Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Life is Good...Even in Traffic

I first became aware of Life is Good as something on a t-shirt we weren't exactly meant to have.

My daugther borrowed it from her cousin during a sleepover. (No matter how much she packs for a sleepover, she invariably comes back wearing some garment from her hostess and leaving some of hers behind.) Anyway, it was a soft cotton t-shirt, light blue, with a cartoon-like drawing of a smiling face (not the classic yellow smiley face but another kind of face, one with an open-teeth smile and wearing a beret) and the words Life Is Good printed underneath the image, in type that seemed to be dancing.

It soon became my daughter's favorite t-shirt, what with the color, the soft cotton and the fun, happy, easy-on-the-eye image. Being that her cousin is family, I let it slide that my daughter sort of "forgot" to ever return the shirt, and just wore it thin. (I owe you one, dear niece.)

A few weeks later, shopping in TJ Maxx, I saw this same logo printed on some canvas bags, good for carrying books or beachwear. It struck me that this logo was kind of simpatico. Happy, but without hitting you on the head with it. December came around, and while browsing through the hodge-podge of kids' clothing at Marshall's, a long-sleeve t-shirt with the logo randomly appeared. Hmm, this logo sure reproduces, I thought.

Most recently, I saw it in the most unlikely place. Driving to work in the morning, I'm staring at the cars in front of me, and an SUV, the kind with the spare tire hitched on the back door, had the logo on the spare tire cover. So it's official: Life is Good is going to keep popping up in my life. What is this thing?

The way the story goes, the logo is the creation of two brothers from Boston, Bert and John Jacobs, who unsuccessfully sold t-shirts for five years, until one happy day, for a street fair in Cambridge, they printed a set of t-shirts with the ever-happy face of a stick figure called Jake. They sold all 48 t-shirts that day and the rest is history. Their logo expanded into different variations of the same optimistic theme, and got imprinted on every kind of merchandise, hence the tire cover with the t-shirt logo. A Google review shows that they now sell millions, both online ( and in stores, including their own dedicated stores, which operate under franchise agreements. (None in Miami, though.) The company's web site is all about the good stuff, such as being green, donating to charity and holding community festivals. Life indeed is good for the Jacobs brothers.

How does something so simple generate such a merchandise empire? Beats me. But according to their story, they always felt that life is good, even when they weren't a huge success. One has to imagine that they also worked like dogs. Having lived in the Boston and Cambridge for 11 years, I can almost see them at it with conviction and perseverance, as those cities seem to engender the unrelenting kind.

But what I really like about this brand, so far, is that big as it seems to be, it has sort of sneaked on me, subtly, in unexpected places. I don't see ads for it in fashion magazines. In fact, I don't run into any promotional materia for it anywhere, I've just run into the actual merchandise. There is something fresh and organic about that.

So maybe I should heed the message and pass it along: Life is Good. And may we all end up with such happy stories as the Jake brothers.

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