Levi's bit of rough and the smoothies who wear Gap

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The Independent Online

Remember Bobos – Bourgeois Bohemians? They were all the rage several minutes ago in America – or until dot com went wrong. The idea was of a new kind of youngish/young-at-heart, middle-class person. A dressed-down, in-touch-with-his-feelings, slightly creative type. Someone who blended entrepreneurialism with an independent questy kind of spirit, who retained the Bohemian habits of his teens and twenties.

Remember Bobos – Bourgeois Bohemians? They were all the rage several minutes ago in America – or until dot com went wrong. The idea was of a new kind of youngish/young-at-heart, middle-class person. A dressed-down, in-touch-with-his-feelings, slightly creative type. Someone who blended entrepreneurialism with an independent questy kind of spirit, who retained the Bohemian habits of his teens and twenties.

And some of the dress code too. At a mass level – early-stage Palo Alto man, not Bill Gates – Gap was an obvious Bobo supplier. Never exactly wildly funky but simple informal, classic. Other big Bobo suppliers were Starbucks, with its sofas and newspapers, and Ben and Jerry, the happy multi-millionaire hippies.

The Bobo businesses, Capitalism Lite, are interesting enough – the ones anti-globalisation protesters particularly like trashing. They say they're an insidious kind of exploitation because they come in disguise. Better by far, say the anti-globalists, that they present like Reagan-era iron-clads because that's what they really are.

Anyway, I've just watched the new Gap ads back to back with the new Levi's ones. In the Gap commercials, attractive people do dancing – not group/formation dancing but individual bits of showing off, somewhere between exercise video and self-expression.

The girls look amazingly clean and simple – one black in jeans and white T, one white in jeans and classic white shirt – the kind of Seventh Avenue clean and simple that takes hours of stylists and make-up and hair to get right. The kind of simple that makes you think of Scavullo, the 1970s New York portrait photographer, the early-days Tes-tino. And my God aren't they positive, these girls? Aren't they smiley? And isn't "Bend me, shake me, any way you want me" a hoot as the dance track? Aren't they having it all. Though it's differently styled, the moral is terribly like those full-colour hair arc shampoo pitches.

"For every generation", they say meaningfully after they've finished their little jigs – the jeans, the music, the lot. (Gap is currently running blow-up photographs of mature celebrities in Gap jeanswear in its windows.) The company is part of the American be-25-till-you-die movement.

There's a boy treatment too; he's doing such awful look-at-me white college boy jerks and wiggles to Quincy Jones' old soul classic "Stuff Like That", you think humour must have intruded. But not a bit of it: he says his deep little line too and it's clear that he's massively self-absorbed, utterly humourless, surely voted the cutest lightly bearded slacker of the year. I bet he's got a beanie hat too.

Meanwhile, the new Levi's commercial made by Brits is as poignantly disgusting as anything by Tracey Emin. Hoxton types rub themselves against horrible problem-estate surfaces like shuttered concrete and pitted aluminium. They take up painful postures and they look mad as snakes.

Thank God.

peter@sru.co.uk

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