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There’s a reason why Robert Zimmerman, John Stephens, and Peter Hernandez became Bob Dylan, John Legend, and Bruno Mars — and why The Cape of Storms in South Africa was renamed as The Cape of Good Hope: A person, place, or thing’s name has a lot to do with the way we perceive them.
Remember Mad Men’s first season finale, when Don Draper rebrands Kodak’s slide projector — originally called “The Wheel” — as “The Carousel,” a product that “lets us travel the way a child travels” — and everyone’s so completely overcome with emotion that some of them have to leave the pitch meeting just to stop themselves from crying? And who was the genius who decided to start calling pleather “vegan leather”?
The point is, names matter. And not one of us is 100 percent immune to their influence — least of all, yours truly. My own personal weakness? Anything called “Bardot.”
I can’t remember exactly when iconic French actress Brigitte Bardot became my style icon, but it seems like it was always meant to be. Her oft-imitated early-‘60s style, with the long tousled hair, flicked black liner, and pinched-waist dresses, felt like it belonged to me as much as it did her.
It was because of her that I began wearing off-the-shoulder tops several seasons before they were heralded as the new It-silhouette, along with the high-waisted jeans, ballet flats, Breton tops, jersey headbands, full skirts, hair bows, and adult pigtails that all helped define her aesthetic.
Of course, the fact is that I’m nowhere near the only girl to feel this way about Brigitte Bardot. And much to my delight (and my wallet’s chagrin), clothing brands have caught on. It used to be that I’d spend my spare time scouring the internet for vintage photos of Bardot to reference when I did my shopping — but now, it’s like my favorite stores and websites are doing most of the work for me.
At Topshop, off-the-shoulder dresses and tops are no longer referred to by the way they drape off your arms; they’re simply called “Bardot.” It’s the same thing at ASOS: A search for “Bardot” turns up no fewer than 540 results, even when the word isn’t part of the item’s name. Zara, too; ditto H&M.
Footwear brand Repetto’s classic ballet flat has come to be known as the “BB,” while the pointy-toed version is called the “Brigitte.” Earlier this summer, I purchased two versions of a gingham, high-waisted bikini bottom from the swimwear site Solid & Striped after misreading its name as “Brigitte.” Its actual name: “The Bridget”.
My most recent obsession is Free People’s “Bardot” block heel: a square-toe, quarter-strap shoe in a snakeskin print with a retro round buckle that, frankly, I’m not sure I’d ever look at twice if it weren’t for its name. I also can’t even find any photographic evidence of Bardot ever wearing any shoes that are remotely similar in style. No matter — they’re currently perched atop my list of new-season needs.
The weird thing is that I’m actually more critical of items named after myself (well, those named “Nora”) than those called Bardot. It never occurred to me that my first name might conjure up images of a beaded choker necklace, or a fake leather dining bench, or an expensive suede sandal. Then again, maybe that’s how Brigitte Bardot feels every time she sees a pair of cropped, flare-legged pants with her name on them.
Am I a slave to marketing? No question. But having majored in advertising in undergrad, I like to think that being conscious of the fact makes it somehow more acceptable. Besides, it’s not like I’m whipping out my Visa card for just any old frivolous frippery with the name Bardot slapped onto it: Those Free People shoes would totally elevate any fall outfit — I can even see them looking cute with tights in the winter. I mean… they would, right?
Now the only question that remains is: Should I get them in pink or tan?