A young woman enters a singles bar. She's got long, shiny brown hair, a lithesome swagger... and impossibly snug jeans. Men's heads turn. She joins the guy whose shirt is unbuttoned to the waist. And as if the camera itself were smitten, the picture appears slightly blurred and dim.
Do not adjust your set. The original Jordache jeans TV commercial from 1979 is back. The company has dusted off the ad--and its famous jingle, "You've got the look/I want to know better"--to mark the return of its original line of women's jeans to stores.
In fashion circles, the new Jordaches couldn't be better timed. The Book of Paul might affirm that "the fashion of this world passeth away," but fashion also returneth. Especially lately. Styles taken from the 1970s and '80s are marching relentlessly down designer runways. "Since everything else right now seems to be a rehash, it seemed like the return of Jordache was the next thing to happen," says Sasha Charnin, a fashion editor at Allure magazine. She believes the company is smart to take advantage of the retro moment in fashion. "Why shouldn't the people who were responsible for them [in the first place] get a piece of the action now?"
The styling on the new Jordache Originals is virtually identical to the jeans from 22 years ago, down to the horse-head logo. There's just one key difference: Lycra. "Stretch denim is very hot right now," says David Grant Caplan, a market editor for Women's Wear Daily. The extra give means "you don't have to grease yourself into a pair."
Back in the days of the terrifically tight fit, the brand sold well. Of course, Jordache was less upscale than designer jeans from the likes of Gloria Vanderbilt or Calvin Klein. And 20 years later, Jordache Originals remain a decidedly midmarket product. Selling for about $50, they're found in less-than-luxurious mall stores like Wet Seal.
But the look itself--contoured to the hips, worn with high heels and lots of jewelry--is now cutting-edge fashion. Back in the disco era, "Jordache was for a cheesier audience," says Karen Hanes, an editor at Glamour. "Now it's for a chic audience. In fact, they look better on someone who understands high fashion." Think Carrie Bradshaw on "Sex and the City." Ultratight jeans are so of the moment, Hanes says, that their proponents form some kind of secret society: "If you see somebody wearing them, it's like they're in the know. They know they're back in again."
The 1979 commercial, originally recorded on videotape, stands out vividly when aired between new and far slicker ads produced on film. The first jeans commercial on TV, it cost Jordache very little back then. Produced, directed and edited by Howard Goldstein for just $15,000 (a sum he calls "ridiculously low"), the spot indulges in a low-budget look that by today's standards looks like a "Saturday Night Live" parody. (In fact, SNL's Gilda Radner knocked off Jordache brilliantly in a parody spot for "Jewess Jeans," the punchline of which was a Star of David stitched on Radner's behind.)
Younger viewers might be confused by the old commercial, but it isn't really aimed at them. "A lot of people have such positive nostalgia associated with the brand that it feels like a friend has come back into their lives," says Michael Riego, Jordache's vice president of advertising and marketing. "You just smile, because of all the memories you have associated with it." Of course, if a 20-year-old is charmed by the spot and picks up a pair of Jordache Originals, the company won't complain.
But mention the ad to just about any American thirtysomething, and he or she will probably be able to sing the entire tune: "You've got the look/I want to know better. You've got the look/that's all together. Workin'... Playin'... Day or night, Jordache has/the fit that's right." Says Allure's Charnin--after quoting the lyrics verbatim: "Jordache is a complete icon, because you'll never forget that commercial." The ad built not only a brand, she adds, but "a whole feeling."
THAT '70S MOMENT
Maybe that's because in its flat, tacky way, the spot somehow captured a cultural moment in the late '70s. While feminists objected to the spot's multiple shots of the girl's shrink-wrapped behind, the ad also expressed many women's aspirations at the time for greater independence and sexual freedom. "Sociologically, it was the first time a woman [in a commercial] walked into a bar unescorted," points out producer-director Goldstein, now a senior branding partner with BrandOne.com. "If you look at ads prior to that, or even now, women are either with a man or a girlfriend or a group of people." The young star of the commercial is also seen working as a model on a fashion shoot (in the same tight jeans, of course) and, in the final seconds, disco dancing--arms in air, hips gyrating--with four men at once.
Goldstein may be going slightly too far when he calls the commercial a mix of "social realism" and "fantasy." Or is he? As Charnin puts it, thinking fondly of her own adolescence as a Jordache fan: "When the girl is dancing in the satin shirt and the jeans--who didn't want to be her?" Or want to know her better.