The XX Factor

Dummies in the Hood

Never let it be said that I can’t find the racial angle to everything; today it’s store mannequins.

According to the NYT : “With retailers fighting for customers in the sluggish economic recovery, the generic white, hairless, skinny mannequin is being pushed aside by provocative alternatives that entice shoppers with muscles, unusual poses, famous faces and lifelike bodies.” Pierced ears, articulated fingers, mannequins that lie down in the scandalous stores so buyers can imagine how their lingerie will look during the 15 seconds they’re wearing it. So why no dummies with big booties?

A few years back, while reporting on the Ohio gubernatorial election, I made the rounds of the black community and found myself staring, awestruck, into a young ghetto-preneur’s hip-hop clothing store. All around the store were boarded-over buildings, shuttered liquor stores and the like. But his store (one of three; the other two were in local malls) was clean, sleek, and packed. I believe this was only so because of the booties on the mannequins. They were huge! And varied!  They trended from:  “OK, that’s a decent ass” to “Whoo! Jennifer Lopez aint got nothing on this dummy!” to “I’m in ass-man heaven; keep the clothes. How much for the dummy?” Or perhaps, tall, grande, venti?

The young owner chuckled at my amused surprise and told me he stocked nothing but “head-to-toe ethnically identifiable” mannequins. (When I stopped staring at their asses, it was indeed true that the faces were definitely not just “white” mannequins painted over.) He had no doubt they were of tremendous value in pushing his merchandise. My notes are elsewhere but he said something like, “I saw you outside staring. Then inside staring. At that point, most women eventually stop staring and start shopping.” He’d had a problem with men (of all ages) loitering to stare, so he put in a men’s apparel section whose sales rivaled the women’s.

So, retailers:  Pierced ears, my ass. Build a better booty and watch your sales go through the roof.  Though foot traffic might be a problem.