This is why we're here

Here at Civil Standard we love hats.  In an effort to claim membership to something larger than oneself, the baseball hat is the perfect vehicle, uniquely positioned to carry out the complementary task of signaling inclusion in one group and exclusion from another.  

We also happen to love flags; we believe the flag to be the quintessential manifestation of brand identity.  A flag conveys history, values, and emotion. It's a universal tool - a symbol - spanning time and place, to signal who you are, where you come from, and what you stand for.

So Civil Standard exists to explore the concept of identity.  We think a lot about what unites us and divides us as Americans; about what it means to be from one part of the country versus another; and about how the mores of distinct American geographies shape not only us as individuals, but also our views of the world and of each other.

So it makes us sad that we rarely notice our civic symbols, much less take the time to uncover their origins and meanings.  As a country, we are indoctrinated as children with the creation of our nation and its most visible symbol, the Stars and Stripes.  Its history is steeped in lore and mythology, and within its design is the origin story; both of our nation and of us.

Civil Standard is not the message, but the messenger. It is not asking that you buy into it for its own sake, but rather asks that you adopt a message to which you are already engendered, invested, and attached…a brand to which you are already loyal, but just under a different banner.  A different standard, as it were.  Civil Standard simply offers a different way to communicate that to which you already subscribe.  A pre-existing brand identity of the most powerful kind…one that’s innate…that reflects your home, your identity, your soul.

Godspeed.

THE CIVIL STANDARD MANIFESTO

I haven’t lived in my hometown for close to two decades now.  Most of that time I was relatively close - within a day’s drive - comfortably tucked under the cozy regional blanket of my hometown…my home identity.  And while I’ve always given fair and undue thought to what makes each geographical place unique and special, it wasn’t until I left the confines of my region that I was forced to think about how geographical places make us different.  

Previously, signs and signals of my home place in the public sphere were more common than not.  But as the migration of life continued to expand the radius from the epicenter of my identity, the signals turned to static…an AM radio on a barren rural straightaway between two towers, out of range of each.  The resulting static and silence begets a hyperawareness of where you are - which is not home - and the alien landscape on the other side of the windshield.

But once your antenna picks up the next signal, normality and comfort return and the ride can become again what it once was: an adventure with windows down, sunglasses on, volume cranked, pedal floored, cigarette lit, nary a Smokey in sight…a fucking joy ride.

Some like to fit in; others to stand out.  Some enjoy the comforts of home; others the adventure of the new.  But no matter the inclination, whether accepting of...comfortable in...a foreign environment or not, there is often some sort of twisted and inexplicable feeling of pride…specialness…to being the outsider, the oddity, the other.  It’s a feeling of defiance that summons an innate rebel spirit.  Even for those who strive to fit in, we all relish the chance to be unique, for unique and different are often not the same. 

And so it is that while I’ve been living away from my home place for so long, for so long I’ve been unique, with degree of uniquity amplified the further afield.  And I admit, I don’t think I strive to be different, but I enjoy being unique.  (Because who doesn’t?  It’s an admirable trait, no?)  And in my foreign environment flush as I am with uniqueness, I often find myself pining for the other station, the signal from the tower in my home place.

And so it is again that I find myself surprised when I do visit my home place that I am over-stimulated by the clarity and volume of my home signal.  It is loud and everywhere accessible.  Even with the dial turned off the signal permeates, persistent and inescapable.  And in this moment, back in my home place, my unique edge is dulled and I am relegated to the masses, no longer an other but one of many.  What this makes me I do not know. A contrarian. A poseur. An uncomfortable soul, perhaps.

But it doesn’t have to be any of these, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be questioned or scrutinized.  Even within the confines and comforts of the home place, sometimes there’s just an urge to turn the dial in search of a different signal.  In this there is no shame...only the pain knowing you can never go home again. 

THE CIVIL STANDARD OBSERVATION

The matter of sports teams as a means to signal regional identity and affiliation is not a frivolous one.  Regardless of your personal view of professional sport or its place in your life, it exists as an undeniable presence and force in our communal landscape.  It is a transcendent arc in a communal narrative, allowing otherwise disparate citizens and unlikely companions a common thread; a starting point.  It facilitates conversation, interaction, understanding.  When there is nothing else there is the weather, and there are sports.   It can – at its best – act as a great leveler.  Its draw is immune to race, gender, and socioeconomic standing.  It is debatable whether a professional sports team is shaped in its city’s image or vice-versa, but either way they are often mirror reflections with the collective joys and scars of each perfectly charted to the other, a chart that can offer as much despair as it does hope.   So no, this is no frivolous matter.

To the initiated, professional sport is a secret handshake, a password, and a badge all rolled into one.   It unlocks generations of tradition, heritage, camaraderie and kinship.  Like nationality it is conferred by place of birth; like religion, preordained through bloodline, often treated as a literal birthright. 

What, then, of the uninitiated…of the new recruits?  Of a person who is transplanted to a new - a foreign – geography?  For these poor souls, professional sport is an outstretched hand, serving as a means of community assimilation and socialization.  It is not the only means, mind you, but it’s of the more powerful.  It can give a newcomer a vested emotional interest in a new place; a reason to be a part of the community, transforming the new 'home' team from one in name only to one of desire.   It is a welcoming agent for the displaced, those who are otherwise strangers in strange lands.

The power of assimilation via sport as it concerns newcomers, however, has been compromised in our digital age.  No longer do transplants latch on to the mascots of their new geography.  There is today a choice where yesteryear there was not.  And while we are as mobile as ever, we are at the same time paradoxically as connected to home as ever.  In our digital age, we never have to leave it.  The reminders and touchstones are always there…a satellite, an app, a wireless signal away.  And we long for home. We pine for it; and we get there through sport, the same agent that has all the power to connect us to our new place.  In this, sport offers us nostalgia and hope, of our youth and our innocence, of all that was ever good…the promise of the past.  So for as much power as sport has to indoctrinate us to a new geography, it has equal power to tether us to our native place, because our sports teams are a reflection of us or us them and it is important and powerful to always be reminded…to always know…where you came from and what it was that shaped you and contributed to who you are.  The person who forgets where they are from knows no community, knows no loyalty, knows no legacy.

For as much as we welcome assimilation to a new geography, it will never become us.  It did not shape us and we are not of it nor them…we are other.  So it is important – crucial – to remind them that we are not of the same cloth, not of the same legacy.   And this not out of spite or disdain, but out of respect for boundaries and the context of composition.  We don’t aim to reject our new environment, because part of our reward as Americans is our diversity of cultures, histories, and identities.  We celebrate the other…the unique and disparate identities that collectively constitute our national fabric.  To reject a new geography out of hand, therefore, would be to reject that which makes us us…that which makes us great…and would be un-American; an affront to our history.

So a balance is sought between the foundation of the past and the girders of the future.  For some, it is a difficult balance to strike.  And when the sport of our new geography fails us…because we can’t let go of our past, our home…we seek a lifeline.  We require another means of indoctrination, another proverbial flag to fly in celebration of the now, and - god-willing - the future.