Hardcore Piracy

Several years ago I was chewing the fat with a cook who I worked with. We were talking about biking in Nashville- I had noticed him walking his sweet 1990s Cannondale fixie into the restaurant a few days earlier, and this day I had seen him swing his bike off of Charlotte Ave. and into the parking lot, sweat dripping from his bare head down his face.

After shooting the shit about biking for a few minutes, I had to ask him: "Dude, what's with not wearing a helmet?" I'm lame, I'll admit it, but riding bareheaded in bike-unfriendly Nashville seems to be an especially perilous choice. It's just a big risk to take for some coolness, is all I'm saying. Why not get a helmet with some flames on it, or skulls, and call it even?

He cocked his head a little and paused after taking in a little breath- kind of a where-do-I-begin move- and started schooling the newbie. The first words of his explanation: "I'm hardcore..."

He stopped there, but there was an upward, almost interrogative lilt to "hardcore," indicating to me that he was about to continue the sentence with a "so..." But he didn't have to- the intro said it all. I'm hardcore, and hardcore motherfuckers don't wear helmets. Period. I think the conversation ended with me suggesting that the hardness of one's core cannot prevent one's head from being splattered across the #10 bus out to Wal-Mart. (Note: I later worked with this guy at another place, but he quit after a few days- and returned his stuff at like 3am so he wouldn't see the chef who hired him. Decidedly softcore, that was. Maybe even downright pussy.) 

I'm not hardcore on the bike in the no-helmet way, but I am dedicated. It's a mode of transportation for me, not just a leisure activity. I don't go for "bike rides" on nice days; I ride almost every day. I ride to work when it's wet and when it's windy. I ride home at 1am. I ride to the store. I get places. I run errands. Caitlyn's engagement ring rode home from the jewelry store in my backpack, right next to my U-lock and windbreaker.

Money on bike stuff is well spent. $50 gloves, $100 lights? That's what I buy instead of gas. We bike commuters and urban riders don't really "gear up" for rides; we just roll up our right pant leg, put on our gloves and backpacks and go.  And we take pride in doing it that way. No bank-branded lycra shorts or $200 cleated shoes. Handlebar-mounted computer monitoring cadence? Nope. Heart-rate monitor? Get real.

So my wife, who is pretty hardcore herself on the commuting front, bought me this print from the guys at Aesthetic Apparatus in Minneapolis- they spoke at an AIGA conference a few years back and brought their wares. It's a great silkscreen, and it captures the whole ethos of the bike commuter. It hangs in our dining room.

It's all there: the rolled pants, the hairy leg, the jeans and clunky shoes. It's a sweet piece- undeniably us.

Nashville's a small town. I am constantly reminded of this. The professional circles and tribes are even smaller. If you're a songwriter, you know the other songwriters. The wine circle is tight here. Same with the design circle- my wife's in that one. And you can bet that when the guys from a respected design shop like Aesthetic Apparatus show up in Nashville, that circle closes in around them. I'm sure a lot of designers took prints home from that show with them, too. I bet a lot took inspiration. Some, evidently, took more.

Nashville Oktoberfest just happened, and they advertised in the Scene, as well as on small billboards around the city. They knew who they were going after: the craft beer crowd who is old enough to afford $79 (or whatever) for a day of drinking but not too old to dress up in lederhosen. But what would catch their eye? Something slick? Naw- this is Oktoberfest. Something rustic maybe? Folksy? Teutonic? Maybe something like... THIS?!

Come ON Nashville Oktoberfest! Come the fuck ON! I don't like to rat anybody out, but you're just asking for it. Right down to the shoes, the socks- even the hair on the legs! You even changed the angle of the sock stripes in what seems to be an ass-covering effort to make your poster slightly different than the original. What, were you looking at the original when you made (I use this term loosely) this? I have many questions, but the one I would ask you is this: How is this not a total ripoff of the Aesthetic Apparatus poster**?

If you're a creative person, you have a style, and it's influenced by the work of others. Some wear that influence proudly. If you're a songwriter, it's cool to have a "little Elvis Costello" in your sound. But it's another to play New Amsterdam and tell everyone you wrote it. 

I'm out of line. Nashville Oktoberfest, it's not your fault. I'm sure you didn't do your branding and design work yourself. If I'm not mistaken, you probably hired a company to do that for you. I bet they pitched you some ideas and some posters, you went through several rounds of revisions, and they brought you this. You were excited about it. They were excited about it. You said "Let's do it!"

It's not your fault- you can't be expected to vet every idea your trusted branding company brings to you. But ouch- it's you who looks like the thief. Of course, if it is Aesthetic Apparatus that did this branding project (or authorized the use of what can only be called their work), then won't I be an ass. But I doubt it- their mark is nowhere else to be seen. I'll refrain from naming the group that I believe did it, but I know who they are. They know who they are. And they know they ripped AA off- hardcore.

Full hat-tip to my wife. She's the one with the eye for design, and she's the one who noticed the striking similarities between the legs on our beloved poster and those of the Germanic reveler on the Oktoberfest poster.

**And you can't see this, but the hairy, pool-table-like legs in the Oktoberfest poster stick out of shorts that are just as boxy as the jeans in the original pic.

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