A long, long time ago, a bunch of people gathered together and figured out that the power of marketing was such that they didn’t have to actually change their products in any way to make them more appealing: Instead, and for far less money, they could simply “rebrand” their products by imposing a new identity onto the old stuff they were selling. And that shit is still going strong.
Take Philip Morris, for example, which in 2003 rebranded itself as Altria. The case they made for the change was “to emphasize the fact that the company produces a wide range of products other than tobacco,” reported PRWeek. But of course, Philip Morris was still selling cigarettes. The rebrand was like a new coat of paint: It shined as they plotted a new course for how best to get a new generation hooked on vaping.
Of course, rebrands aren’t always that overtly insidious. Case in point: Last week, Esquire put their stamp of approval on Nice Laundry’s “loungewear shorts.” The mag asserted that while “most shorts of this nature” — made of nylon and looking eerily like a pair of basketball shorts — are comfortable, these shorts “are extra comfortable.” Furthermore, unlike “your daddy’s gym shorts,” Nice Laundry’s shorts felt “substantial, and yet not so heavy that you can’t aggressively lounge in them.”
What Are ‘Loungewear Shorts,’ and Are They Worth It?
I don’t doubt for a second that Nice Laundry makes a perfectly comfortable pair of nylon shorts. But I’m aghast at the use of the term “loungewear shorts” to describe what anyone who’s been conscious for the better part of the last century would simply describe as… basketball shorts.
Nice Laundry isn’t alone in this, either; menswear brands from all walks of life have also jumped on the bandwagon. Banana Republic has its “Cozy Lounge Short.” So too does Urban Outfitters, Lululemon, and perhaps most peculiarly, Adidas — which, of course, also makes basketball shorts. What used to be a market owned solely by the Nikes of the world has, with a simple name change, become a staple that can be sold by any brand that sells men’s clothes.
One could make the argument that some of the more expensive iterations of “loungewear shorts” are a little different from your standard polyester basketball shorts: Nice Laundry boasts about using “4-way stretch nylon” to impose that “extra comfortable” feeling. But this is merely misdirection.
What Are the Best Loungewear Shorts? Basketball Shorts.
In fairness, such a rebrand was hiding there in plain sight. For years, basketball shorts have lurked under beds and couch cushions, often gross, unwashed, the elastic always on the verge of crunchy. As such, their reputation off the court isn’t a very good one. But “loungewear shorts,” particularly a pair that costs twice as much as a pair of basketball shorts, sounds just different enough — and just refined enough — that it lends itself to the artifice of luxury. It’s less an indictment of loungewear shorts themselves as it is a revealing look of just how easily something basic can be repackaged with a high price point, posted on Mr. Porter and sold as lavish weekend accoutrement.
Well, no — obviously not. These two stretchy, breathable, versatile and outrageously comfortable pieces of clothing are one and the same. You can wear loungewear shorts on the basketball court, and you can wear basketball shorts to lounge. If you find yourself tempted by the promise of “aggressive lounging,” just know that you’ve been hoodwinked by the power of the rebrand.
Which, I should add, is nothing to be ashamed of. I would know: Ever since Philip Morris became Altria, I was compelled to start smoking again.