Who Wears the Pants?
by Jennifer Sey
Over the last ten years, Dockers Khakis, once imagined as an expression of Boomer individuality, have become synonymous with the soulless office cubicle and suburban capitulation. As the newly anointed marketing lead for Dockers, I’ve found this challenge squarely in my sphere of accountability.
I’ve been at Levi Strauss and Company for more than ten years. It is no mistake I’ve chosen to stay there. The company has a long standing history of philanthropy and it makes durable, common sense products for a reasonable price. There’s nothing exorbitant, frivolous or tooth decay inducing about a quality pair of pants. My latest stint on Dockers has been the most fun I’ve ever had, professionally, in my life. When work, creativity and personal passion merge, it’s a jackpot of sorts.
We introduced our new ad campaign on December 1st to quite a bit of fanfare and robust conversation in the “blogosphere”. A nerve of sorts, appears to have been touched.
The campaign can be summed up with the tongue-in-cheek tagline “Wear the Pants”. We’re talking to men, the primary wearers of khaki pants, and trying to do so with a bit of sass.
While researching, we learned that men are a bit off their game these days. They’ve suffered 80% of the layoffs in the last year. Women outnumber men in the workforce for the first time in history. Women also outnumber men in higher education. Our culture heralds the “man-baby” - best represented by the leads in beer commercials (he always chooses beer over his girlfriend) or Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover, or Seth Rogen in anything – as a hero. He doesn’t conform. He doesn’t wear a suit. He does his own thing, which is apparently nothing. He loves video games and bongs and he shuns obligations. These pop culture man-babies are unkempt, unfit, have no direction and seemingly no pride. Sure they are funny. I laugh as much as anyone. But our culture has elevated this type of immaturity amongst men to unconscionable heights. Aren’t men insulted by this man-baby phenomenon? We thought they could use a little encouragement.
As we continued investigating, we were heartened by the fact that women have come so far. Women put forth viable female presidential and vice presidential candidates last year. Two of the three national nightly news anchors are women. Women work, mother, give money and time to good causes. They have positions of leadership while continuing to nurture in the home. They have maintained sensitivity while projecting authority and bringing a new sense of collaboration to the workplace. So why not encourage men to stand up and do the same? Women across the country told us: “I just want men to meet us where we are.”
Is it a lot to ask a company to be at the forefront of social change? Maybe. But I’d venture to say that companies have an obligation to be a part of it. Levi Strauss and Company has done so for many years: first company to integrate factories in the south in the 1960s before it was legally mandated, the first Fortune 500 company to offer benefits to same sex partners in the early 1990’s and the only company in California to file an amicus brief with the courts against Proposition 8.