Looking for a wedgie pick? 'J. Crewd' is the place

by Sarah Warlick | 11/24/98 6:00am

It seems every time the mail is delivered, there is a J.Crew catalog hidden somewhere in the pile. While some may welcome this easy access to cotton chinos and waffle knits, others find the deluge annoying. In his parody appropriately titled "J.Crewd: A Parody," creator Justin Racz uses the notoriety of J.Crew to make a strong statement about the exorbitant efforts of the advertising industry.

"J.Crewd" is both witty and forward, promoting products like wedgie piques, eye patches, walkers and Unabomber jackets with all the glamour of advertising. The humorous photos and inventive product descriptions make "J.Crewd" an amusing read.

One section features funeral attire and yuppies playing ultimate frisbee in a cemetery amid captions like "Death is always there. But untimely doesn't mean unfashionable," and "Leather to Lycra, turning that frown upside down." "J.Crewd" also has condoms in different sizes and colors, including "glowinsky in the dark."

Though "J.Crewd" may offend unsuspecting readers, Racz, himself Jewish, said in an interview with The Dartmouth, "I'd be worried if it didn't. Parodies have to dance on that border between decorum and insult, if that's possible." He added that it was not his intent to offend anyone but to mock advertising and the way the industry will attempt to sell anything using attractive models and glossy photos.

"[The parody] really goes beyond J.Crew," said Racz. It's not an attack exclusively on J.Crew, but on the entire advertising industry. He said it was created "for anyone who shops or has seen a catalog; anyone who's gotten a catalog in the last half hour."

Racz, an English major and a 1997 graduate of Middlebury College, considered jobs in advertising, investment banking and even insurance before deciding to write humor.

Ironically, he interviewed for a position with J.Crew but was turned down after telling his interviewer that an appropriate name for the color red was "blood."

Racz has had no legal problems with J.Crew. He said, "I had an 18-month ulcer, basically, wondering what they would think." Shortly after the release of "J.Crewd," Racz received an e-mail from J.Crew saying they thought the parody was extremely funny.

Luckily, said Racz, "they have a good sense of humor about it. We're almost working together." Racz actually receives a 10-percent commission from any J.Crew sales generated by his website.

Racz said that getting "J.Crewd" off the ground was not a particularly easy process. "There were definitely some rejections. It was not embraced with a bearhug," he said. Several publishers refused the idea before Racz found Doubleday.

Putting "J.Crewd" together took about 18 months. Most of Racz's ideas came from looking at over 50 different J.Crew catalogs. He also got ideas from his friend Jay and his older brother, Dartmouth graduate Gregory Racz '91. "The clearance section was pretty much [my brother's] idea," Racz said.

For the most part, the clothing came from Racz and his friends, though he and his brother made the Field Jacket themselves out of hay. The clothing on clearance came from Racz's grandparents. The pink pants were actually worn to Ellis Island by his grandfather, a Russian immigrant. Although the items are not really for sale, some of the items featured in "J.Crewd" can be won by visiting the "J.Crewd" website, www.jcrewd.com.

Racz said his favorite product is The Timmy Clone, one of several mail-order babies for sale in the J.Cloning section. Timmy is advertised as "robust" and "gay" and costs a mere $21,000. Racz said he probably got the idea of J.Cloning while watching the news.

Racz enjoys the humor business and hopes to make a career of it. He's written a screenplay and would like to work on a movie, especially a parody. He named the slapstick classic "Airplane" as one of his favorite comedies. Currently Racz is working on a Beanie Babies parody due out in May 1999.