Dan Bobkoff, Amy Pedulla, and Sarah Wyman

The transcript is a short one

Dan BobkOFF: This is a household name. You know about brands and stories you don’t. I’m Dan Bobkoff

Let’s talk about La Croix, Canada goose and Carhartt for a while. All of these brands have humble beginnings

They all started as kind of ordinary products. Practical outerwear, warm winter coats. These products have not changed much over the years. They all have something in common. They became cool. People are posting pictures of their La Croix cans. Status symbols include Canada goose coats. Carhartt is worn by people

The person said, “DB:.” I remember it around 2015. I was in the office and someone asked if I wanted to get a La Croix. I remember thinking, “Why is there a Seltzer brand that has so much cachet that someone will actually use it?” We don’t think of the many brands that make seltzer. This brand has become something of a cultural phenomenon. With us right now is a woman named Claire Tighe, who is going to explain how this happened. Hey, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I

So what is the situation with La Croix?

It is called CT. I thought I would be the perfect person to explain how this drink went from boring to darling in the ’90s

It is called CT. That’s how I see it, Seltzer! Let’s start with some pronunciation. Midwesterners are in a debate about the pronunciation. Is it La Kwah? Is it La Croy? Is it La Crotch?

La Croy is in the state of Connecticut. I called Emma’s mom. Sue Wood is from Michigan. She says it like this

SUE WOOD: I’ve been drinking La Croixes for a long time

La Kwahs! It’s Lacroix. It’s pronounced La Croix. I found it funny when La Croix was popular a few years ago

It is called CT. My parents drink La Croix, and I didn’t think it was cool

La Croix is from Wisconsin and has been for decades. It was invented by a company in Wisconsin. Old Style Beer is made by the G. Heileman Brewing Company and is also available for Chicagoans. It was only distributed in Wisconsin and the Midwest in the 1980s and 1990s. It was a Midwestern product that was loved by locals. People were drinking a lot of Perrier. It’s the green bottle of water that has a nice label

It is called CT. It looks like a wine. Imported wine! Heileman wanted to try an American version of that imported water. It was supposed to be the anti-Perrier because people thought Perrier was pretentious. The French name La Croix is a play on Perrier’s image. Steve was my friend Max’s Dad

Steve Buckner: I loved it when people would drink La Croix and think they were getting a fancy foreign drink, imported straight from the St. Croix River, up there in northern Wisconsin

It is called CT. My dad remembers seeing La Croix at cocktail parties in 1994

Frank Tihe. I remember La Croix being served. It was a little pretentious, I always thought, and it was sort of an alternative to Perrier. La Croix did not have any calories. It didn’t have any energy. It was adult. I don’t remember what it was, but I would call it a thing

It is called CT. I will see these clear recycling bags full of lemon-lime La Croix cans when I visit my dad. National beverage bought La Croix in 1992. Their symbol is F-I-Z-Z

If the stock goes down, but okay, that’s not great

It is called CT. It will not last? National beverage has a specialty. National beverage bought La Croix and they were able to develop new flavors. They went from six to 21 flavors in a few years

It is called CT. National beverage started to distribute La Croix outside of the Midwest. Everyone loved something that was nationally distributed

It is called CT. The national beverage is correct. Dan, I find it funny that you wouldn’t know that it’s from the Midwest because it’s a non-trendy place. We are not arrogant. We make things that are cool, but we just kind of agree with them

That doesn’t explain why La Croix is a cultural thing now

It is called CT. Do you remember when soda went out of style?

Yeah, yeah. There’s a lot of talk about how to lose weight and how to keep it off, but you get Dasani and Aquafina, which are very expensive tap water in a bottle

Exactly. There was a huge push against drinks with sugar. Schools are no longer selling soda in their vending machines after Philadelphia and Berkeley introduced soda taxes. We have a campaign by the First Lady to get schools and kids to be healthy. Big companies are experimenting with new bottled water brands as bottled water is becoming a thing. The market is ripe for a healthy alternative to soda. You have the internet, and that is the backdrop. I found the perfect person to help me understand. The popularity of La Croix is due to the fact that her name is Chelsea Steele and her social media accounts are one of the reasons we have the internet to thank

She is a female. I was working for a company that sells fruit. I had a La Croix with me as I was trying to take a picture of my peach set up

It is called CT. Her parents are from the Midwest. She thought it was funny because she remembered her parents loved La Croix

The person says, “CSD:.” I remember people commenting on La Croix and thinking about how they used to be in a counselor’s office or drinking in the car in the early 90’s, and being like “this is not new and it’s not cool.” I think that is for me when the question of why is this regenerating now, happened, and I don’t know what to think about it

It is called CT. Around the year of 2011, the social media site,Instagram, is starting to get more popular. La Croix became an official partner of the Whole 30 when it became known that the 30 day diet trend was a thing. La Croix was considered a healthy drink. La Croix is starting to trend on the internet. There’s a video on the internet with a song called La Croix Boi and it’s a guy dancing around and the lyrics are “so let me be your La Croix boy” and he opens the fridge

It is called CT. All of the La Croix merchandise is on the website. There was a shirt

It is called CT. In 2015, a picture of herself and her friends with La Croix was posted on her social media account

The person says, “CSD:.” All of my friends were like that

It is called CT. It gets so many likes and likes from La Croix that she starts to make shirts

It is called CT. It went viral. She posts a picture of herself with a can of La Croix on her social media account and immediately it becomes a sensation. It gets a lot of attention. It was discovered that La Croix wasn’t doing traditional marketing and ad placement at the time

The person says, “CSD:.” They don’t have public ad spaces. They don’t do commercials. They have been thriving ever since they claimed their camp in bubble water

It is called CT. La Croix sales are going up and they are beating out all of the other brands for their water because of the picture that Chelsea posted. There weren’t any good stock photos of La Croix, even though the story about how great it is compared to other brands was picked up by the news agency. They use her post on the social media site

The person says, “CSD:.” The picture they have for that article is a picture of me in my shirt, and it links to my account. Hundreds of strangers are commenting on me and asking where they can get a shirt. I love it

It is called CT. She ends up selling out of the shirts and the publication that picked up her picture would get more publicity for La Croix

The person says, “CSD:.” I think I noticed the power of the internet for the first time. It exploded. I had so many that I had to order more bubble mailers. It’s a bit funny

It is called CT. It’s labeled so it’s so easy to see on the photo sharing website, it’s so Instagram-able. It’s unique. It’s very colorful. It’s fun. The flavors and cans of La Croix became known as La Croix. The brand says ‘I’m healthy’. It’s a tongue-in-cheek trend aware. It was the perfect storm. People were looking for a healthier alternative to drink. It becomes a thing on the photo sharing website. You have a pamplemousse problem because La Croix had a perfect label, name, and flavors

The person said, “DB:.” I think it’s very accessible. I was in Target the other day and there was a wall of La Croix. It’s in Target. It’s also in Whole Foods. It’s not the most expensive thing out there, but it is a little more expensive than other seltzer. Anyone can buy La Croix

It is called CT. I think it’s fun to drink. You have a green thing in your hand, but it doesn’t have sugar. You have a pink thing in your hand that can match your outfit or your social media accounts. I think it has the same effect as picking out a can of cola, but it doesn’t hurt you

The person said, “DB:.” Alright. Another brand that has exploded in the last few years is a bit more expensive when we come back. That’s done in a minute

The person said, “DB:.” We’re back. I started at business school a few years ago. This is New York City. It gets cold here. I noticed that every business school student wore a big black jacket with a red seal on it and looked like it had a map on it. I was wondering why the students in business school were wearing the same jacket. Then, a few months ago, one of our founding producers at Household Name, Clare Rawlinson, sent us a note asking the same thing. She wanted to know what the deal was with Canada goose. She is back to try to answer that

The woman is Clarie RawlINSON. I noticed that some people’s shoulders were covered with red and white round stamps. Everywhere. I was confused and curious when I found out how much they cost

All right, the person is the DB. Let’s go back a bit. What is the difference between Canada goose jackets and other jackets?

CR: They’re a big jacket with a thick lining. They’re wind and water resistant and have a down filling that provides warmth. They have a very kind of design. They… Some of them have a hood over their face, but then there is a seal on the upper arm of the coat, which has the outline of the North Pole on it. Not even Canada!

The person said, “DB:.” That’s the branding. You mentioned that they’re a little out of sight price-wise, so I guess that’s what you mean. How much are these coats?

CR: They are very expensive. Good luck trying to get one under 700 bucks. They go up to about 1600 if they are closer to a thousand

Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, These coats are a little bit polarizing. Have these always been a high end item? Have these always been a status symbol?

CR: Alright. It is worth going back to the past to understand how Canada goose is today. Sam Tic, a Canadian, started the company in 1957, but back then it was called Metro Sportswear. The current temp is minus 19 degrees Fahrenheit, and Canada goose parkas became popular among scientists in the ’80s

CR: You want a good jacket down there. That’s correct. They were nicknamed “the big red coat.” They become the standard for people who work in extremely cold climates with their presence in the ice-covered South Pole. In 1982, the first Canadian climbs Mount Everest, and he wears a Canada goose parka

The turning point for the brand is in 2001. Sam Tic’s grandson is the president and CEO of Canada goose. The brand will be expanded into more countries with the help of the name of the man, Dani. He starts by taking it to Stockholm. It spreads across Europe. The US market is where Reiss wants to go. He had a head start because Canada goose coats were the official jacket for film crews working in cold climates. He sees this as an opportunity to get more influence through Hollywood. He sponsors film festivals in places like Berlin and the Sundance Film Festival

That’s smart. All these people are wearing them

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CR: Nicolas Cage is in a film called National Treasure, where he is trying to steal the Declaration of Independence

Kate Upton is wearing a Canada goose jacket on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue

The person said, “DB:.” Did Canada goose pay for all the publicity in the movies and on the cover?

CR: They claim that these appearances are not product placements. In the year of 2013, the US private equity firm Bain Capital bought a majority stake in the company

The person said, “DB:.” What changed after Bain Capital bought a stake in the company?

CR: Things really ramp up from here. Canada goose opened a factory in Toronto that can double production. Canada goose opens a flagship store in Tokyo and New York City in 2015. The company goes public. It had $600 million in revenue last year

Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, That’s a lot of coats. Alright, so that is over for the day. Canada goose is seen as a luxury item worn by business school students and other fashionable people with means and we see celebrities wearing them often and in photographs. Why do you think people are willing to spend so much money on a coat when there are other coats that are better and cheaper?

CR: That is my question. Canada goose parkas are expensive, but they are not the most expensive brand out there. The luxury brand called Montclair sells winter coats for upwards of $2,000. Canada goose is more expensive than other brands, but it is still cheaper than other brands. It has this kind of attraction to it

It’s not completely out of sight, but it is a splurge

CR: Yeah. If you have disposable income and you save up for a single item that you really want, you can wear it every day for six months. If you live in a cold place that’s really cold. You can justify it to yourself. The lifestyle editor at Insider thinks that this kind of highly conspicuous functions is becoming fashionable

Choe PantaZI is a person. It also speaks to the way we value our money and how we spend it. People are buying things to improve their lifestyles, instead of just spending money on a watch or something to show off their wealth. People buy a bike from Peloton, they go to expensive spin courses, or they wear an Apple Watch, but I just kind of equate those things with living a certain life. Canada goose jackets are very fitting to that narrative

CR: People are familiar with Apple Watch. It’s not the most expensive coat out there, but it’s definitely the most recognizable. It is perfect for signaling your wealth. It’s like the ultimate in basicness. That was a repeat of the episode

CR: I still don’t believe that it’s as popular as it is because people in New York need more warmth. I just think for the Antarctic, but New York or Tokyo. I mean, come on, Uniqlo does the job. It’s the tenth of the price. It looks similar. It doesn’t have a big round branding on the arm. I checked the warmth ratings for the jackets, for Canada goose, and the $900 one, which says middle of the range, that has a warmth rating of between 13 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. I have worn my clothing down to five degrees

There are people on eBay that will sell you knock-off iron on Canada Goose logo badges that you can just stick on your shirt if you want to be

If you want the status without the price, then you should.

CR: When something becomes a status symbol, it’s the truest test, because one of these counterfeits will start popping up. The company has a page on its website that has a guide on how to tell if a coat is a duplicate

So if the coat is fake, some people want the cachet that this coat has, but it doesn’t matter to them?

CR: Exactly. The person says that it has a lot to do with the culture of social media

I think that’s true. The way that people shop has been influenced by the way that people use social media. People want to stand out and show off their wealth, so they shop for more than one product. It’s now geared towards showing off their social media currency

The person said, “DB:.” These jackets have become ubiquitous among certain people in certain cities. Has there been a backlash?

CR: If you go to the flagship store in New York, you will see activists from the animal rights group protesting over the treatment of geese that Canada goose uses to source the down in these jackets. The organization claims to have done an investigation into Canada goose’s farms and took some footage that was pretty grim, you know, of geese crammed together, really poorly treated. Canada goose says that they ethically source their down. There’s a lot of footage and research that is available online if you were to look into that. The company went public in the year of 2017: the animal rights group bought a stake

That can happen when you’re a publicly traded company

CR: They’re associated with experiences. Working in the weather conditions of the north. It says that you bought this because you do other things besides wear it between your home and the subway. You have a great life and you need to be dressed like an adventurer

If you want to explore Staten Island in the winter, that’s a good place to start. Far-off lands!

CR: You’re going to do it looking like a hero. Who will mess with you if you wear that Canada Goose coat? You have clearly done snowboarding at some point in your life. There is a patch on the sleeve. The CEO says that the badges make people feel like they are part of a club. Sometimes I wonder… I watch the people in Canada goose coats pass each other on the subway platforms. I wonder if they wink as they pass by each other with a genuine branded shoulder

Why do so many people love Carhartt? That’s done in a minute

The person said, “DB:.” We’re back. Carhartt is the final brand of exploration about why things became cool. Our newest producer is here to show us how to do it. Welcome!

The text is called: When I moved to New York about a year and a half ago, I noticed that a lot of people here were wearing the same beanie, but in a bunch of different colors, but the style is the same. One day I was on the subway and I was next to a person who was wearing a beanie. I saw that the brand was called Carhartt after I got an up close look

I don’t think I have. This was my first time seeing it. The beanies have a square patch on top of the forehead and a yellow C logo on the back

The person said, “DB:.” I think the Carhartt story doesn’t start on the New York City subway

Your intuition is correct. It does not start on the subway

The text is called: The clothing brand Carhartt has been around for more than a century. It began in Michigan. There were five workers when the brand was started. They had two sewing machines and were going to make overalls for railroad workers. Carhartt expands quickly in the first 20 years. It has sewing facilities in Atlanta and San Francisco. The Great Depression hits. It’s a tough time for many businesses in the US, but Carhartt is still alive

The person said, “DB:.” It’s making the kind of things that people need in a depression

Exactly. It establishes itself as a leader in mass-produced workwear after World War II. Blue collar workers need sturdy, durable workwear and it becomes very popular. These are people working in industries that are outdoors. Carhartt is popular in the state of Alaska

The text is called: Carhartt makes a jacket that is very warm and great for cold climates like Alaska. I wanted to understand why this brand is popular there and why it means so much to the people there. I called this guy up and he is a Carhartt enthusiast

Ryan Gerald: Bryan is from Wasilla, Alaska

The text is called: He made that joke to me, which was a reference to SarahPalin. Bryan has been wearing Carhartt for years, since he moved to Alaska. He told me that they have a couple of funny nicknames for Carhartt

The text is called: The area on the Northern edge of Alaska has a big oil field and is referred to as Prudhoe Bay

They wear a lot of Carhartt in the oil fields

The text is called: They do. Bryan was an advisor for a wood product engineering company for many years. He spent a lot of time in Alaska

Did I wear Carhartts? I did. They would stand up in the corner by themselves, because they were so stinky and thick with grease. It was easy to get out. It’s a bit funny

The text is called: Carhartt makes everything from jackets to shirts to pants. They’re very popular. Bryan’s favorite item is them. These clothes are expensive. They might say they’re a little bit expensive. These items are not disposable. These clothes last because the ziers don’t break. The overalls that Bryan likes start at around $70. They have a jacket that starts at a hundred dollars. These clothes will last you a while. Bryan said it might take him five years to replace his pants

The text is called: It is. The Carhartt Brothers were formed by Bryan and a couple of his friends in the ’90s because they love Carhartt

The person said that the bluegrass… They do a bit of everything

From the Dead to Monroe to Eric Clapton

Bryan told me that a person introduced them to me at a bar and asked if they were Bryan or not

The person said that the BG: We all looked at each other and said we were all wearing Carhartt because it’s cold out. It stuck from that point on

The text is called: They were never associated with the brand. They had a good relationship with Carhartt. They never were sued. The Carhartt Brothers had a man named Doug Tweedy who was the face of the brand in Alaska. Bryan told me that they had a good relationship with Doug. He was the state sales representative for many years and was very well-known and instrumental in making the brand so big there

He would have us come to do things like grand openings at stores and promotional stuff. We were happy to do that for him

The text is called: Doug would sometimes hook up the Carhartt Brothers with gear that was sponsored by Carhartt. Carhartt was the workwear brand in Alaska. Alaska had the highest per capita Carhartt sales in the world in 2001.

The text is called: A lot of towns host Carhartt balls to give you a sense of how big it is

Like a prom, yes. In a small town, all the people will gather together, and they will have a big party

It’s just an excuse to get together and stomp around in Carhartts. Have a good time and get drunk. You know

The text is called: There’s a band sometimes. Bryan told me that his band has played many Carhartt balls

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The text is called: I started reporting in hopes of answering the question of how Carhartt became cool. I realized that I wanted to answer the question of how Carhartt became cool to everyone outside of Alaska, as I was talking to Bryan. We need to go back to the ’80s to answer that question

Carhartt is cementing itself as a brand for America’s working class. At this point, it’s mostly white, blue collar workers. Carhartt jackets start becoming popular among drug dealers in the ’80s

The text is called: We don’t have a good answer to that question. We know that the jackets they were wearing were heavy duty, warm jackets that can carry a lot of stuff. That was part of the appeal. When these jackets start showing up in cities like New York, kids and young people see these guys wearing them, and that’s when they start to become cool there. They’re becoming more popular. There is a record label around this time. Tommy Boy Records was started in New York in the 80s. It uses a marketing tactic by putting its logo on 800 Carhartt jackets. Nas, Eazy-E, and others are photographed wearing Carhartt. This is Carhartt’s entry into Streetwear. This style is in the ’90s. I would describe it as casual, heavily influenced by skate culture, sportswear and hip-hop

Carhartt didn’t try to make this happen, it just happened to them

The text is called: Carhartt starts expanding into the European Streetwear market around the same time. A couple of Swiss denim designers ink a deal with Carhartt to create Carhartt Work In Progress… which is also known as the “Wip.” The designers modify the original Carhartt designs to be a little more high fashion and expensive. Soon enough Carhartt becomes a staple item for European skateboarders. Carhartt Work In Progress opened a store in SoHo in 2001 to push the brand further into New York’s High fashion scene. Carhartt has done a number of high fashion collaborations over the years. It’s not surprising that this brand has gained a lot of attention through its collaborations with high fashion designers, and now you can buy it on Amazon. You can buy it at Urban Outfitters

The person said, “DB:.” This is appealing to the hip-hop community. It’s appealing to people who like fashion. It’s still appealing to the core audience that’s been Carhartt fans for decades

The text is called: I wanted to ask Bryan how someone who’s been wearing Carhartt for a long time feels about all these new people, so I asked Bryan about this. What is it like to see people in coffee shops on the runways? Bryan has noticed that the brand has gotten more trendy. Bryan told me that they use a phrase like this a lot in Alaska

We’re going to do it our way, we don’t care how they do it outside

The text is called: He doesn’t mind that other people wear it if the product stays true to what it is and it doesn’t become crazy expensive. I put it to him that way, that he would mind my business and I would mind his. Bryan is an Alaskan and he still feels a sense of ownership over the brand because it’s so important to the culture there

The person said that the BG: If you’re Alaskan, you have to wear Carhartts. It’s kind of like duct tape. Every Alaskan has a case of duct tape. Any good Alaskan does

The text is called: The brand has not abandoned its original workwear line. Even though they’ve done a few high fashion collaborations, they still make all of those clothes. They make the same clothes that they always have, and you can still buy them in the same places. They are still sold in tractor supply stores and REIs, but you can buy them on Amazon. The brand is more widely available to other consumers

The person said, “DB:.” Hm. They have done something that is rare here and they get the best of both worlds. They get status in fashion and have a loyal customer base. They get to do that at once

The text is called: They get the best of both worlds. I think that Carhartt is a no-bullshit brand and that it appeals to a lot of people

The person said that the BG: It’s basic. It’s not frills. It’s basic, it gets the job done and that’s what it’s all about

The text is called: The motto has not changed since 1889, when it was founded on the idea of honest value for an honest dollar. That’s the brand’s motto

So, okay. Did someone think the Carhartt was cool?

The text is called: It’s always been cool to Alaskans and a lot of other people who have been wearing it for a long time. Different groups of people have decided it’s cool for their own reasons. I think it’s interesting that people in Alaska think it’s cool for a different reason than Europeans

Europeans don’t think Carhartt is cool because they are wearing it, and people in Alaska are wearing it. Everyone decided it was cool. I think the brand has reached universal coolness

The person said, “DB:.” Well, Jenni Sigl. You explained Carhartt to us very well

The person said, “DB:.” If you want to get a sneak peek of what’s to come this season and other things, sign up for our new newsletter! You can find it at rec-canada.com/household-name, or in the show notes. We will post a link in our group. If you’re not a member, you can search for Household Name

Follow me on the social media site. I’m a person. We would love to hear your ideas and comments at [email protected] If you like the show, please give us a review and five stars on Apple Podcasts. It helps

The episode was produced by me and others. Special thanks to the show’s host, always great to have her back. Big Dipper allowed us to use his song

John DeLore andCasey Holford created the sound design

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