This season, the Los Angeles Dodgers plan to play six games in Brooklyn Dodgers uniforms—three different possible styles will be narrowed to one by fan voting. The Daily News found an old man who was really mad about this. “Are they nuts?” the 81-year old asked. “These days,” he added, “anything will happen.” (A 73-year-old man felt differently. “”I think that would be neat,” he said. But this Brooklyn Dodgers “fan” today lives in Queens, invalidating his opinion.)
The move, though, is really just the latest example of a corporation cashing on the Brooklyn brand—once scary, now valuable.
In the 80s and 90s, as New York sank into decline, “Brooklyn” became synonymous with hip-hop-inflected crime—with African-American-ness. But in the years after Giuliani, during which some people from Manhattan moved to Brooklyn voluntarily, the borough’s image was reinvented; it became the hot spot of the aughties—artsy, affluent, and safe. In the cultural imagination, “Brooklyn” became “white” again.
As a result, marketers have been jumping to get in on it, from around the corner to across the country. A Brooklyn-themed bar, The Brooklyneer, opened in the West Village. Carnival, a kid-friendly nightclub at Times Square’s Bowlmor, last month renamed itself The Coney Island Room. (A nice place to drink after eating at the Brooklyn Diner on 43rd Street?) Last week, Frank Bruni chronicled the battle between two companies using the Brooklyn brand (one as Breuckelen, also the name of a new restaurant in Cobble Hill) to sell gin. He writes:
As Brooklyn as possible: a decade ago that might have been the goal of a pizza baker or hot-dog maker. Now it’s the rallying cry of a broader, trendier array of food and beverage entrepreneurs (as well as garage bands, budding designers and more). New Yorkers’ obsession with all things culinary, refracted through Brooklyn’s exaltation of all things artisanal, has led to beers, jams, mustards, spiced nuts, cheeses and more made in Brooklyn and marketed with an emphasis on that provenance.
But it’s not just local businesses exploiting the brand. “Corporations are Brooklynizing,” a Times article from December declared. Last year, Camel introduced Williamsburg-themed cigarettes. Ford ran a two-page ad in the New Yorker celebrating trends the borough did set or is setting, while the Gap opened a store in Midtown over the holidays celebrating foods found in Brooklyn.
30 Rock spoofed this development on a recent episode called “Brooklyn Without Limits,” titled after a cool clothing store:
Jack: Do you know who owns Brooklyn Without Limits?
Liz: Brooklyn Zack. He throws pool parties in dumpsters.
Jack: Halliburton. In the mid-nineties they found themselves with a surplus of canvas waterboarding hoods, so they had sweatshops make them into messenger bags to sell to outerburough idiots.
Corporate co-option of The Cool has sadly become an inevitability, and eventually Brooklyn will fade from the popular culture when a cooler place replaces it in the cultural imagination. But it’s insulting that the Dodgers, of all fucking people, would try to get in on this. That old man was right—are they crazy? You stole our fucking baseball team, assholes!