10 Facts About The Gap for Its 50th Anniversary

Drew Angerer, Getty Images
Drew Angerer, Getty Images

On August 21, 1969, real estate developer and entrepreneur Donald Fisher and his wife Doris raised $63,000 and opened the first The Gap store, in San Francisco. The name was short for “generation gap,” which was a better name than what Don wanted to name it: Pants and Discs. What began as one store that sold jeans and records eventually ballooned into 3594 worldwide locations in 43 countries. To celebrate The Gap’s 50th anniversary, here are 10 fashionable facts about the iconic label.

1. DON FISHER STARTED THE Gap BECAUSE HE COULDN’T FIND A PAIR OF JEANS THAT FIT.

As the story goes, 40-year-old Don Fisher started out renovating hotels and purchased the Capitol Park Hotel in Sacramento. There, he leased showroom space to jeans retailer Levi Strauss and Co. “When Mr. Fisher tried to buy a pair for himself there, however, he could not find a pair with a 31-inch inseam,” The New York Times wrote. “Nor could he find a pair of that size in San Francisco department stores, which stocked Levi’s with 30-inch and 32-inch inseams but not 31.”

He suggested to Levi’s that they should open a place where customers could buy all sizes in one store, a sort of one-stop shop. The Fishers hadn’t worked in apparel before, but they used one of their storefronts to open the first location of The Gap. In five years the gambit paid off—sales hovered around $97 million. In 1975, Don told The San Francisco Chronicle his simple adage to sell jeans: “People wear pants, and they’re going to continue to wear pants.”

2. IN 1972, THE Fishers STARTED THEIR OWN jeans LABEL.

Gap jeans are displayed at a Gap store on February 20, 2014 in San Francisco, California
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

At first, The Gap sold Levi’s and up to 15 national brands. Three years into the business, the Fishers introduced The Gap brand of jeans, T-shirts, and sweatshirts and eventually phased out the other brands. By 1991, Don Fisher claimed the label was the second-best selling brand in American clothing, behind Levi’s.

3. THE FISHERS INSTIGATED A FEW RULES at The Gap.

Stores replaced stock quickly, and they kept prices affordable. They kept bestsellers on racks until they stopped selling, rather than replacing popular items with the newest thing. And they stocked a few styles and kinds of clothing at a time and offered them in different colors and sizes.

4. THE Gap started out with QUIRKY ADS.

To garner attention, The Gap placed eye-catching ads in local newspapers. One early print advertisement read “Levi’s for cats and chicks!,” accompanied by “an unnerving pencil drawing of a bird and cat wearing pants,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The company stoked controversy in 1975 when it ran a salacious ad picturing unzipped jeans with the headline, “The Gap is Open.” Fisher was happy with the hubbub that ensued. “We still run it wherever we can,” Fisher told The Chronicle. “Sometimes we run it two or three days until the newspaper gets too many calls from readers.”

5. IN THE 1980s, The GAP DID AWAY WITH “UGLY” CLOTHES.

Gap employee Shinju Nozawa-Auclair folds clothes at a Gap store on February 20, 2014 in San Francisco, California
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

In 1983, Mickey Drexler joined the team as president. In the next few years, he transformed the brand from catering to teenagers to generating apparel for every demographic. (During his 20-year tenure, he increased sales from $480 million to $13.6 billion.) He’s also credited for revamping the stores: getting rid of the orange walls and replacing racks with shelves under soft lighting.

In 1987, he developed separate collections for men and women and doubled the number of styles for women. “What troubled me especially,” Drexler told The New York Times in 1991, “was that the taste level of the merchandise was, well, just plain ugly. The stuff was trendy but not tasteful and the quality was not what I would have liked. The problem was that we were running a margin-driven business based on price. There was no real, bright future in that.” The changes resulted in quadrupled sales.

6. When they weren't overseeing the Gap, tHE FISHERS bought A LOT OF CONTEMPORARY FINE ART.

When Donald and Doris weren’t busy opening Gap stores, they collected a wide array of art, including works from Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. They had started collecting art for their offices in the mid-1970s, and in 2009, they donated 1100 works by 185 artists to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “They agreed early on that they would never buy a work unless they both liked it, a decision that has ensured that the collection reflects their shared sensibilities,” the museum wrote.

7. THE GAP TAILORED ITS CLOTHING TO “THE MASSES.”

Even couture aficionados recognized The Gap's influence on culture. “I think to find a pair of jeans in 1969 was a different task than it is today,” Vogue editor Sally Singer told NPR. “Back then, the idea of shopping as a pursuit for the masses, that was very new and that wasn’t done." She added that the Fishers made sure that “everyone can wear a khaki and a polo shirt. Everyone can wear what looks like a college sweatshirt. That just wasn't done a long time ago.”

8. THE GAP MADE KHAKIS—AND SWING MUSIC—COOL in the 1990s.

In 1998, The Gap launched several commercials of young people dancing while wearing khakis and basic T-shirts and tanks. “This campaign is about reinventing khakis,” read the press release. The most famous of the ads, “Khaki Swing,” showed twenty-somethings doing the lindy hop to Louis Prima’s “Jump, Jive an’ Wail" using digital photogrammetry, in which two still photographs morphed to give an effect of a freeze frame. The ad fed the 1990s revival of swing.

9. IN 2010, THE GAP CHANGED its LOGO—TEMPORARILY.

On October 4, 2010, the company quietly changed their classic logo from white lettering enclosed inside a navy blue box to blue text on a white field with a lighter blue box in the corner. But the company failed to explain the change, and the public hated the new logo. Less than a week later The Gap switched the logo back to its original one. 

10. The Gap reached $1 billion in sales with diverse brands.

Traffic passes by an Old Navy and GAP stores in Times Square, March 1, 2019 in New York City
Drew Angerer, Getty Images

In 1983, The Gap acquired safari clothing company Banana Republic and transformed it into a sophisticated brand. In 1986, it opened the first GapKids, and a year later, the first Gap opened outside the U.S, in London. In 1990, the company created BabyGap. But its biggest success came from launching Old Navy in 1994, a budget-conscious casual brand: within three years, Old Navy earned $1 billion in sales. Currently, Gap Inc. owns Banana Republic, Athleta, Intermix, Janie and Jack, and Hill City, and is spinning Old Navy into an independent company. 

5 Weird American Cemetery Legends

iStock/grandriver
iStock/grandriver

These strange, spooky cemetery tales of vampires, ghosts, and bloody headstones will keep you up at night. (If you're not too scared, add them to your next cemetery road trip, and keep this guide of common cemetery symbols handy for when you visit.)

1. The Vampire of Lafayette Cemetery

Perhaps it's not surprising that a grave with "born in Transylvania" etched on it would invite vampire comparisons. Local legends say that a tree growing over this grave in Lafayette, Colorado, sprung from the stake that killed the vampire inside, and that the red rosebushes nearby are his bloody fingernails. There are also reports of a tall, slender man in a dark coat with black hair and long nails who sometimes sits on the tombstone. It's not clear what the man who bought the plot—Fodor Glava, a miner who died in 1918—would have thought of all these stories, especially since he might not have actually been buried there.

2. The Green Glow of Forest Park Cemetery

The abandoned Forest Park Cemetery (also known as Pinewoods Cemetery) near Troy, New York, is known for several urban legends. One of the strangest concerns local taxi drivers, who say they pick up fares nearby asking to go home, only to have the passenger mysteriously vanish when they drive by the cemetery. Others tell of a decapitated angel statue that bleeds from its neck—although the effect may be attributed to a certain kind of moss. But one of the eeriest parts of the grounds is a dilapidated mausoleum said to be home to a green, glowing light often seen right where the coffins used to be located.

3. The New Orleans Tomb That Grants Wishes

Famed "Voodoo Queen" Marie Laveau is buried in arguably the oldest and most famous cemetery in New Orleans, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. (Or said to be, anyway—some dispute surrounds her actual burial spot.) For years, visitors hoping to earn Marie's supernatural assistance would mark three large Xs on her mausoleum; some also knocked three times on her crypt. However, a 2014 restoration of her tomb removed the Xs, and there's a substantial fine now in place for anyone who dares write on her tomb.

4. Pennsylvania's Bleeding Headstone

The Union Cemetery in Millheim has one of the nation's weirder headstones: It's said to bleed. The grave belongs to 19th-century local William (or Daniel) Musser, whose descendants tried to replace the tombstone repeatedly, but the blood (or something that looked like blood) just kept coming back—until they added an iron plate on top.

5. Smiley's Ghost in Garland, Texas

A single plot in the Mills Cemetery is home to five members of the Smiley family, who all died on the same day. Rumor has it that if you lie down on the grave at midnight (especially on Halloween), you'll find it very difficult to rise back up, as the ghost of old man Smiley tries to pull you down, hoping to add one more member to the family's eternal resting place.

8 Fun Facts About Muppet Babies

The Jim Henson Company
The Jim Henson Company

Before prequels were a thing, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies imagined a world in which the felt-covered characters of Henson’s Muppets franchise—Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, and Fozzie Bear among them—met up as children in a nursery. Left to their own devices, the animated cast led a rich fantasy life while in diapers. For more on this 1984-1991 show, including why it’s so hard to find anywhere except YouTube, keep reading.

1. Frank Oz didn’t really want Muppet Babies.

The idea to infantilize the Muppets came from Michael Frith, a longtime collaborator of Jim Henson’s, in the early 1980s. Frith believed that regressing the characters could allow them to impart moral or educational messages to children already familiar with them. But Frank Oz, a Muppets performer (Miss Piggy) and film director, argued that the Muppets needed to maintain their subversive edge. It was Henson who found a compromise, suggesting that younger versions of the characters appear in a dream sequence for 1984’s feature film The Muppets Take Manhattan. The response to the scene was overwhelmingly positive, and Henson soon teamed with Marvel Productions and CBS for an animated series that began airing in September 1984.

2. Skeeter was the result of a gender imbalance on Muppet Babies.

Most of the principal Muppet Babies cast was made up of recognizable characters, including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Rowlf, Gonzo, Animal, Bunsen, and Scooter. But Frith, Henson, and producers Bob Richardson and Hank Saroyan decided that the babies were skewing a little too male. Aside from Piggy and their caretaker, Nanny, there were no female characters. To balance the scales, they introduced Skeeter, Scooter’s twin sister, a brainy problem-solver.

Skeeter has made only fleeting and sporadic appearances in the Muppet franchise since, leading to speculation she might be caught up in rights issues between CBS and the Jim Henson Company, which was purchased by Disney in 2004. Fortunately, the somewhat murky situation appears to be at least partially resolved: It was recently reported Skeeter will resurface in the new computer-animated iteration of Muppet Babies, which is currently airing its second season on Disney Junior and has been renewed for a third season.

3. One of the major creative forces behind Muppet Babies was Moe Howard’s grandson.

In 1985, Muppet Babies writer Jeffrey Scott received a Humanitas Prize from the Human Family Educational and Cultural Institute for an episode of the series which the Institute declared did the best job of any kid’s show that year to “enrich the viewing public.” The episode centered on the group fearing one of them might be sent away. The prolific Scott actually wrote all 13 episodes of the first season. His father, Norman Maurer, worked at Hanna-Barbera Productions and got Scott’s foot in the door. His grandfather was Moe Howard, founder and head Stooge of The Three Stooges fame.

4. The Muppet Babies live-action segments were a result of budgetary constraints.

A hallmark of Muppet Babies is when the cast finds themselves thrust into scenes from famous films, a Walter Mitty-esque bit of fantasy fulfillment that blends live-action sequences with animation. According to Frith, devoting a portion of each episode to clips wasn’t entirely a creative choice. By inserting clips, producers could save money on animation. It was also easy for Henson to secure the rights to popular films like Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark because he was friends with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. While some believe those clips are the reason the show isn’t available to stream—sifting through the legal entanglement of reairing the segments might prove costly—that’s never been confirmed.

5. Muppet Babies never explained what the Muppets were doing in that nursery.

Given time to reflect, it seems odd that the Muppet cast would find themselves in a nursery without being supervised by their own parents. Speaking with the Detroit Free Press in 1987, Michael Frith said that the situation was purposely left vague. “I really appreciate the fact that they don’t [ask],” Frith said of his kid viewers. “Is this a day care center? Is this a foster child home? The more we talked about it, the more we felt it should just exist. The kids accept it.”

6. The voice recording sessions of Muppet Babies included copious farting.

Speaking with CNN in 2011, actor Dave Coulier (Full House) recalled that recording sessions for Muppet Babies sometimes involved flatulence. Coulier, who portrayed Animal and Bunsen, among others, said that “lots of fart humor” punctuated the recording studio. “In one scene, Fozzie [played by Greg Berg] and Animal had to climb a ladder,” he said. “As Animal was pushing Fozzie up the ladder, they were making [grunting] sounds. In mid-scene, Greg Berg farted. I looked at [actor] Frank Welker and we couldn’t contain ourselves. Uncontrollable laughter ensued. I was literally on the floor of the studio laughing.”

7. There was an offshoot of Muppet Babies called Muppet Monsters—and it never aired in full.

Following the success of Muppet Babies, CBS and Jim Henson decided to expand on the Muppets' potential as Saturday morning stars by creating a 90-minute block in 1985 titled Muppets, Babies, and Monsters. (Muppet Babies often aired consecutive half-hour installments for an hour total.) In addition to regular Muppet Babies episodes, the program featured another half-hour of Little Muppet Monsters, which featured puppets of new Muppet monster characters named Tug, Molly, and Boo. The three appeared in a framing device that introduced animated segments of adult Muppets. Only three episodes aired out of 15 produced, reportedly due to both Henson and CBS being unhappy with the finished product and Muppet Babies standing strongly on its own. The remaining episodes have yet to see the light of day.

8. Muppet Babies was turned into a live stage show.

To further incite their juvenile audience and monetize their popularity, the Muppet Babies franchise eventually wound up live and on stage. Muppet Babies Live! debuted in 1986 and featured performers in oversized costumes dancing and acting to a prerecorded track. In one skit, the cast appeared in a Snow White homage. In another, Rowlf became Rowlfgang Amagodus Mozart and played the piano. The arena show toured the country. Hank Saroyan, one of the animated show’s producers, wrote the stage show. The performer for Baby Piggy, Elizabeth Figols, also appeared in a live production of Dirty Dancing. The show ran through 1990.

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