Let's Take A Closer Look

Explaining complicated subject matter simply since 1986

NOTICE: This is not an April Fooler. If you’d like to read some classic April Fool nonsense, click here for the March 32nd issue from a few years back.

Fee, Fie, Faux, Fum

A few days ago, I read an article called Nice Watch — Love the Dent! Why Stylish Guys Want Beat-Up Rolexes and Cartiers. Charlie Teasdale, fashion writer for the Wall Street Journal, tells us that Young Moderns want old used watches with scratches, scuffs, dents, cracks, and discolorations because they think they’re cooler and more stylish. Mind you the sought-after brands are not mass-market watches like Casio or Timex; they are luxury brands like Cartier and Rolex. Serious collectors value the nicks and dents because they are a part of the watch’s natural evolution. Sales people explain to shoppers how the combination and arrangement of visible flaws turns identical watches into original one-off secondhand timepiece icons.

Faux means false

Faux is the label applied to any item that is made to look like something more valuable, sophisticated, or rare. It sounds so much better than false. Faux anythings are deliberate fakes intended to deceive buyers. The cops call them counterfeit.

Faux genuine

This is the oxymoronic term I use to refer to products and services that seek to project the aura of authenticity where there is none. It’s not the authenticity of the used watch that’s faux, though. It’s the implying that the visible wear and tear was put there by the wearer, just as if they were old medals and battle scars. Faux-earned, I guess.

Faux numbers

Many people have seen focus group moderators asking study participants sitting around a large table to raise their hands if they’ve ever done (or seen a particular thing). Those moderators have committed one of the Cardinal Sins of Focus Group Moderators by producing what I call faux quant. (pronounced foe kwant). They ask people in group discussions to vote on things, then tally their responses so sponsors can proudly claim that 75% of consumers love our product.

They should report the straight story

Nine of the 12 people who agreed to travel to our facility to sit around our table in our mirrored room for two hours talking about our topic (vacuum cleaners, tractors, cleaning products, radon detectors, or whatever) for money raised their hands and voted Yes. 

Faux quant is Number Three on my list of proven techniques for screwing up focus groups because it’s the same kind of mistake as thinking you can use a chair to tell the time.

There are two reasons moderators use faux quant

Some do it because they know no better. The rest have learned how to deliver enhanced news to the many client companies that are willing to pay handsomely for rave reviews of their products and services. 

How big is the faux industry?

Bloomberg reports that in 2023, Federal prosecutors made the biggest seizure ever in the U.S. of fake designer handbags, shoes, and other luxury items. The confiscated goods were said to have a retail value of more than $1 billion. The counterfeits included luxury items made by Gucci, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and that whole gang. How big is the problem online? In 2023, Amazon reported it cost them $1.2 billion last year to identify, seize, and dispose of 7 million counterfeit listings. You can read their 2023 Brand Protection Report here.

Let’s take a closer look at some other faux things

Most faux leathers are made from synthetics and include a layer of supporting fabric, a layer of polyvinyl chloride or polyurethane, all topped off with a chemical coating on the outside of the faux hide. 

Remember pleather? It has been rebranded as vegan leather

True vegan leathers are made from natural materials. Mushrooms, pineapples, mangoes, and bananas may all be trending in the land of true plant-based leathers, but very little is mentioned about the chemical processes used to turn those plants into no-animal-hide artificial leather. The majority of products labeled and sold as plant-based vegan leathers use chemical additives, something marketing people leave out of their promotions. This sounds just like how fabrics sold as natural bamboo are made from synthetic materials, so you might want to keep an eye out for possible greenwashing in vegan goods, too.

The Atlantic published an article titled: How Shoppers Got Tricked By Vegan Leather

In it, Amanda Mull tells us that “real leather will eventually stretch, bend, soften, and mold itself to your needs but faux leather is more likely to remind you of why it has long had the derogatory moniker of pleather.”

Question: Do typical American consumers know that pleather is fake leather made from the same synthetic petroleum-based resins that are commonly used in adhesives, paints, and varnishes? 

Answer: Maybe, but I’d wager that typical American consumers do not know that most of the industry has changed pleather’s name to vegan leather so they can sell more of it to the unsuspecting at higher prices.

Faux diamonds

Man-made, lab-grown, synthetic diamonds are popular because they look to be nearly the real thing for a lot less money. Buyers of faux diamonds (for faux engagements and weddings?) can choose from fakes made of cubic zirconia, silicon carbide (marketed as moissanite), rutile (black and brown titanium oxides), spinel (a blend of magnesium and aluminum) and more. Most are made by processes using high pressure and high temperature, chemical vapor deposition, or explosives.

The term Faux Feminists appeared in the 1970s at Indiana University

It was used by both men and women to describe the legions of young female college students who failed to see the obvious contradiction between daddies (men to a man) paying for their daughter’s tuition, room, board, and car while their daughters ululate about being oppressed by men.

Faux heroes are the actors we see in the closeups

We only think we see them in the action scenes where the hero’s character does tough-guy things like beating up six evil assassins at once. Stunt doubles do the real tough-guy stuff, heroes do not. The next time you have a chance, watch the things the stunt doubles do to keep their faces away from the camera. Would that make stunt doubles faux faux heroes?

Cameramen (and they were men back then) put the camera down low and pointed it upward to make five-foot tall Mickey Rooney look bigger so the chubby little runt could play tough guys like the boxer Killer McCoy. Hero Alan Ladd was so short he had to stand on a box for the kissing scenes.

Before he became Rambo, Sylvester Stallone skipped Vietnam and the military. He earned his war hero credentials while going to school in Switzerland and Miami. Military men would joke about how Stallone’s Swiss medal featured a pocket knife and his Miami medal had a hammock under a palm tree.

Did you know Stallone’s mother billed herself as “America’s Foremost Rumpologist?” 

Ripped jeans deserve a mention here somewhere

Blue denim Levis were the choice of laborers for years until middle-class college kids turned them into must-have fashion items because they symbolized non-conformity, always an important consideration for teenagers. Jeans were sold intact for many years until someone got the idea that would infect the entire female population of the United States, including the ones in the middle. Denim jeans were deliberately cut, torn, and distressed to once again be a signal of wearer’s non-conformity. 

As it turns out, so many girls and women followed the fad that non-conformity now is signaled by not buying ripped jeans and by allowing the fabric to show only the age and wear you put on it yourself over the years. You know — the real you.

Bonus

Many buy faux things believing they will signal their status to others. Sure they do, but the signal they’re sending is not the one they think it is. Those who know a bit about fake items never consider faux to be stylish or fashionable. They dismiss wearers of faux anything as poseurs trying to impress others on the cheap. 

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