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. 

The 11 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Wilson Webb/Netflix

With thousands of titles available, browsing your Netflix menu can feel like a full-time job. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, take a look at our picks for the 11 best movies on Netflix right now.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man may be in the middle of a Disney and Sony power struggle, but that didn't stop this ambitious animated film from winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards. Using a variety of visual style choices, the film tracks the adventures of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who discovers he's not the only Spider-Man in town.

2. Hell or High Water (2016)

Taylor Sheridan's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who take to bank robberies in an effort to save their family ranch from foreclosure; Jeff Bridges is the drawling, laconic lawman on their tail.

3. Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro takes on the life of pugilist Jake LaMotta in a landmark and Oscar-winning film from Martin Scorsese that frames LaMotta's violent career in stark black and white. Joe Pesci co-stars.

4. Marriage Story (2019)

Director Noah Bambauch drew raves for this deeply emotional drama about a couple (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) whose uncoupling takes a heavy emotional and psychological toll on their family.

5. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy ended a brief sabbatical from filmmaking following a mixed reception to 2016's Mr. Church with this winning biopic about Rudy Ray Moore, a flailing comedian who finds success when he reinvents himself as Dolemite, a wisecracking pimp. When the character takes off, Moore produces a big-screen feature with a crew of inept collaborators.

6. The Lobster (2015)

Colin Farrell stars in this black comedy that feels reminiscent of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work: A slump-shouldered loner (Farrell) has just 45 days to find a life partner before he's turned into an animal. Can he make it work with Rachel Weisz, or is he doomed to a life on all fours? By turns absurd and provocative, The Lobster isn't a conventional date movie, but it might have more to say about relationships than a pile of Nicholas Sparks paperbacks.

7. Flash of Genius (2008)

Greg Kinnear stars in this drama based on a true story about inventor Robert Kearns, who revolutionized automobiles with his intermittent windshield wiper. Instead of getting rich, Kearns is ripped off by the automotive industry and engages in a years-long battle for recognition.

8. Locke (2013)

The camera rarely wavers from Tom Hardy in this existential thriller, which takes place entirely in Hardy's vehicle. A construction foreman trying to make sure an important job is executed well, Hardy's Ivan Locke grapples with some surprising news from a mistress and the demands of his family. It's a one-act, one-man play, with Hardy making the repeated act of conversing on his cell phone as tense and compelling as if he were driving with a bomb in the trunk.

9. Cop Car (2015)

When two kids decide to take a police cruiser for a joyride, the driver (Kevin Bacon) begins a dogged pursuit. No good cop, he's got plenty to hide.

10. Taxi Driver (1976)

Another De Niro and Scorsese collaboration hits the mark, as Taxi Driver is regularly cited as one of the greatest American films ever made. De Niro is a potently single-minded Travis Bickle, a cabbie in a seedy '70s New York who wants to be an avenging angel for victims of crime. The mercurial Bickle, however, is just as unhinged as those he targets.

11. Sweet Virginia (2017)

Jon Bernthal lumbers through this thriller as a former rodeo star whose career has left him physically broken. Now managing a hotel in small-town Alaska, he stumbles onto a plot involving a murderer-for-hire (Christopher Abbott), upending his quiet existence and forcing him to take action.

11 Unusual Christmas Traditions Around the World

A Mari Lwyd—a ghostly horse figure brought door-to-door between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Wales
A Mari Lwyd—a ghostly horse figure brought door-to-door between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Wales
R. fiend, Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

We all know about the typical trappings of Christmas—Santa, the tree, eggnog and carols, turkey and ham, that fruitcake that’s made three trips around the country and counting. But what about traditions that are generally less well-known in America—the ones that might take place halfway around the world? Traditions like the Swedes watching the same Donald Duck cartoon each year, the Japanese devouring KFC, or Austria’s “bad Santa,” Krampus? Allow us to take you on a journey with the international Christmas traditions below.

1. Sweden // Watching Donald Duck on Television

Every year at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, around half of Sweden sits down to watch the 1958 Walt Disney TV special “From All of Us to All of You.” Known in Swedish as Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul, the title translates to “Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas.” But, really, it’s usually known as Kalle Anka. Since 1959, the show has been airing without commercial interruption at the same time every December 24 on TV1, Sweden’s main public television channel. According to Slate, it’s one of the three most popular TV events each year, and lines of the cartoon’s dialogue have become common Swedish parlance.

Slate’s Jeremy Stahl, who remembers his first Christmas visiting Sweden with his soon-to-be-wife, observes, “I was taken aback not only by the datedness of the clips (and the somewhat random dubbing) but also by how seriously my adoptive Swedish family took the show. Nobody talked, except to recite favorite lines along with the characters." Stahl notes that for many Swedes, other Christmas Eve festivities revolve around watching the show—what time they eat the Christmas meal, for example—and that, although the tradition may seem strange, it also makes some sense: “For many Swedes, there is something comforting about knowing that every year there is one hour, on one day, when you sit down with everyone in your family and just be together.”

2. Venezuela // Roller Skating to Christmas Eve Mass

Roller skates on a wooden background
xavigm/iStock via Getty Images

In the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, it’s a long-established tradition to strap on your skates and roll on over to morning Christmas mass. According to Metro.co.uk, legend has it that children go to bed with a piece of string tied to their toes, with the other end dangling out the window. As the skaters glide by early the next morning, they give the strings a firm tug to let the children know it’s time to wake up and put on their skates. Firecrackers accompany the sound of the church bells, and when mass is finished, everyone gathers for food, music, and dance. The custom continues today.

3. Japan // Eating KFC on Christmas Eve

A KFC in Japan at Christmas
A KFC in Japan at Christmas
Robert Sanzalone, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Christmas isn't a widely celebrated holiday in Japan—a mere 1 percent of Japanese people are estimated to be Christian—and yet a bucket of KFC “Christmas Chicken” is the popular meal on December 24. According to the BBC, 3.6 million families celebrated this way in 2016.

It all began with a 1974 marketing campaign—“Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii” (Kentucky for Christmas). According to Smithsonian, when a group of foreigners couldn’t find Christmas turkey and opted for KFC instead, the company saw it as a fabulous marketing opportunity and advertised its first Christmas meal—chicken and wine for the equivalent of $10, which, Smithsonian notes, was rather pricey for the mid-'70s. These days, the Christmas dinner includes cake and champagne, and costs roughly $40. Many people order their meals far in advance to avoid lines; those who forget can end up waiting for as long as two hours.

4. Ukraine // Decorating the Tree with (Fake) Spiders and Webs

A Ukrainian spider web Christmas tree ornament
A Ukrainian spider web Christmas tree ornament
Marty Gabel, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

According to Ukrainian folklore, there was a poor family with a widowed single mother who couldn’t afford to decorate their Christmas tree. One night, as they all slept, a wonderful Christmas spider decorated the tree with a beautiful, sparkly web. The rays of the sun touched the web, turning it to silver and gold, and from that day on the family wanted for nothing. Ukrainian families decorate their trees with glittering spiders and their webs in honor of the tale.

5. Guatemala // La Quema del Diablo, “Burning the Devil”

Bonfires in Guatemala on La Quema del Diablo
Bonfires in Guatemala on La Quema del Diablo
Conred Guatemala, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Every December 7, beginning at 6 p.m. sharp, Guatemalans build bonfires to “burn the devil” and kick off their Christmas season. The tradition has particular significance in Guatemala City, according to National Geographic, due to its association with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which honors the city’s patron saint. The tradition evolved from simply lighting bonfires during colonial times to burning a devil figure to clear the way for a celebration of the Virgin Mary. In recent years, devil piñatas have been added to the festivities, too. These days, an estimated 500,000 bonfires burn in the course of an hour on the holiday, and fireworks explode across the smoky sky.

6. Catalonia // Caganer, the Pooping Christmas Figurine

A caganer figure at a Barcelona Christmas market
A caganer figure at a Barcelona Christmas market
J2R/iStock via Getty Images

A regular figure in Catalonian nativity scenes, the caganer is a bare-bottomed man with his pants around his knees as he bends over to poop. He typically wears a white shirt and a barretina, a traditional Catalan hat. The caganer most likely first appeared in nativity scenes in the early 18th century; nativity scenes in the region typically represent pastoral scenes with depictions of rural life. The caganer often appears crouched behind a tree or a building in a corner of the nativity. Caganer literally means “pooper” in Catalan, and no one is certain of his significance, though one theory is that he represents good luck and the wish for a prosperous new year, since the pooping could be construed as the fertilization of the earth. Another theory is that he represents the mischief that resides in all of us. Yet another theory: he could merely represent humility and humanity. After all, everyone poops.

7. Wales // Mari Lwyd, or “Gray Mare”

Mari Lwyd, or “Gray Mare,” is the name given to the ghostly looking horse figure often brought door-to-door between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Wales. Typically constructed of a horse skull, a white sheet, and adorned with colorful ribbons and bells, the Mari Lwyd is carried around Welsh towns by singing revelers who challenge their neighbors to a battle of wits through poetry. Atlas Obscura explains that despite often being associated with Christmas, Mari Lwyd is actually a pre-Christian practice, and some Welsh towns choose instead to parade their horse skulls on other days, such as Halloween or May Day. However, the Christmas season is the most popular time for Mari Lwyd, and the practice often includes wassailing, which involves the drinking of a boozy, sugared-and-spiced ale.

8. Austria and German-speaking Alpine region // Krampus, the Christmas Devil

Krampus characters parade on St Nicholas' day
Krampus characters parade on St Nicholas' day in Italy
dario_tommaseo/iStock via Getty Images

While well-behaved children in Austria and elsewhere look forward to St. Nicholas rewarding them with presents and sweets, those on the naughty list live in fear of Krampus. Part demon and part goat, Krampus is a “bad Santa” devil-like figure with origins in pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Later, Krampus became a part of Christian traditions alongside the celebrating of St. Nick. During Krampusnacht, or “Krampus night,” right before St. Nicholas Day, adults dress up as Krampus, and Krampus might also be seen on a Krampuslauf—literally a “Krampus run.” He also appears on Christmas cards throughout Austria, and enjoys a long-held place in the country’s holiday traditions, as well as in other German-speaking areas near the Alps.

9. Iceland // The Yule Cat

Iceland has its own frightening Christmas figure, the Yule cat, which lurks in the snow and waits to devour anyone who has not received new clothes to wear for Christmas. National Geographic did some digging into the origins of this tradition, and notes that in Icelandic rural societies employers often rewarded members of their households with new clothes and sheepskin shoes each year as a way to encourage everyone to work hard in the lead-up to Christmas. “To this day Icelanders still find it important to wear new clothes on Christmas Eve when the celebrations begin,” the website writes. So, basically, the Yule cat punishes the lazy by devouring them, though, as National Geographic observes, “According to some tales, the Yule Cat only eats their food and presents, not the actual people.” Whew!

10. Greenland // Whale Blubber Dinner

Although women around the world have often traditionally prepared the Christmas meal, in Greenland the men serve the women. The main dish is mattak, strips of whale blubber, as well as kiviak, flesh from auks buried in sealskin for several months and then served once it begins to decompose. Dessert is a little more familiar: Christmas porridge garnished with butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

11. Italy // Befana, the Christmas Witch

Befana, the Christmas witch of Italy
Befana, the Christmas witch of Italy
corradobarattaphotos, iStock via Getty Images

Like Austria’s Krampus, Italy’s Christmas witch, Befana, is scary-looking—she has the warts and the sharp nose of the typical witch depiction—and yet every January 5 she leaves gifts and sweets for the good children. Of course, she also leaves coal for the naughty ones. According to legend, she swoops up the particularly bad children and brings them home to her child-eating husband. According to Vice, Italy honors Befana with festivals each year, complete with market stalls, raffles, games, and prizes. Children also write letters to Befana just as they do to Santa Claus.

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