Cole Haan Born in 1928

Authentic is a buzzword that’s way overused, especially in advertising. When we see “authentic” statements next to obvious models, giving obviously faux attitude, we’re over it. And fast. But manufacturers have to sell clothes, and advertising is a fact of modern life, so it’s nice to see ads that are done really well.

Cole Haan is no stranger to quality – and they’ve been updating classic shoes and bags with thoughtful touches since…well, we didn’t really know when. Until now.

Featuring a cast of real-life characters, the Born in 1928 campaign relies on the life stories of their models, rather than creating imaginary lives through the magic of photography and styling. And the lives they’ve led are fascinating: Dr. Maya Angelou, the first African American female Poet Laureate, tells of her first time singing for an international audience (having no formal singing training, she sang a Negro Spiritual-to a standing ovation). Astronaut Captain Jim Lovell tells of his time on the Apollo 13 mission. Photographer Elliot Erwitt explains how luck and intellect are the two things that matter in life, and model/fashion editor China Machado tells of her luck in landing into the fashion world as a teenager who’d never even heard of modelling.

In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with messages to cover our gray hair, inject fillers into our wrinkles and spend all our excess time at the gym, these “models” come with a new message: go live your life. While they’re all in great shape for octegenarians, none of them seem obsessive about age or anti-aging. Maybe that’s because they’re not “celebrity” enough for their workouts, diet regimes, and surgery to make it to the tabloids. Or maybe because, ultimately, that’s the point: we don’t have control over everything (as Erwitt explains, luck is as important as intellect, in photography at least), so we may as well be who we are, without reservations.

And wear great shoes – okay, I’m adding that, but it was the shoes that first got me hooked on the campaign. The Capt. Jim Lovell ad was posted near me in New York and his custom made silver ‘LunarGrand’ Wingtips and starry socks drew me right in (thanks to Tiina Laakkonen’s styling), and you can’t deny that it looks great:

Good styling helps at any age (as does lighting and photography ( by Daniel Jackson on this campaign). But overall, the merchandising message is delivered through a group of spokespeople who make us feel that life is to be lived through our strengths rather than our insecurities. Which is an authentic message, indeed.

Cole Haan Born in 1928 video page.

Cole Haan Shoe links, via Nordstrom:

‘Chelsea’ Pump on Dr. Maya Angelou.

‘Verdi’ Bootie  on China Machado.

‘Martin’ Longwing Boot on Elliot Erwitt.

‘LunarGrand’ Wingtip on Capt. Jim Lovell (available in other colors).

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