Once you start noticing it, it’s hard to stop.
There have been many articles about this phenomenon in recent years. And NASA’s multimedia coordinator Bert Ulrich — who oversees the use of NASA logos in films, television and on clothing — stresses that demand for NASA-branded clothing is far from fading, at least based on the number of logo deals he’s approved. He’s been in office for more than two decades, so he’s seen trends ebb and flow. (mostly streaming)
Some of the latest sales boom can be traced back to a surprising place: luxury American fashion house Coach, which debuted a line of NASA-branded clothing in 2017, Ulrich told CNN Business.
The trainer originally called NASA to ask if they could use the “worm” logo, the old design the space agency used from 1975 through 1992. NASA, which banned the worm’s use after it was retired in the 1990s, has changed its mind in this regard, Ulrich said. , and let the coach use the logo.
The “worm” has since returned to official use and has cemented its widespread adoration, at least among die-hard space enthusiasts.
After the coach’s outfit came out, things just exploded.
“Before 2017, we did five or ten [logo approvals] week. We’re so far now that we’re going out an average of 225 a week.”
Last year, he said, there were “more than 11,000 orders” – an all-time record.
Ulrich added that not all of these requests were approved. But the reason there is so much interest in putting NASA logos on everything from Vans sneakers to trucker hats 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 cent of it.
It’s not usually about how licensing deals work, but because NASA is a government agency, a lot of its assets—including images, logos, and even tech designs—are in the public domain. If a company wants to print NASA logos on T-shirts or coffee mugs, they just have to send an email to the NASA department of commerce, according to legal requirements. Usually, it lands in Ulrich’s inbox.
Ulrich’s job is solely to ensure that the logo is used in a manner that complies with the space agency’s approved aesthetic guidelines. Not using unsupported colors, for example. And of course, NASA wants to make sure that its trademark is not used for anything unwanted Purposes, such as the way NASA supports a company or product. If a company misuses the logo, Ulrich said, the NASA legal office often sends a cease-and-desist letter.
After Coach released a NASA clothing line, iconic designers including Heron Preston and most recently Balenciaga launched their own lines. Pop singer Ariana Grande has a song and an entire marketing line about NASA. There have also been 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 Priestley effect.” Remember that scene in the 2006 movie “The Devil Wears Prada” in which the priest, Meryl Streep’s character, verbally dressed up her young fashion inept apprentice? She explained that the blue jacket she’s wearing is actually a “Cerulean,” a product of fashion-obsessed moguls as much as anything on the runway. Essentially, Priestley argues, designers and the fashion media nurture trends, and even consumers who are least interested in fashion are influenced by these decisions.
But that’s only half the story, according to Lian Hall, the creative director of the Brooklyn-based design agency Consortium, which designs and designs for a variety of brands.
Before Coach, kids would buy NASA T-shirts from vintage stores because they loved the nostalgic, melancholy feel of a piece of classic Americana, Hall said.
“You start with kids in cities like New York who buy like, old Disney product or old NASA T-shirts, and then suddenly some see like ‘Cool Hunter’ in the fashion industry, like Urban Outfitters, and suddenly goes, ‘We should flip some NASA-branded T-shirts’ “It’s a kind of reverse engineering of trends.”
Perhaps it was only after the “cool kids” started wearing NASA t-shirts on the streets that the designer brands picked up and sold them to them again.
Hall, a Brooklyn-based creative director, said, in his opinion, that wearing the NASA logo has a lot more to do with the branding of what the logo stands for than declaring one’s love for outer space.
He said it represented “the kind of quintessential American optimism that we can do anything.”
It is politically unaffiliated, he added, and can be marketed to young liberals and rural conservatives alike, evoking the same nostalgia.
“People who work for brands like Heron Preston and Balenciaga are as fascinated by the fantasy of space travel as anyone. No one is immune to that level of nostalgia, so it makes sense that these brands would like to incorporate that into their own collections,” he He said.
It’s happened with other logos and franchises, he points out, such as Balenciaga doing projects with “The Simpsons” or Coach with Mickey Mouse.
“These enduring icons speak to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status,” he said. “Not everyone can relate to Heron Preston or Target, but everyone gets modern Americana from brands like NASA, Disney, Peanuts, and The Simpson.” “Things like NASA kind of act like that magical equivalent.”