It’s no secret that Google has a potential fashion problem on its hands. As writer Matt Novak has tweeted in the past, “Google Glass is so futuristic it’s like wearing a Segway on your face.”
Glass will be one of the most revolutionary consumer products to hit the market in quite some time. Kevin Kelleher has written about the profound impact it could have on culture and privacy. And yet, for the most fashion conscious among us, there’s a chance that a normal human being would not be caught dead wearing them. Google knows this. And in promo shots, it has very pretty people showing them off.
That faux pas is part of the reason every other company has apparently opted to build a less conspicuous smartwatch as its debut to the world of wearable computing. Google, too, is reportedly even on the smartwatch train.
Here’s something that can help: Put Glass on a handsome celebrity sporting a slick side-part haircut and slim cut suit – the full GQ treatment – and put him on the cover of the magazine. Or put the glasses on Sergey Brin with said side-part and slim cut suit, and put him on the cover. Instant cool. Or manufactured cool. We’ll have to wait and see for that one.
Either way, GQ editor in chief Jim Nelson is already throwing you a bone, Google. He knows they are geeky. But despite his better fashion judgment, he wants a pair. From Nelson’s letter from the editor, in the April edition of the magazine:
“Let’s skip past the style question and the, well, optics for a moment. Let’s not get bogged down in dark thoughts, like: Wait, we’re going to take advice on fashion accessories from the same company that employs Eric Schmidt? Serial eyewear offender? Grand Poo-Bah of the Secret Order of Nerdus Maximus? And let’s repress the fact that early prototypes of the device appeared alarmingly goobery, in shades of color that include “tangerine” and “sky.” The glasses looked large and lunar, crypto-paranoid, like something Bono’s security goons would wear to a G8 event.
Let’s just concentrate on the technology, which, honestly, I’m amazed by.”
Nelson’s letter is a double-edged sword for Google. It confirms that, to the fashion powers that be, there is indeed a stigma. Not a complete shocker, but having it down in ink is a blow. However, for Nelson, the coolness of the technology trumps the un-coolness of the form factor. He then proceeds to write an open letter-within-the-letter to Google, stating his case for why he should be “the very, very, very first person to own a pair.” The letter itself is mostly silly, but his desire to own the glasses feels genuine.
Interestingly enough, the two brands – Google and GQ – share a similar concern here. One of the most common criticisms against GQ is that no one actually dresses like the people in GQ’s pages outside the coasts. Sure, New York, LA and San Francisco wear their trends on the daily, but what about in the flyover states? Similarly, will the non-techie elite or wealthy bite on Google Glass? Getting the price point down to a more reasonable level than $1,500 will certainly help, but image is also crucial. The potential “Mark of the Nerd,” as Nelson puts it, is a potent deterrent.
Whatever the case, Google’s got nothing to lose in getting publicity from such a stalwart fashion authority. Brin should probably gift wrap a pair of specs and send it over to the Conde Nast building, stat.
(Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk on Flickr.)