They say one man's trash is another man's treasure, but no one was expecting this. An unlikely top seller has emerged in a new line of official New York City apparel — not from the fire and police departments that have long enjoyed the spotlight, but rather from the agency that moves mountains of trash every day.
A fashionably grungy brown cap with the Sanitation Department's light blue logo is the new must-have item — even among celebrities — since the city launched the products last year.
The collection is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's goal to profit from the city's official landmarks and logos. "I'd wear that," said Tam Smail, a 33-year-old tourist from Scotland, trying on the cap. "It's a very popular look right now. You see it everywhere."
For years, agencies like the New York Police Department and the Fire Department of New York have sold souvenir T-shirts, sweat shirts, caps, mugs and toy vehicles. Sales generally hovered below US$1 million annually, but surged to an all-time high of US$28 million in the year after the September 11 attacks when the city and its rescue workers gained worldwide fame.
The collection drew retail sales of US$20 million in 2006. Besides the Sanitation cap, the trash department's line features T-shirts with a similar hipster aesthetic. The city's film and television agency has also produced some winners — sleek tees and loungewear stamped with its minimalist ‘Made in NY’ logo.
NYPD and FDNY gear are still selling strong, according to Lloyd Haymes, vice president of licensing for NYC Marketing. But he said new apparel, like the gently frayed Sanitation cap and faded T-shirts with old-fashioned taxicabs across the chest, tap into a different consumer base that seems to be drawn to a more subtle, "authentic New York."