False Nostalgia…

By Shawn Robare

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!

Braggin Dragon Ad Small

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.

Braggin Dragon Logo

Now, do I get this little guy tattooed above my heart on my chest? ;)

  • Yes. Make the tattoo appointment immediately

    • Booking that appointment now. Also gonna get a swatch tattooed to my wrist… ;)

  • Great post! Sums up that nostalgia feeling quite nicely.

  • No way was I sporting the alligator unless it was a hand-me-down from a cousin or something. My family was all about Sears and JcPenney for everything from clothes to appliances. I love the name “Braggin’ Dragon” — it’s nothing but a middle finger to Lacoste. So awesome.

    • Yeah, I have to hand it to them, definitely ballsy move on their marketing department!

  • MosEspa83

    Good defining of nostalgia! For me it’s the smell of something that can take me back in a heartbeat, I can’t get over that.

    • Smell is definitely strong for sense memory. I can pretty much still remember exactly what a Showbiz Pizza smells like, or the pizza scented scratch n’ sniff stickers that I loved getting on tests…

      • Michael Hay

        We got some Playdoh for our son this week and that is the no.1 smell that just takes me back to my youth! Incredibly powerful.

        • Oh wow, I’ve haven’t taken a hit off of Playdoh in forever, I’ll bet that’s a heady one…

  • Michael Hay

    Great article Shawn. I still have an extremely vivid memory of watching Back to the Future in the cinema in Scotland where I grew up and at the end the words “To Be Continued…” appeared and the whole theatre growned. But I’ve heard on many US podcasts recently that these words only appeared on the VHS release. Unless perhaps they added those words to the UK theatrical release because we normally got films 6 months after you guys. If not then it is indeed a very vivid, lucid but false memory!

    • I have a similar memory of seeing that at the end of the flick, but I have no excuses since I saw it on the first day of release here in the states. Hmm, wonder if I’m getting my memory confused with BTTF II I’d be willing to put money on it that you got that tag at the ending of the theatrical release since it was a little bit later though. Man, I need to see this flick on the big screen again…

      • Michael Hay

        I’ve had a search online and all I could find was the Wikipedia page which said that “When the film was released on VHS, Universal added a “To be continued…” graphic at the end to increase awareness of production on Part II. This caption is omitted on the film’s DVD release of 2002[15]and on subsequent Blu-ray and DVD releases.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_to_the_Future

        I really do have a strong memory of it being on the cinema release but I haven’t heard if they were definitely going to make a second one by the time it hit UK cinemas. I would be surprised it would be that set in stone so quickly. The sequel wasn’t out for another 4 years after all. Although the first movie does end with Doc saying they have to go and do something about their kids, so perhaps it was always on the cards.

        Who knows. Maybe it is indeed a false memory!

  • Great story! Don’t remember the Braggin’ Dragon personally, but pretty hilarious revelation.
    I (obviously) love nostalgia whether real or misremembered. It’s all good as far as I’m concerned.

    • Thanks, it has me wondering what else I’ve misremembered… 0_o

  • Chris Adcock

    Hah! I’m wearing a vintage Sears Dragon polo as I read this. I have three of them that I wear to the office occasionally. People are always fascinated by them because they expect the Lacoste logo and see a cool dragon instead. Then I get to tell them the history of the Sears Dragon! I’ve built a reasonable collection of vintage 80s polos over the years, with a variety of cool logos — Sears Dragon, Le Tigre, JC Penney Fox, Penguin, Lacoste… If you gotta wear business casual, you can at least geek it up a bit :)

    • You know, I haven’t thought to look around for vintage ones. Hmmm, I might have to start being more vigilant when combing through the thrift stores!

  • Chris Adcock

    Braggin’ Dragon!

    • That is too rad sir! Thanks for posting that by the by, loving seeing that brand in action!

  • A consumer opinion survey rated Toughskins denim jeans #1 in durability, #1 in value, and #1 in the ability to fart out tiny children who look positively delighted to have just emerged from someone’s ass.

    • Oh my god, I totally didn’t make the giant butt to kid turds connection, but now that is all I see!!!

  • ChiTownBoogie

    Very good defining of nostalgia! My nostalgia would be a song i remember singing and dancing to as a kid like “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” or “This is it” by Huey Lewis & The News. Or going back to my old neighborhood that i grew up in. I swear everytime i go back to my old neighborhood, it’s like i’m back in 1985 or 1986. It’s a beautiful thing. I also use to wear the Izod polo shirts alot. Especially for back to school time!

    • Yeah, Tears For Fears kind of defines that 80s sound. I need to take some time and walk around my old neighborhood in Tampa. It’s been like 30 years since I’ve been in that subdivision.

  • JSpicoli

    You’ve got that Jordache look