Nostalgia and memories are the closest thing to a time machine that we have, that we’ll ever have. The power that images of old toy and food packaging can have over an individual is astounding, transporting them instantly to a day when they were a child in a store, staring up at a coveted item or watching as their parent handed over that week’s groceries to a cashier to be rung up. Holding an Atari joystick will remind you what that orange shag carpeting felt like between your toes when you were trying desperately to figure out how to find all the pieces of E.T.’s makeshift radio transmitter. For me, just the sight of a Little Orphan Orange Otter Pop instantly makes me remember sitting on one of those ground mounted transformer units, those big green metal power boxes that pepper the landscape of most suburbs. I can feel the thing burning my butt and thighs through my long surf shorts as I sucked on that pop and chatted about skateboarding with a friend. It’s an intense feeling, like a drug sometimes. There have been moments where I stumble across something that I completely forgot about and literally doubled over as if I were punched in the gut. The disbelief that I had forgotten, or more accurately neglected some cherished thing and memory is such a strong and weird feeling. Running a site like Branded, well I’ve made a hobby out of recalling those memories and doing my best to inspire them in others.
So it was weird this past week when I found an advertisement in an old issue of People magazine that both punched me in and gut with remembering, but also made me realize that I’ve had nostalgic feelings for something I actually never had or experienced. How many folks out there associate the 80s with wearing Lacoste kid’s polo shirts? I know I did. I could care less about clothes brands at the time, and I didn’t even know the Lacoste or Izod names, but I thought it was pretty darn cool that a bunch of my shirts had little alligator patches on them! Part of this was growing up in Florida and seeing gator imagery everywhere, so it was also pretty cool to see those little patches on shirts. It played into this sense that I had at the time that Florida was the center of the country, the center of cool (later on, when I moved up north for awhile, I was astounded when most of the kids didn’t even know what surfing was!) I mean, even if you never had one, who doesn’t remember this little guy?
It’s not like I only wore Lacoste shirts, or I have an intense nostalgic love for the rad little gator patch, but it is an aspect of my childhood that I remembered fondly. Well, at least I thought I did until I saw the following 1981 Sears advertisement that jogged my memory enough to make me realize I never had any little gator patch shirts!
As I flipped to this page in that old People magazine my jaw dropped at the sight of that little Dragon patch. Braggin’ Dragon branded polos. It was the fire coming out of its mouth, that little burst of flame that I remembered on my own shirts as a kid. I instantly was transported back to a time as a kid when I thought my shirt was cooler than a friends because mine had a reptile that could BREATH FREAKING FIRE. Top that. So stumbling on this ad was sort of bittersweet with the reconnection to something I had as a kid and the realization that for the past 15 years I’ve been fondly remembering the Lacoste gator for no good reason. Misplaced, misremembered nostalgia. False. It’s a lesson about how easy one can jumble memories, how idealized thoughts of the past can become. It’s also another shining example of why I love ephemera so much. These old mom magazines full of old advertisements and photoshoots are a version of the truth that’s set in stone. They’re a Rosetta Stone that can unlock the past in ways that our own minds alone are often times incapable of processing.
Now, do I get this little guy tattooed above my heart on my chest? ;)