Columns

2013.04.17 Catalog is practically dripping with machismo

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

By RICH FOLEY

Recently I received a copy of the Duluth Trading Company catalog in the mail. Since my name is spelled incorrectly on the label in the same unique way as another company I receive mailings from, I’m pretty sure I know who sold them my address. 

After leafing through it, I’m not sure that I’m macho enough to be ordering from them. Heck, I’m not sure if Chuck Norris is macho enough, although I’m sure the star of “Walker, Texas Ranger” would give it his best effort. Did I say the catalog was dripping with machismo? Maybe dripping with testosterone would be more accurate.

 Take for instance, the customer endorsement for the company’s jeans. Brian from Meridian, Texas, says “I was moving calves from one pasture to another when a 644-lb. wild boar charged at me like a runaway 18-wheeler! When I got up, I had a gaping hole in my arm, and a pain in my leg, but no damage. If not for the material of your Fire Hose Jeans, the tusk could have torn through my femoral artery. I could have bled to death and died!”

Maybe I’m being picky, Brian, but I have a few questions. You had no damage? The gaping hole in your arm doesn’t count? And did the boar stop long enough for you to weigh it? How can you be so sure of its weight? And finally, you could have bled to death AND died? I’ve never heard of anyone who bled to death and lived. All right, enough ranting about that.

I should explain the Duluth folks use a cotton fabric in most of their clothing that was originally used to wrap rubber fire hoses, so the words “Fire Hose” are used in the name of many products. In one listing, the fabric is called “heroically durable.” Yes, we’re now applying the word hero to fabric.

They have another style of jeans that has a name I’m afraid I can’t even print in a family newspaper. Perhaps the editor will allow me to say the slogan for the jeans is “Crouch without singing soprano,” but that’s as much as I’ll try to get away with.

Next, they drag the late Ernest Hemingway into the catalog with the copy for the Adventurer’s Presentation Jacket, saying that “Hemingway wore a rugged jacket like this on his famed forays to Africa—and also when he was facing off with publishers in New York.” Considering the circumstances of his demise, couldn’t they have found a different “hero” who wore a similar jacket?

Even Duluth’s belts almost seem to be challenging you to a fight. The Ranger Work Belt features a buckle that “won’t jab your belly when you’re pursuing rustlers on the wide-open prairie.” Even better is the Smokejumper’s Belt, which is apparently designed for those with plans to jump from an airplane: “Strap it on before you bail from your Twin Otter to honcho a North Idaho flaming burnout.” 

Among Duluth’s non-clothing items is Powell’s 1-handed Pocket Knife, complete with somewhat gruesome copy. ”When 50,000+ Civil War amputees had to adjust to peacetime life, cutlers created knives like this, that open 1-handed off a pocket.”

Then there’s the Duluth version of the Bowie knife, which claims to have a razor sharp 10-inch blade. One wrong move with this and you’ll next be ordering that Powell knife. Just in case, you’d better buy a Trauma Pak, too.

The Trauma Pak copy reads: “Let’s hope you never have a sucking chest wound on the job...but if you do, you’ll be glad you had our Trauma Pak in your tool bag.”

And when it’s lunchtime, you be happy you have the 12 Gauge Shotshell Thermo Bottle. Yes, a thermos bottle shaped like a shotgun shell that holds 25 ounces of your favorite beverage. After lunch is finished, pull out your stainless steel toothpick holder (holds about 10 toothpicks! Just $6.95!) and your toothpicks are ready for action!

And finally, for those who can’t handle the manliness of all their other products, Duluth carries the “Newsboy Cap,” claiming that newsboys in Depression days “wore jaunty cotton twill caps like this.” It’s actually true, just watch Turner Classic Movies long enough, and they’ll  play a 1930s film. If it’s set in a big city, eventually the action will go outside and you’ll see an annoying newsboy wearing a similar cap. If the actor buys a paper, and tips him well, maybe he won’t take out his Bowie knife.

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