Review: X-Static Fabric

2007-01-01

From Peace Magazine Vol.23, No.1: Jan-Mar 2007.
Made by Noble Biomaterials, Scranton, PA. No retail price given.

Every few weeks or so, publishers send things to Peace Magazine which really belong at some other magazine—or perhaps which should never have been published in the first place. Because we write about war and conflict, some publishers think we’ll be particularly interested in reviewing the sorts of books which think war is great, the army is always right, and patriotism is the greatest virtue.

Most of the time, the worst that happens is that these books go straight to the slush-pile. Recent casualties have been a history of Iwo Jima; a D-Day memoir; a World War Two workbook for schoolkids; and so forth. Every now and then, however, stranger folks want to share their products with us and let us know how they’re playing the patriot card.

The first of this month’s padded envelopes came from the public relations firm Rosica, promoting a type of cotton fiber called X-Static. Inside was a one-page press release and a khaki t-shirt, which turned out to fit me fairly well.

The press release explained that what makes X-Static special is a special coating of pure silver, which can perform all sorts of wonders, from removing body odor to regulating temperature. It is rather cosy, and I do seem to smell less when I wear it.

But here’s the clincher. The press release tells us that X-Static has antimicrobial properties which “limit infection if wounded”— an important consideration for the company’s favored customer: the US military. Rosica goes on to ask us to “consider writing on how [X-Static] can protect the men and women of the US armed forces as they fight for our freedom.”

I have to admit that I’m fairly neutral on the US army’s fashion choices, am glad that there’s a product which makes it slightly less likely that they’ll develop life-threatening infections, and have no particular aversion to wearing a khaki-colored undershirt. Leaving the “freedom” bafflegab aside, the marketing strategy was subtle – strong on military chic and generally light on the rhetoric. They didn’t even give the manufacturer’s name, let alone any contact details short of the publicist’s phone number.

A few weeks later we got a second, even stranger envelope. Ralstin and Associates wanted to tell us about a set of moulded plastic figurines. A glossy color print shows painted resin likenesses of Popeye and Betty Boop sitting astride motorcycles while wearing patriotic headgear — a “USA” bandana for Popeye and a Stars and Stripes kerchief for Betty. We’re told that:

For the very first time, these two beloved characters have been created in a truly All American setting. That’s right! American Patriots through and through … These two handcrafted collectable reproductions, displayed in home, office, or wherever, will instantly draw attention, and evoke feelings of patriotism.

Now, the Freedom Chopper’s publicist may have sincerely believed he wasn’t completely wasting his time in writing to Peace, despite our unpatriotic title and our quite literally un-American address. But I’m still not clear on whether we’re supposed to be joining the war on terror or the war on taste.

Ken Simons is managing editor of Peace.