The woman who buys this shirt: How old is she?

A few days before last week’s road trip, I went shopping. I didn’t find much, but I did spot this shirt while wandering aimlessly around Forever 21:

shirt from forever 21

The shirt says:

I (heart)

What caught my eye specifically, beyond the fact that it’s a product with names on it, was the inclusion of the name Dave.

Names used in marketing (or on products themselves, as in this case) can give you a lot of information about the type of customer a company is targeting. A commercial featuring people named Madison and Tyler, for instance, is aimed at a different demographic than one featuring Debra and Gary, or Camila and Diego.

To me, Dave seems a bit old for the teens and 20-somethings shopping at Forever 21.

Here’s why:


The graph above indicates how many babies were named Bradley, David, Samuel, and Ryan from 1950 to 2000.

David was a top-10 boy name from the mid-1930s until the early 1990s, but it was really big pre-1970. It was the #1 boy name in the country in 1960, in fact.

Today’s oldest 20-somethings were born circa 1985. David was still more popular than Bradley, Samuel and Ryan in 1985, but it wasn’t as massively popular the 1980s as it had been in previous decades.

This might not seem like a big deal, but I find it really curious. Someone chose the name Dave for this shirt instead of Josh, or Matt, or Justin. Why?

There may not be an answer, but after doing some research, I’m wondering whether the choice of Dave wasn’t intentional. Here’s what I found in a Business Insider article about Forever 21 published a year ago:

Forever 21 is expanding its customer base — Forever 21 is becoming a fashion department store that caters to all members of the family — not just teens.

That means a broader set of customers are being gobbled up by the retailer as it releases new lines targeting men and older demographics. Yet, at its core, Forever 21 still has a similar target as the big teen retailers — 18- to 24-year-olds.

Maybe Dave was included to catch the attention of me and all the other 30-somethings and 40-somethings wandering aimlessly through the store?

And now the question of the day!

Let’s say you’re in Forever 21 and you see this shirt. And then you see someone — a female — walk up, take it off the rack, and buy it. In your visualization, what age is this person? And why do you think your brain automatically chose that age?

12 thoughts on “The woman who buys this shirt: How old is she?

  1. This seems to be a popular sleep shirt style for 20 something’s. I would assume it was a boy band who’s members had slowly married off and Ryan was the only remaining bachelor!

  2. I have a different theory:
    What if they purposefully chose names that were NOT likely past boyfriends, in order to make it more of a parody/commentary toward dating life than an actual list of the poor 24 year old wandering through the store seeking retail therapy after her last break up? It’s certainly easier to laugh it off if your ex-boyfriend’s name isn’t staring back at you with a big white line through it.

    Along the same lines, my little sister is 18 and refers to her current crush by the pseudonym “Dave” — presumably because she doesn’t know any *real* Daves in high school… Just a thought! :)

  3. @Diane – Ha! :)

    @Kristy – That’s an interesting theory. Certainly would make the shirt a lot more interesting (to me at least) if this were the thinking behind it.

  4. That’s funny, because I don’t find David/Dave to be such a dated name, but Brad does stick out to me. We know several Davids under the age of 12, but no Brads under 40.

    I agree that Josh or Matt would have been more likely to hit home for someone in her 20s!

  5. According to the chart, Dave was more popular than the other three names from 1990-1996, even if its popularity was on the decline. A more appropriate question would be why they picked names already at the bottom of the popularity list. If Josh is a popular name today, it should have replaced ‘Brad’, not ‘Dave’.

  6. @B – They definitely didn’t pick names at the bottom of the list. :) All 4 names are relatively popular. Bradley may look like it’s at the bottom on that graph, but it actually ranked 169th nationally in 2012.

    My issue with Dave is just that it peaked much earlier than the ’80s and ’90s. If the company’s goal was to choose names that would resonate with shoppers in a younger demographic, I think better choices would have been Joshua, Matthew, Justin, Brandon, Tyler, Austin, Zachary, or any other male name that peaked during the ’80s and ’90s, not decades before.

  7. I think this shirt is aimed for the adults who were born in the 1970’s and graduated in the 90’s. I see the names on the shirt and automatically think of the names from the show: Beverely Hills 90210.

    We tend to forget that the 90’s generation is grown up. Usually when you hear the “term” 90’s generation, we think 90’s born babes, but this not always the case. The same concept would apply to baby boomers generation, which expanded all the way until 1961.

    Its a broad spectrum term, but in all regard they are all grown up. My sister was born in 1979 and I in 1986. In many ways having an older sibling, the shirt is geared towards me as well as her, because of her being my older sister, so I was exposed to it. If you remember those slam notes books, they wrote names and crossed them out. In my generation, if you remember One Tree hill, Peyton Sawyer and Brooke Davis had a black board and the notebook list of all the potential and past boyfriends with lines crossed out as if to knod toward the 90’s generation of doing things.

    In regard to your comment on advertising schemes, this is nothing new. There have been many studies done in the late 90’s on the human mind and how our brain’s are hard-wired to have an appeal to “certain” colors and “certain” merchandising and marketing schemes which encourages us to buy/relate/or even form an opinion without the facts. Our emotions are a very powerful thing that can be condition and controlled in many ways, and on more than one emotional level.

    In the studies it resulted with many brand name companies placing their Soda brands in the front of a convenient store (i.e.gas station) next to the register. They knew it will be more appealing to the senses to buy a soda than in the back of the store where it wasn’t seen and therefore not on our mind and toying with our senses to buy. In fact there is a military program that works with mind control and the nature/mechanics of the mind, its called DARPA.

    Here are two science journals, who can explain in-depth the extent advertising can have on us and right down to our subconscious state.

  8. So what names WOULD you put on the shirt? The designer clearly wanted the names to be short, three or four letters, for aesthetic purposes so I think that rules out names like Brandon and Austin. I’d leave Ryan and add Matt, Josh, and Cody.

  9. @Cash – Thanks for your thoughts, and the links!

    @Diane – Great question. (And Cody is a good one!) Let’s see…if we’re aiming for the 20-something crowd, I’d also keep Ryan, and I think I’d add Andy, Josh and Kyle.

  10. Three of those four are names of my coworkers (who range in age from 29 to about 35). Sam could be my best friend’s dad (around 50) or his good friend (about 29, also). I’m right at the aging-out cusp of Forever 21’s demographic — 26 — and Kyle and Josh make me think of my brother’s group (he’s barely 20) although Matt is a good choice. Alex, Dan, and Chris are also ubiquitous for Millennials.

  11. Dave is both of my grandfathers, and Brad is my deceased 40-something uncle- I can’t help but think of this shirt as being for somebody mid-Western and mid-forties.

  12. I just got this shirt yesterday and absolutely love it! I’m getting married in October and my Fiancé’s name is Ryan. I thought it was so cute that all the other names were scratched out lol. He’s 24, not sure if that’s a popular name.

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