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Rah! The Good News According to Jack Wills

April 11, 2011

Dave Bish unpicks the Jack Wills dream (first posted at his blog)

Jack Wills has a gospel and they’re keen to proselytise you. If you’re rich and beautiful enough or just prepared to give your heart it you too can live their dream – though really this is no gospel for the poor and the weak and the old and the ugly, this religion wont have room for you.

They pitch to the kind of rah students who make up some of the population of some South West universities – especially Exeter and Bristol… The Jack Wills gospel plays on the idealised picture of student life – lots of time, money, cool clothes and beautiful friends. Hard to imagine why they think that’s appealing…

Their recent ad campaign was banned, as The Guardian reports. Jack Wills’ Provocative Ads Banned for presenting a risk to younger teenagers…. not sure taking away the advert is going to take away the desire or the appeal though. The current controversy will only help their viral approach to marketing.

One of our interns wrote on the theology of Jack Wills earlier this year, asking:
Can Jesus deliver what Jack Wills can’t?

“In the catalogue, people are free to have a Christmas party in the middle of the forest, or lounge around endlessly on an eternal summer holiday. There are no restraints on money or time. There’s the freedom of luxury- there’s a rich feast laid out- it’s left untouched, but that doesn’t matter, because they can afford the decadent lifestyle. There’s the freedom to be naked without shame, so to speak- they have the freedom to exhibit themselves without feeling any embarrassment.
There’s the freedom of fun- anything goes in the party world, going to an underground gig in a haze of neon, getting soaked in an impromptu water fight. This links to the freedom of independence- there are no authority figures in the catalogue, no responsibilities to be fulfilled. There’s even the freedom to be spiritual, if they like, as a girl ambiguously kneels prostrate on a rug remarkably like a prayer mat, or another reflectively looks out across the water. Finally, there is freedom in casual relationships, as this group of friends live together, sleep together, kiss at parties, wake up after the party together. There are no rules, no boundaries, just pure liberty. As Poppy Vernon writes in the Observer, ‘Jack Wills sells an appealing version of life.’”

One has to ask what kind of freedom it really is… and later in life, marketing sells on the security of family, is Jack Wills just a fleeting dream?

“However, while this picture might be aesthetically pleasing, it’s also flawed. The freedom of being IN, being accepted, is conditional. When you put on weight or grow old or just don’t follow the values of the popular crowd, suddenly the “freedom to be yourself” is exposed as false- the freedom of acceptance is only there as long as you fit the mould. For example, when Jack Wills was casting for their Autumn handbook, the successful applicants have to be ‘extrovert 18 – 25 year olds!
Girls, size 8 – 10. Boys, tall and slim.’ They act ‘We are only interested in people who can ACT, and are very outgoing.’
Being ‘potential Jack Wills model material’ means being within a tiny, exclusive fraction of the population. If we seek after this kind of acceptance, we’ll find ourselves becoming slaves to the whims of the in-crowd, and not really being free to be ourselves at all. Haven’t we all exaggerated certain interests or elements of our personality to look better, or covered over the characteristics we’re ashamed of?”

What’s the alternative? Does our desire for freedom point to something better? Why is it we want freedom from shame? Why do we want acceptance? Why do we want intimacy? Are these things available, lastingly? Differently? What if I’m not fit and strong? What if I’m not one of life’s winners? What if I can’t save myself? And for that matter, how free is the freedom of buying into a £42 million turnover brand?

Perhaps, as a beginning, the Triune God would say, “I’m the fountain of life, yet those I created…

…have committed two evils: they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
(Jeremiah 2:13 ESV)

It’s good that you thirst, but not everything can quench that thirst.
Rebel against the crowd and listen to the one who said “All who are thirsty…”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2011 10:37 am

    Empty cisterns indeed – this advert is beautiful, sexy and deadly – encouraging people to try and buy in to happiness or worse, believe that this depiction of happiness is actually what makes you happy – plainly Jack Wills only cares about Jack Wills.
    – perhaps some of those media types might like to spend some work experience time listening to young people with no self esteem or pride in themselves because of rubbish like this.

  2. Frances Matthews permalink
    May 1, 2011 10:29 pm

    Jack Wills is good but too overpriced

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