Last week an unusual collaboration between Vans, DQM and New York State (which owns the copyright to the iconic 'I Love NY' logo) was released. The uniqueness of the partnership is that the 'I Love NY' pop-culture icon, which has been seen on everything from bumper stickers to baby-bibs, had never been used on shoes.
Every year, skaters come to New York City looking forward to famous skate spots in midtown Manhattan, the legendary Brooklyn Banks and the smooth city streets, while millions of tourists flock to the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty to purchase something that says "I Love NY" on it.
To locals, the slogan is as familiar as a traffic light. Native New Yorker and owner of streetwear brand DQM Chris Keeffe said, "As far back as I can remember, T-shirts have been on every street-vendor rack from Canal Street to the West Village up to Harlem. Every food takeout, grocery bag and coffee cup in New York had 'I Love NY' on it. It's synonymous with the old New York and still lives on today."
"Old New York" is a phrase coined by the locals to describe the pre-9/11 and pre-Mayor Rudy Giuliani New York -- the Wild West with an attitude.
In 1977 crime was at its highest level in the city's history; entire neighborhoods had been abandoned and a citywide blackout prompted riots in which 4,500 New Yorkers were arrested.
Desperate to change the city's image, New York State commissioned an advertising agency and artist Milton Glaser to come up with a public-relations campaign.
Glaser had already made a name for himself illustrating record covers, books, posters and ads, but it was the "I Love NY" logo that would make him the best-known graphic designer in the world. The artist's "ah-ha" moment occurred in a yellow taxi cab, when he came up with the slogan.
In the 2009 documentary "Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight," Glaser explained his winning formula. "The creation of a puzzle is one of the tools you have to make people understand things," he wrote. "When they activate the mind to try to figure something out, the likelihood is that they will remember and respond to it more than if they were told something directly. 'I' is a word, a complete word, in itself. Heart is a symbol for a feeling, and 'NY' are initials for a place, and because of that simple little trick of activating the problem solving impulse of the brain it stuck in people's mind. They saw it once and they remembered it."
Glaser gave the inspired feel-good emblem to the state, assuming it would have a relatively short life span. Although he never made a dime off "I Love NY," Glaser said he was "very proud to have taken part in the shift in the city's consciousness from being indifferent to itself to realizing, 'We love this place.'"
One of the first examples of an emoticon, the "I Love NY" logo introduced the "I Heart" concept to thousands of brands and the T-shirts of any tourism destination. The logo has been in circulation for almost 40 years and Glaser's original sketch is in the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art.
This week New Yorkers and visitors to the Big Apple can grab the latest rendition of "I Love NY" product in their own shoe size. Vans and DQM have used the slogan in an all-over print on Vans' classic skate styles: the Authentic and the Sk8-Hi. The limited-edition kicks are available only at DQM's New York City store or at vansdqm.com.