I was around fourteen years old when I decided to stop wearing clothes with visible brand logos. I was becoming more politicized, and I was beginning to extend my critique of capitalism, consumerism, and the general creepiness of corporate advertising to the personal choices I made – the things I bought, the food I ate, and the clothes I wore. It was an easy decision to make, and there were many reasons to make it.
For starters, I realized that when I wore a piece of clothing with a brand logo on it, I was a walking commercial. I was basically like one of those world-famous tennis players who gets paid millions to wear Nike or Adidas or Lacoste every time they step on the court – minus the getting paid millions part. Instead, I was advertising for free. In fact, it was worse – I was giving the company my money, for the opportunity to advertise for them, and thus earn them even more money…pretty messed up, no?
The realization that I didn’t want to be a human billboard was pretty simple. But as I thought more about my clothes, what felt even more profound for me – especially as someone concerned with the politics of class and culture – was the way that I was playing into a deeply oppressive hierarchy of wealth and status. When we wear sweatshirts that say “Polo,” “American Eagle,” “Nautica,” or “Old Navy,” we’re not just advertising the brands. We’re also advertising ourselves as people who wear those brands. We’re saying, “I spent a certain amount of money on this sweatshirt.” And implicit in that message is also, “I can afford to buy this sweatshirt – and I want you to know that.” And implicit in that message is, “What sweatshirt can you afford to buy?”
Consumer culture in the U.S. instills in us, or attempts to instill in us, a sense of shame/pride based on what we consume. And because of the way class functions in our culture, when we participate in conspicuous consumption, we’re not just affecting ourselves – we’re taking part in a larger system that assigns shame/pride (not to mention value) to other people, too.
I’m 24 years old now, so my decision to drop logos on my clothes is just about ten years old. And for the last ten years, other than a couple of concessions here or there to a thrifted sweatshirt or jacket, I’ve been pretty consistent. But recently I realized that for the last year and a half, I’ve been doing extensive amounts of free advertising for a multinational, multibillion-dollar company…
See, I have an iPhone, and I’m not gonna lie, I do love the thing. But every time I send an email from it – which is almost every day – my phone does me the favor of appending a neat little signature to the end of my email: “Sent from my iPhone.”
I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this, but when I did, I was pretty thrown. To me, the “Sent from my iPhone” signature is basically like sealing the virtual envelope of every email I send with a huge Apple logo. It’s like adding a consumer identity onto my resume – “Naomi Gordon-Loebl: writer, educator, organizer, Apple user.” Yuck.
And what is the point, really? Oh sure, Applephiles claim the signature has utilitarian purposes – “It’s an explanation for brevity/typos in my email!” is a popular rationale. But then why doesn’t it say, “. Please excuse any brevity and/or typos”? The answer is, of course, because then people wouldn’t know that you are using not just any mobile device, but an Apple iPhone.
Smartphones in particular have launched a cult of brand identification. People talk about being “a Blackberry person” or “an iPhone person,” and the idea that your smartphone says something about you is disturbingly pervasive. But what does it mean that I am “an iPhone person”? What does it mean that we are essentially waving our cellphone bills around in our email signatures, like expensive watches, country club membership cards, or, yes – big POLO logos emblazoned across our chests?
I don’t know – but I do know that I’m done with feeling like my emails are being sent straight from Apple’s marketing division. As of today, I’ve removed the “Sent from my iPhone” signature from my phone. If someone really needs to know why I’m being brief, or why a run of the mill compliment seems to have been replaced with the name of everyone’s favorite 90s boy band, I’ll just tell them – “By the way, sorry to be brief – writing this email from my phone.”
Want to remove the “Sent from my iPhone” signature from your email, too? Here’s how…
1. From your iPhone’s home screen, go to “Settings.”
2. Tap “Mail, Contacts, Calendars.”
3. Scroll down and tap “Signature.”
4. The default signature is “Sent from my iPhone,” so if you’ve never changed it, that’s what it will say. Tap “Clear” to erase it – then either replace it with something else or just hit the “Home” button to return home. Congratulations – your emails will still be sent from your iPhone, but now the whole world doesn’t have to know.