10 Facts About The Gap for Its 50th Anniversary

Drew Angerer, Getty Images
Drew Angerer, Getty Images

On August 21, 1969, real estate developer and entrepreneur Donald Fisher and his wife Doris raised $63,000 and opened the first The Gap store, in San Francisco. The name was short for “generation gap,” which was a better name than what Don wanted to name it: Pants and Discs. What began as one store that sold jeans and records eventually ballooned into 3594 worldwide locations in 43 countries. To celebrate The Gap’s 50th anniversary, here are 10 fashionable facts about the iconic label.

1. DON FISHER STARTED THE Gap BECAUSE HE COULDN’T FIND A PAIR OF JEANS THAT FIT.

As the story goes, 40-year-old Don Fisher started out renovating hotels and purchased the Capitol Park Hotel in Sacramento. There, he leased showroom space to jeans retailer Levi Strauss and Co. “When Mr. Fisher tried to buy a pair for himself there, however, he could not find a pair with a 31-inch inseam,” The New York Times wrote. “Nor could he find a pair of that size in San Francisco department stores, which stocked Levi’s with 30-inch and 32-inch inseams but not 31.”

He suggested to Levi’s that they should open a place where customers could buy all sizes in one store, a sort of one-stop shop. The Fishers hadn’t worked in apparel before, but they used one of their storefronts to open the first location of The Gap. In five years the gambit paid off—sales hovered around $97 million. In 1975, Don told The San Francisco Chronicle his simple adage to sell jeans: “People wear pants, and they’re going to continue to wear pants.”

2. IN 1972, THE Fishers STARTED THEIR OWN jeans LABEL.

Gap jeans are displayed at a Gap store on February 20, 2014 in San Francisco, California
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

At first, The Gap sold Levi’s and up to 15 national brands. Three years into the business, the Fishers introduced The Gap brand of jeans, T-shirts, and sweatshirts and eventually phased out the other brands. By 1991, Don Fisher claimed the label was the second-best selling brand in American clothing, behind Levi’s.

3. THE FISHERS INSTIGATED A FEW RULES at The Gap.

Stores replaced stock quickly, and they kept prices affordable. They kept bestsellers on racks until they stopped selling, rather than replacing popular items with the newest thing. And they stocked a few styles and kinds of clothing at a time and offered them in different colors and sizes.

4. THE Gap started out with QUIRKY ADS.

To garner attention, The Gap placed eye-catching ads in local newspapers. One early print advertisement read “Levi’s for cats and chicks!,” accompanied by “an unnerving pencil drawing of a bird and cat wearing pants,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The company stoked controversy in 1975 when it ran a salacious ad picturing unzipped jeans with the headline, “The Gap is Open.” Fisher was happy with the hubbub that ensued. “We still run it wherever we can,” Fisher told The Chronicle. “Sometimes we run it two or three days until the newspaper gets too many calls from readers.”

5. IN THE 1980s, The GAP DID AWAY WITH “UGLY” CLOTHES.

Gap employee Shinju Nozawa-Auclair folds clothes at a Gap store on February 20, 2014 in San Francisco, California
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

In 1983, Mickey Drexler joined the team as president. In the next few years, he transformed the brand from catering to teenagers to generating apparel for every demographic. (During his 20-year tenure, he increased sales from $480 million to $13.6 billion.) He’s also credited for revamping the stores: getting rid of the orange walls and replacing racks with shelves under soft lighting.

In 1987, he developed separate collections for men and women and doubled the number of styles for women. “What troubled me especially,” Drexler told The New York Times in 1991, “was that the taste level of the merchandise was, well, just plain ugly. The stuff was trendy but not tasteful and the quality was not what I would have liked. The problem was that we were running a margin-driven business based on price. There was no real, bright future in that.” The changes resulted in quadrupled sales.

6. When they weren't overseeing the Gap, tHE FISHERS bought A LOT OF CONTEMPORARY FINE ART.

When Donald and Doris weren’t busy opening Gap stores, they collected a wide array of art, including works from Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. They had started collecting art for their offices in the mid-1970s, and in 2009, they donated 1100 works by 185 artists to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “They agreed early on that they would never buy a work unless they both liked it, a decision that has ensured that the collection reflects their shared sensibilities,” the museum wrote.

7. THE GAP TAILORED ITS CLOTHING TO “THE MASSES.”

Even couture aficionados recognized The Gap's influence on culture. “I think to find a pair of jeans in 1969 was a different task than it is today,” Vogue editor Sally Singer told NPR. “Back then, the idea of shopping as a pursuit for the masses, that was very new and that wasn’t done." She added that the Fishers made sure that “everyone can wear a khaki and a polo shirt. Everyone can wear what looks like a college sweatshirt. That just wasn't done a long time ago.”

8. THE GAP MADE KHAKIS—AND SWING MUSIC—COOL in the 1990s.

In 1998, The Gap launched several commercials of young people dancing while wearing khakis and basic T-shirts and tanks. “This campaign is about reinventing khakis,” read the press release. The most famous of the ads, “Khaki Swing,” showed twenty-somethings doing the lindy hop to Louis Prima’s “Jump, Jive an’ Wail" using digital photogrammetry, in which two still photographs morphed to give an effect of a freeze frame. The ad fed the 1990s revival of swing.

9. IN 2010, THE GAP CHANGED its LOGO—TEMPORARILY.

On October 4, 2010, the company quietly changed their classic logo from white lettering enclosed inside a navy blue box to blue text on a white field with a lighter blue box in the corner. But the company failed to explain the change, and the public hated the new logo. Less than a week later The Gap switched the logo back to its original one. 

10. The Gap reached $1 billion in sales with diverse brands.

Traffic passes by an Old Navy and GAP stores in Times Square, March 1, 2019 in New York City
Drew Angerer, Getty Images

In 1983, The Gap acquired safari clothing company Banana Republic and transformed it into a sophisticated brand. In 1986, it opened the first GapKids, and a year later, the first Gap opened outside the U.S, in London. In 1990, the company created BabyGap. But its biggest success came from launching Old Navy in 1994, a budget-conscious casual brand: within three years, Old Navy earned $1 billion in sales. Currently, Gap Inc. owns Banana Republic, Athleta, Intermix, Janie and Jack, and Hill City, and is spinning Old Navy into an independent company. 

10 Fascinating Facts About the Thesaurus for National Thesaurus Day

iStock.com/LeitnerR
iStock.com/LeitnerR

Writers often turn to a thesaurus to diversify their vocabulary and add nuance to their prose. But looking up synonyms and antonyms in a thesaurus can help anyone—writer or not—find the most vivid, incisive words to communicate thoughts and ideas. Since January 18 is Thesaurus Day, we’re celebrating with these 10 fascinating facts about your thesaurus.

1. Thesaurus comes from the Greek word for treasure.

Greek lettering.
iStock

Most logophiles consider the thesaurus to be a treasure trove of diction, but the word thesaurus really does mean "treasure." It derives from the Greek word thésauros, which means a storehouse of precious items, or a treasure.

2. The plural of thesaurus is thesauruses or thesauri.

Row of old books lined up.
iStock

How do you refer to more than one octopus? People say everything from octopuses to octopi to octopodes. Similarly, many people have trouble figuring out the correct plural form of the word thesaurus. Though thesauri is technically correct—it attaches a Latin suffix to the Latin word thēsaurus—both thesauri and thesauruses are commonly used and accepted today.

3. Early thesauruses were really dictionaries.

Close-up of the term 'ideal' in a thesaurus.
iStock

Ask a French scholar in the 16th century to see his thesaurus, and he'd gladly give you a copy of his dictionary. In the early 1530s, a French printer named Robert Estienne published Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, a comprehensive Latin dictionary listing words that appeared in Latin texts throughout an enormous span of history. And in 1572, Estienne's son Henri published Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, a dictionary of Greek words. Although the Estiennes's books were called thesauruses, they were really dictionaries comprised of alphabetical listings of words with their definitions.

4. A Greek historian wrote the first book of synonyms.

Stacks of books surrounding an open book and a pair of glasses.
iStock

Philo of Byblos, a Greek historian and grammarian, wrote On Synonyms, a dictionary of synonyms that scholars consider to be the first ancient thesaurus. Dating to the late 1st century or early 2nd century CE, the book lists Greek words that are similar in meaning to each another. Sadly, we don’t know much more about On Synonyms because copies of the work haven’t survived over the centuries.

5. An early Sanskrit thesaurus was written in the form of a poem.

Sanskrit lettering.
iStock

In the 4th century CE, an Indian poet and grammarian named Amara Sinha wrote The Amarakosha, a thesaurus of Sanskrit words. Rather than compile a boring list of similar words, Amara Sinha turned his thesaurus into a long poem. Divided into three sections—words relating to the divine, the earth, and everyday life—The Amarakosha contains verses so readers could memorize words easily. This thesaurus is the oldest book of its kind that still exists.

6. A British doctor wrote the first modern thesaurus.

Portrait of Peter Mark Roget.
Thomas Pettigrew, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Peter Mark Roget is the British doctor credited with authoring the first modern thesaurus. In 1805, he began compiling a list of words, arranged by their meaning and grouped according to theme. After retiring from his work as a physician in 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus of English words and phrases; so classified and arranged as to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist in literary composition. Today, Roget’s Thesaurus is still commercially successful and widely used. In fact, we celebrate Thesaurus Day on January 18 because Roget was born on this day in 1779.

7. The thesaurus has a surprising link to a mathematical tool.

Image of a vintage log log slide rule.
Joe Haupt, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The division between "words people" and "numbers people" is deep-seated. Many mathematicians may try to steer clear of thesauruses, and bibliophiles may avoid calculators, but the thesaurus is actually linked to a mathematical tool. Around 1815, Roget invented the log-log slide rule, a ruler-like device that allows users to easily calculate the roots and exponents of numbers. So while the inventor of the thesaurus was compiling words for his tome, he was also hard at work on the log-log slide rule. A true jack-of-all-trades.

8. The Oxford English Dictionary has its own historical thesaurus.

Synonyms for
iStock

In 1965, a professor of English Language at Glasgow University suggested that scholars should create a historical thesaurus based on entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. The project was a massive undertaking, as people from multiple countries worked for 44 years to compile and classify words. Published in 2009, the Historical Thesaurus to the Oxford English Dictionary contains 800,000 words organized by theme and date. The thesaurus covers words and synonyms from Old English to the present day and lets readers discover when certain words were coined and how long they were commonly used.

9. One artist turned his love of words into a series of thesaurus paintings.

Mel Bochner,
Mel Bochner, "Crazy," 2004. Francesca Castelli, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 2014, the Jewish Museum in New York showed a survey of conceptual artist Mel Bochner’s art. Bochner had incorporated words and synonyms in his paintings for years—which were collectively referred to as the thesaurus paintings—featuring word paintings and lists of synonyms on canvas. The brightly colored paintings feature different groups of English and Yiddish synonyms. According to Bochner, Vietnam and Iraq war veterans cried after seeing his thesaurus painting Die, which features words and phrases such as expire, perish, succumb, drop dead, croak, go belly up, pull the plug, and kick the bucket.

10. There's an urban thesaurus for all your slang synonym needs.

Copy of an Urban Dictionary book.
Effie Yang, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Urban Dictionary helps people decipher the latest slang terms, but where should you go when you need a thesaurus of slang? Urban Thesaurus, of course. The site, which is not affiliated with Urban Dictionary, indexes millions of slang terms culled from slang dictionaries, then calculates usage correlations between the terms. Typing in the word money, for example, gives you an eclectic list of synonyms including scrilla, cheddar, mulah, coin, and bling.

7 Weird Super Bowl Halftime Acts

Al Bello, Getty Images
Al Bello, Getty Images

Shakira and Jennifer Lopez seem like natural choices to perform the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl, but the event didn’t always feature musical acts from major pop stars. Michael Jackson kicked off the trend at Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, but prior to that, halftime shows weren’t a platform for the hottest celebrities of the time. They centered around themes instead, and may have featured appearances from Peanuts characters, Jazzercisers, or a magician dressed like Elvis. In honor of Super Bowl LIV on February 2, we’ve rounded up some of the weirdest acts in halftime show history.

1. Return of the Mickey Mouse Club

The era of Super Bowl halftimes before wardrobe malfunctions, illuminati conspiracy theories, and Left Shark was a more innocent time. For 1977’s event, the Walt Disney Company produced a show that doubled as a squeaky-clean promotion of its brand. Themed “Peace, Joy, and Love,” the Super Bowl XI halftime show opened with a 250-piece band rendition of “It’s a Small World (After All).” Disney also used the platform to showcase its recently revamped Mickey Mouse Club.

2. 88 Grand Pianos and 300 Jazzercisers

The theme of the halftime show at Super Bowl XXII in 1988 was “Something Grand.” Naturally, it featured 88 tuxedoed pianists playing 88 grand pianos. Rounding out the program were 400 swing band performers, 300 Jazzercisers, 44 Rockettes, two marching bands, and Chubby Checker telling everyone to “Twist Again."

3. Elvis Impersonator Performs the World’s Largest Card Trick

Many of the music industry's most successful pop stars—like Prince, Madonna, and, uh, Milli Vanilli—were at the height of their fame in 1989, but none of them appeared at Super Bowl XXIII. Instead, the NFL hired an Elvis Presley-impersonating magician to perform. The show, titled “BeBop Bamboozled,” was a tribute to the 1950s, and it featured Elvis Presto performing “the world’s largest card trick.” It also may have included the world's largest eye exam: The show boasted 3D effects, and viewers were urged to pick up special glasses before the game. If the visuals didn't pop like they were supposed to, people were told to see an eye doctor.

4. The Peanuts Salute New Orleans

Super Bowl XXIV featured one of the last halftime acts that was completely devoid of any musical megastars. The biggest celebrity at the 1990 halftime show was Snoopy. Part of the show’s theme was the “40th Anniversary of 'Peanuts,'” and to celebrate the milestone, performers dressed as Peanuts characters and danced on stage. The other half of the theme was “Salute to New Orleans”—not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the comic strip.

5. A Tribute to the Winter Olympics

Super Bowl XXVI preceded the 1992 Winter Olympics—a fact that was made very clear by the event’s halftime. The show was titled “Winter Magic” and it paid tribute to the winter games with ice skaters, snowmobiles, and a cameo from the 1980 U.S. hockey team. Other acts, like a group of parachute-pants-wearing children performing the “Frosty the Snowman Rap,” were more generally winter-themed than specific to the Olympics. About 22 million viewers changed the channel during halftime to watch In Living Color’s Super Bowl special, which may have convinced the NFL to hire Michael Jackson the following year.

6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

“Peace, Joy, and Love” wasn’t the only Disney-helmed Super Bowl halftime. In 1995, Disney produced a halftime show called “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” to tease the new Disneyland ride of the same name. It centered around a skit in which actors playing Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood stole the Vince Lombardi Trophy from an exotic temple, and it included choreographed stunts, fiery special effects, and a snake. Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett were also there.

7. The Blues Brothers, Minus John Belushi

The 1990s marked an odd period for halftime shows as they moved from schlocky themed variety shows to major music events. Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 perfectly encapsulates this transition period. James Brown and ZZ Top performed, but the headliners were the Blues Brothers. John Belushi had been dead for more than a decade by that point, so Jim Belushi took his place beside Dan Aykroyd. John Goodman was also there to promote the upcoming movie Blues Brother 2000. The flashy advertisement didn’t have the impact they had hoped for and the film was a massive flop when it premiered.

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