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. 

5 Wild Facts About Mall Madness

Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The mall, home of fashion brands, bookstores, and anchor locations like Sears, was a must-visit location for Americans in the 1980s and 1990s—and especially for teenagers. Teens also played Mall Madness, a board game from Milton Bradley introduced in 1988 that tried to capture the excitement of soft pretzels and high-interest credit card shopping in one convenient tabletop game. Navigating a two-story shopping mall, the player who successfully spends all of their disposable income to acquire six items from the shopping list and return to the parking lot wins.

If you’re nostalgic for this simulated spending spree, you're in luck: Hasbro will be bringing Mall Madness back in fall 2020. Until then, check out some facts about the game’s origins.

1. Mall Madness was the subject of a little controversy.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Milton Bradley put a focus on the tween demographic. Their Dream Phone tasked young players with finding the boy of their dreams; Mall Madness, which began as an analog game but quickly added an electronic voice component, served to portray tweens as frenzied shoppers. As a result, the game drew some criticism upon release for its objective—to spend as much money as possible—and for ostensibly portraying the tweens playing as “bargain-crazy, credit-happy fashion plates,” according to Adweek. Milton Bradley public relations manager Mark Morris argued that the game taught players “how to judiciously spend their money.”

2. The original Mall Madness may not be the same one you remember.

The electronic version of Mall Madness remains the most well-known version of the game, but Milton Bradley introduced a miniature version in 1988 that was portable and took the form of an audio cassette. With the game board folded in the case, it looks like a music tape. Opened, the tri-fold board resembles the original without the three-dimensional plastic mall pieces. It was one of six games the company promoted in the cassette packaging that year.

3. Mall Madness was not the only shopping game on the market.

At the same time Mall Madness was gaining in popularity, consumers could choose from two other shopping-themed board games: Let’s Go Shopping from the Pressman Toy Corporation and Meet Me At the Mall from Tyco. Let’s Go Shopping tasks girls with completing a fashion outfit, while Meet Me At the Mall rewards the player who amasses the most items before the mall closes.

4. There was a Hannah Montana version of Mall Madness.

In the midst of Hannah Montana madness in 2008, Hasbro—which acquired Milton Bradley—released a Miley Cyrus-themed version of the game. Players control fictional Disney Channel singing sensation Hannah Montana as she shops for items. There was also A Littlest Pet Shop version of the game, with the tokens reimagined as animals.

5. Mall Madness is a collector’s item.

Because, for the moment, Hasbro no longer produces Mall Madness, a jolt of nostalgia will cost you a few dollars. The game, which originally sold for $30, can fetch $70 or more on eBay and other secondhand sites.

10 'Nuts' That Aren't Actually Nuts

None of these "nuts" are truly nuts.
None of these "nuts" are truly nuts.
margouillatphotos/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Who doesn’t love a pedantic houseguest? Next time you’re at a dinner party and someone breaks out the mixed nuts, seize the moment and let everyone know that a lot of the tasty treats we call nuts don’t actually merit the title. Botanists define a “nut” as a dry, one-seeded fruit encased in a hardened ovary wall (called a pericarp). Genuine nuts are fused to their shells and won’t naturally break open upon reaching maturity. Hazelnuts fit the criteria. So do chestnuts. But these ever-popular snack foods sure don’t.

1. Peanuts

The star ingredient of America's favorite nut butter isn't actually a nut. Instead, peanuts are considered legumes, along with soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas. Unlike nuts, most legumes come in self-opening pods—which may or may not grow underground, depending on the species. 

2. Almonds

A group of almonds in wood bowl atop a rustic table
These almonds formed inside a fleshy fruit.
onairjiw/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Almonds are seeds found within the fleshy, peach-like fruits of the Asian Prunus dulcis tree. They’ve earned a spot on our list because actual nuts don’t come wrapped up in softened fruit matter. So how do botanists classify almonds? As drupe seeds. Briefly stated, a drupe is a soft fruit with a hard inner shell. (Think peach pits.)

3. Cashews

Like almonds, cashews are drupe seeds pulled from soft fruit packages. The trail mix staples poke out of red, yellow, or green “cashew apples” that grow on South American trees. Cashew seeds are naturally protected by a toxin-coated outer shell that's roasted to neutralize the acid. In spite of this defense mechanism, the yummy snacks were soon embraced by Portuguese explorers and distributed across the globe.

4. Walnuts

A squirrel eating walnuts in a park
The walnuts this squirrel is noshing on are drupes, not nuts.
Serhii Ivashchuk/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Hey look, it’s another member of the drupe clan! Walnuts inhabit green fruit on temperate trees in the genus Juglans. Most of the seeds that end up on American dining room tables come from the English walnut tree, Juglans regia [PDF]. Even if you don’t eat the drupes, you can probably find a use for them: Walnut shells have been incorporated into everything from cosmetic products to kitty litter.

5. Pine nuts

About 20 pine tree species—including the Italian stone pine—produce big seeds that get harvested en masse. Those seeds are removed from cones in a meticulous process, which accounts for their high selling prices.

5. Brazil Nuts

You’ll encounter Brazil nuts all over the Amazon rainforest, in such countries as Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and (of course) Brazil. They come from a hardened 4-to-6-pound pod containing up to two dozen seeds that might become trees someday. The pods are so hefty, getting bonked on the head by a falling one is enough to stun or even kill you.  Surprisingly, Brazil Nuts can also be fairly radioactive thanks to the trees' roots, which grow deep within radium-rich soil.

7. Macadamia Nuts

Rows of trees at an Australian Macadamia orchard
An Australian macadamia orchard filled with the country's native drupe.
oxime/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Gympie, Queensland, has an odd claim to fame: Approximately 70 percent of all the macadamia nuts on Earth are descended from trees grown in the Australian town. Macadamias are an ecological staple in Queensland and New South Wales. But—stop us if this sounds familiar—their so-called “nuts” are drupes.

8. Pistachios

Not only are pistachios drupes, but they’ve got shells that automatically open with a literal popping noise once the contents reach a certain size. When all’s said and done, though, at least pistachios are Frank Drebin-approved.

9. Pecans

The Algonquian term for “nut that requires a stone to crack” gave us the English word pecan. Wild pecans can be gathered in Mexico and the United States—they’re true North American treasures. Name origin aside, they can’t accurately be called nuts. Botanists usually refer to them as drupes, but because of their tough shells, the label “drupaceous nuts” might be more appropriate. Either way, pecans aren’t true nuts. They make for great pies, though.

10. Coconuts

A monkey sticks out its tongue while eating a coconut
This cheeky monkey seems to be enjoying its delicious drupe.
Volga2012/iStock via Getty Images Plus

A drupe of unusual size, the coconut is a fibrous juggernaut that bears a single seed. The whitish fleshy interior can be immersed in hot water and then rung out through a cloth to produce coconut milk. Meanwhile, the outer shells are responsible for some of the most delightfully bizarre Guinness World Records categories, such as “most green coconuts smashed with the head in one minute.” (You can see other unusual Guinness World Record categories here.)

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