An Obsessive Guide To Music Played At The Gap In The Nineties And Early Aughts

by MR Magazine Staff

Confession : I discovered one of my favorite songs through a Gap ad. The 1999 “Khaki Soul” spot, specifically, which featured attractive young people clad in Gapwear dancing to Bill Withers’s 1977 hit “Lovely Day.” That song and I are the same age, and there’s a good chance that it had wound its way into my aural periphery in the prior two decades, but this ad—more of a miniature music video, not unlike Volkswagen’s resurrection of “Pink Moon,” later that same year—was the first time I’d had a moment with it. “Lovely Day” didn’t trigger a desire for khakis, but it did prompt a trip to my local CD retailer, where a clerk located the phrase “lovely day” in the store’s proprietary database, and off I went with its lone copy of “Lean on Me: The Best of Bill Withers.” From the launch of its first stand-alone store, in San Francisco, in 1969, the Gap has always been in some proximity to the record business. Initially, its founder, Don Fisher, wanted to call the store “Pants and Discs,” because the only things it offered were Levi’s and music. (His wife demurred and suggested a name that referenced the generation gap.) In the eighties and nineties, under Mickey Drexler’s leadership, the company’s store design was simplified to white walls, polished wood floors, and stacks of clothes, while ad campaigns like 1988’s “Individuals of Style” and 1993’s “Who Wore Khakis” invented a history of everyday fashion. By the late nineties, Gap had positioned itself in the mainstream of pop-music trends: Gap TV ads linked the modest, durable cotton pant to country, electronica, and swing. Read more at The New Yorker.