The clothes make the man, as the saying goes. It’s somewhat similar if the man is in agriculture. The more accurate phrase is, “The vendor makes the farmer.”
Farmers aren’t exactly NASCAR drivers, but if you want to give us an article of clothing with your logo or company name on it, do it for free and we will be your personal billboard. You need to be a bit realistic in your expectations, however. Farmers have standards. They’re not so high as to make Olympic track and field types shy away, but they are higher than your average limbo bar.
First of all, your item needs to be functional. Nothing says functional like a hat or a jacket. Following closely behind would be leather gloves. Everyone wears these things; everyone needs to update them once in awhile. Slap a logo on any of those items and they will get used.
Right after functional would be fashionable. No, seriously. Okay, okay, so the first thing that comes to mind when you think fashionable is not, “I saw this really sharp-looking farmer who . . . .” Even so, some of us still like to look good.
Stick with the basics. For color, you need something a farmer will wear. Green, red, blue, gray, orange, yellow, basic black or white will get worn. That may be the order, too. I have rules. If I’m going to use it for work (and still expand my audience), I’m not going to sport something in flashy white that’s going to get dirty. That’s why Two Guys Farming hats are gray.
If you’re going to give me a hat with your logo on it, make sure it’s not pink. It can be the coolest style ever, but if any of my farmer friends are going to give me static when I’m seen in it, chances are it will end up in a Hefty bag with the latest junk mail. No, on second thought, it won’t go with the junk mail. That means it could be recycled. It could extend its life over and over, like Jason in those Friday the 13th movies. Or like a fruitcake. Gone would be better. A pink hat will be buried — composted at the very least.
Any marketer will tell you that a product needs to make a bold statement. Here’s a bulletin. Farmers aren’t into bold. We like small statements on fairly mundane clothing. A splash of color is okay, but it can’t get too wild. We think UPS uniforms are high-octane. When the cops in Homicide need to do a lineup to positively identify a criminal, you won’t see them get a guy from a skateboard park, another one from an inner city hip-hop club, and a farmer, with the idea the perp could be any of those three. “Yes, officer, I saw the whole thing. He was 5 feet 10, average build, he was wearing a big gold medallion — oh, and his neon pink hat was on sideways. I’m pretty sure he was a farmer.”
A little variety is a good thing, too. From my own personal wardrobe, I have choices among several different articles of clothing all from different companies. That can create a mix-and-match conundrum. You look strange when you’re wearing a hat from one seed company and a coat from its biggest competitor. Worse yet, if you’re caught wearing a hat, a jacket, gloves and a shirt all from the same company, you have crossed that imaginary (but completely understood) line into being a shill. No one is so far in the tank for one company that he wears an entire ensemble from it unless he works there. I mean, let’s say, hypothetically, you put on your John Deere denim shirt and then go with a John Deere hat, and since it’s cold, a John Deere jacket. You show up at a meeting somewhere and the university guy giving the Power Point presentation can’t get his laser pointer to work, so you whip out your John Deere laser pointer and all of a sudden you’re labeled a company guy or something by all your farmer buddies at the meeting. Totally bogus.
There was a knock at my door a couple weeks ago. Lo and behold, it was Ada Austin, The Old Goat Woman! (I’m not being mean. That’s actually how she signs her e-mails and cards.) Seeing as how the reputation and sales of goat socks have expanded somewhat in the last few months (see “The hair of a goat,” March 17, 2008), Ada decided I needed more wardrobe. She stopped by to have me try on a jacket. You want to throw up a billboard, you make sure the measurements are right so the signage looks good. That’s not always easy with me. If you ever watch The Simpsons, you know that some of the best humor in the show is stuff in the background. I remember a scene where they were at a ballpark, probably watching their hometown minor league team, the Isotopes. One of the billboards in the outfield had a sign for some clothing store by the name of Royal Majesty or something like that. What caught my eye and made me review the scene a couple of times was the line immediately below the name of the store: “For the Obese or Gangly Gentleman.”
I usually have to shop at places like that. So far, it’s for the second half of the equation, not the first. Give me time and enough Bavarian Cremes for breakfast each morning and maybe I’ll need both sections of the store.
Ada was thinking before she showed up. She brought an XL and an XL Tall jacket for me to try. The XLT was far and away the winner. She also wanted to check on a spelling issue. You can’t just give a sock promoter a generic coat. It needs to be personalized. Ada said she couldn’t find my card, so she wanted to make sure she had the personalization right. I whipped out a card so fast she almost bled to death from the paper cut.
My mail carrier pulled into the yard a few days later and honked. That always means there's a package that won’t fit in the mailbox. As I came over to see what it was, Pat smiled and handed me a big box. “Hey, Jeff, it must be a BUNCH of goat socks!” He listens to The Big Show each day on his route, so he heard my appearance on the show when we talked about goat socks, as well as several other mentions of them before and since. After one of those incidents, I put a brochure from Ada in the mailbox for him. When he handed the box to me the other day, he said rather enthusiastically, “Man, I gotta order some of those socks!”
Call him what you want, but make sure astute is toward the top of the list.
I had a hunch what was in the box from Austin’s Mohairs. A little Exacto knife work revealed my hunch was correct. Ada had granted me a pass on the standard color for her business. She didn’t think I’d be as wild about purple as she is. She went with something a bit more understated. Ada knows farmer fashion, and she hasn’t even read this story.
I had a photo taken for her of me as a walking billboard. My shirt was from Clint Eastwood’s restaurant in Carmel, the hat was from the French Dip place in LA, and the coveralls could have been ordered with the name of my own vet clinic on them if I owned my own vet clinic.
Oh, the item from Ada was personalized appropriately, too, as only she would. On the back of the jacket was a huge illustration of a long-haired, long-horned goat. On the front was the identification:
Guy No. 2
Did I ever mention she’s a character? I have no idea why we get along so well.
Guy No. 2