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The following article is from “the Economist”.  I feel that the generation that was raised with the automobile as center to their personal identity… ie the people that value their possessions, their car, their clothing brand, their house, as the statement of their identity and how they see themselves and compare/rate themselves to others….  well they are quickly being replaced by the next generation that doesn’t view themselves this way.  The next generations value things a lot differently.  This is in part due to the evolution of communication and the smartphone in particular.  Social interactions have replaced ego centric possessions as status to some degree… and it only appears to be accelerating.

SO here is the beginning of the article from the Economist… read more by clicking the link at the end.

The future of driving

Seeing the back of the car

In the rich world, people seem to be driving less than they used to

Sep 22nd 2012 | from the print edition of “the Economist”

 

“I’LL love and protect this car until death do us part,” says Toad, a 17-year-old loser whose life is briefly transformed by a “super fine” 1958 Chevy Impala in “American Graffiti”. The film follows him, his friends and their vehicles through a late summer night in early 1960s California: cruising the main drag, racing on the back streets and necking in back seats of machines which embody not just speed, prosperity and freedom but also adulthood, status and sex.

The movie was set in an age when owning wheels was a norm deeply desired and newly achievable. Since then car ownership has grown apace. There are now more than 1 billion cars in the world, and the number is likely to roughly double by 2020. They are cheaper, faster, safer and more comfortable than ever before.

Cars are integral to modern life. They account for 70% of all journeys not made on foot in the OECD, which includes most developed countries. In the European Union more than 12m people work in manufacturing and services related to cars and other vehicles, around 6% of the total employed population; the equivalent figure for America is 4.5% of private-sector employment, or 8m jobs. They dominate household economies too: aside from rent or mortgage payments, transport costs are the single biggest weekly outlay, and most of those costs normally come from cars.

Nearly 60m new cars were added to the world’s stock in 2011. People in Asia, Latin America and Africa are buying cars pretty much as fast as they can afford to, and as more can afford to, more will buy.

Til her daddy takes her T-Bird away

But in the rich world the car’s previously inexorable rise is stalling. A growing body of academics cite the possibility that both car ownership and vehicle-kilometres driven may be reaching saturation in developed countries—or even be on the wane, a notion known as “peak car”.

Recession and high fuel prices have markedly cut distances driven in many countries since 2008, including America, Britain, France and Sweden. But more profound and longer-run changes underlie recent trends. Most forecasts still predict that when the recovery comes, people will drive as much and in the same way as they ever have. But that may not be true.

As a general trend, car ownership and kilometres travelled have been increasing throughout the rich world since the 1950s. Short-term factors like the 1970s oil-price shock caused temporary dips, but vehicle use soon recovered.

The current fall in car use has doubtless been exacerbated by recession. But it seems to have started before the crisis. A March 2012 study for the Australian government—which has been at the forefront of international efforts to tease out peak-car issues—suggested that 20 countries in the rich world show a “saturating trend” to vehicle-kilometres travelled. After decades when each individual was on average travelling farther every year, growth per person has slowed distinctly, and in many cases stopped altogether.

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My friend Dan Sullivan (who I have named “the barometer of hip”) wrote me an email dissing brands and the surf clothing industry a while back…  It is a topic he and I chat about often… branding, trends, style, culture etc.   Here is what he wrote…(in one huge long single sentence with 17 commas… classic Dan style…) and it succinctly sums up what many people feel about the marketed “surf culture”  and “action sports”… or truly… about brands in general.

Dan wrote:

“Since ESPN and Orange County apparel and footwear peddlers coined the act of surfing, skating, riding a dirt bike, or snowboarding  an  “Action Sport”,  these activities, which use to be about fun, personal enlightenment and self challenge, have deteriorated to just another over-marketed activity that requires “specialized gear”, which  former surfers, skaters and snowboarders of Orange County, will gladly sell you, at inflated prices, even though the goods are the same quality as a a Wal-Mart garment, and sewn in the same factories in China, so they can live in faux Tuscan Villas, drive Range Rovers and keep their wives in shoes, handbags and sunglasses, purchased at South Coast Plaza.”

I love his comment.  Dan and I have been friends for many decades and have watched as surf culture was absorbed by large brands… and as action sports was born.  Indeed I am guilty of helping create the monster as creative director of the first “skateboard clothing” company: Vision Street Wear…. and via the  shoe brand I built Simple Shoes.(Full disclosure… Dan was marketing director for a while)

So I will just come out and say it… “there is no such thing as surf clothing”.  Surf clothing is a bathing suit.  That’s it.  Birdwell Beach Britches may be an authentic surf clothing company I suppose… all they sold was trunks back in the day… and pretty much only to surfers.  But the list is damn short after them…. a few Authentic Hawaiian shirt companies are authentic.  Everyone else in the category today called surf or action sports including me pretty much made up what we now call surf style or action sports.  These days there are even re-issues of classic (made up) surf style.  There are even re-issues of classic skate style from the 1980′s…  but it wasn’t original then… it was just made up.

Dan would say “it is all bullshit”.   And it is true… it was bullshit then… and it is now.

Think about it…. WHY ON EARTH should you PAY to wear somebody’s name on your shirt?  In all honesty… they should be paying you to wear their name.  Why pay to have a surf clothing company… or any company for that matter… on your shirt?  It is ridiculous.  But marketers have been making up stories about how the cool kids all wear  “X” and so if you want to be cool you have to wear “X”.  They pay pro athletes to wear “X” and or really incredibly beautiful girls to wear “X” and people buy it.  Over and over.

THIS IS CRAZY!  WAKE UP PEOPLE!

Why have we allowed ourselves to be defined by what we wear… what we drive… etc. It is NOT who we are.  It is a dream… a false reality.  You are not cooler because you drive certain kind of car.  You are truly just a sucker.  You are not cooler if you wear some branded article of clothing. Again you are just a sucker.  There on only so many hours in a day to work to earn money… don’t waste it on stuff you have been fooled into thinking will make you cool.

I suppose it has to do with fitting in… not wanting to be the outcast.  But when you think of the truly interesting and cool people you have known… did they wear branded merchandise and was that what you remember… NO WAY.  Does anyone give a crap what pants Pablo Picasso was wearing.

DEFINE YOURSELF somehow… you are not the sum of your possessions or your wardrobe.  The people with the cool new clothes from the cool new store are not cooler than you… they are sheep.

Trends are all born from trend forecasters who watch truly cool individuals doing things that are different than the norm.  Those different things… when they occur randomly… are noted by trend forecasters and photos are taken and various style trend books note the oddity.  These style trend books are then sold by the trend forecasting agencies to the fashion houses for HUGE sums of money… the fashion houses research the trend books accuracy by sending their designers out around the world to verify the trend within certain core constituencies and at a certain threshold of adoption amongst “alpha”  examples.  Once it is fairly obvious that a given trend is going to become mainstream enough for the fashion house to be able to sell this to the dept store, surf shop etc it is given the greenlight to go to production.  So they copy the idea and sell it and it is part of their “forward” collection at first… until it proves itself for a season.. at which time it then gets put into the regular line.

You will never see the truly cool people wearing the branded products unless they are being PAID to wear them.  Think about this.  Does the coolest person you know wear brand t-shirts?  Probably not.

Most brands are vultures preying on our lack of self confidence and our desire to be cool.  But truly cool people don’t wear brands.

Yes… there are some exceptions… where a company makes something that is truly useful or performs in a way that other clothes don’t.  Smartwool socks for example… They are warmer than cotton socks and they wear well.  But these are just socks… they are not surfer socks or action sports socks.  So if some surf brand slapped their label on wool socks would they be better… nope.

Branded clothing is probably less than about 150 years old.  Somehow we humans seemed to survive without wearing big logos on our chests for millions of years.

So be brave… be original… find a truly unique style that is your own.  Be the one that the trend forecasters take the photo of.

and yes I did design and sell action sports clothing… and action sports shoes… and am thus a hypocrite I suppose… The nicer amongst you will notice that I no longer sell fashion clothing or shoes though… and simply call me a sell out.  The very few of you left that haven’t called me a hypocrite or a sellout probably actually know me and will simply snicker quietly.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Henry  Thoreau:  “avoid all activities requiring special clothing”

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Eric Barker is my namesake.  My mom and dad used to visit him and other fixtures up in Big Sur back in the 1950′s.  I have only recently discovered his work.  Here is a poem of his:

Lines for a favorite cat:

 

Escaping for twelve years

The nearly always imminent deaths,

My wary and beautiful cat

Pawtucket

Died last night

In the teeth of a masked

And murderous coon.

 

Loudly caterwauling his rage and terror

At the full moon

As she turned away

Her blandly betraying bitch face

From the floodlit death arena

 

Good-bye,

Roller of bobbins, balls, dice,

Devilish feather-strewer!

Old three-striker at gopher holes.

Good-bye.

This is the way things are:

I have carried your bedding of ferns

To the deep hole I have dug, crossed

Your paws in the way

You used to sleep.

 

This is the way life is,

And I must make do somehow,

Without you,

Even making a pet, perhaps, of your enemy

The coon, who has cleaned your dish

And is already picking the lock

Of the back door

With dexterous and beseeching hands

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