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Why the sour grapes for Lululemon

poster_E_red_2008Both the New York Times and New York Magazine seem to have something up their asanas when it comes to Lululemon, the Vancouver-based company that makes popular athletic apparel. Rob Walker aimed the first arrow in his July 21st article, Marketing Pose, which asked if Lululemon is contributing to the commodification of yoga and to what degree Lulu has become a phony baloney brand ripe for Starbuckian oversaturation.

Lust for Lulu, a glib, high-snark piece by Bryant Urstadt, followed on August 3rd in  New York Magazine. Urstadt’s seems more personally offended by Lulu even though his wife manages to sell her used items on Ebay for 60% of the retail price. He’s so convinced that Lululemon is a cult, you’d think he was writing about Scientology, “The Luluheads are everywhere, at least in neighborhoods where wealth and some groping toward spirituality coincide…” And he dwells on the “blithely ironic model of charging people good money to pursue an essentially ascetic practice.”  Please. Can you even remember the last time yoga was an ascetic practice in this country? It had to be before Madonna did her first downward-facing dog and that was decades ago.

lululemonLulu is essentially a female sportswear brand with a successful marketing niche that we haven’t seen since Lacoste made tennis dresses typical Hamptons weekend wear. Are these male reporters so dense not to notice that 75% of American men, regardless of their athletic prowess, wear Nike shirts, Adidas shoes, basketball jerseys, and baseball caps on almost a daily basis? These incredibly commonplace clothing choices aren’t just based fandom, though that’s part of it. Wearing sports-inspired clothing (whether Yankees hats or yoga pants) confers upon the wearer a virtual membership in the Sports Lifestyle. Which is exactly what Lulu is selling. What’s eluded these male reporters is a peek into their very own closets—or are they implictly saying that the success of a company like Lululemon is more suspect because it’s happening in women’s wear?

Do you wear yoga clothes even if you’re not doing yoga? Tell us here.