I like brands with ugly websites. I prefer labels whose online presence is old school and far from the sleek norm of 21st century web design agencies. Its not easy to say this, especially when my day job is editing an online magazine in my line of business its all about having the latest technology and the freshest design features. Not only that, but we live in a cyber-driven society where such statements are, on a good day, frowned upon and laughed at on a bad one. But here goes. I like unattractive brand websites. There, Ive said it again. But theres an important distinction to make straight away: I dont approve of complicated, clumsily designed websites, or the ones I need to download a specific programme to even enter the site. I cant stand those the Internet is supposed to be democratic. No, Im talking about websites that are uncomfortable with modernity, the ones that clearly havent been designed by a bespectacled 19 year-old whiz kid, the ones that are behind on style but not substance. For me, those brands are a bit like the kid in school who dared to wear a bolo or skinny jeans when everyone else wore flares anything that stood out, really - because he or she was so secure in their style that it didnt matter that all the other kids wore whatever was trendy that week.
These brands and their subsequent websites have their own style, and no cyber fad, vain web designer or gif bonanza will change that. In order to resist the temptation to constantly change and update, you need to be old and wise enough to know that none of that will change the quality of your product. As a consequence, many of the sites Im thinking of are mid-sized heritage brands with enough faith in their products to let them, and not the Internet, do the talking. Having basked in the sunshine for a while, the term heritage is slowly resuming its previous place in the nerd corner. But maybe thats a good thing if nothing else itll keep it purer for longer. Because these brands with their longevity, strength and customer base actually have a history to talk about- but more than anything- they have a soul. And their website design is part of that.
Look at, for example, Lewis Leathers - an amazing leather jacket manufacturer in Great Britain. Founded in 1892, the brand has a the historic traditions to back up its products, but have chosen a red quilted lining as background for their site; awful and wonderful at the same time. Another Brit label, Drakes, known for gorgeous ties and scarves (while also dabbling in cobbling and cashmere) have gone for a clunky product display and rather terrible neckwear illustrations. American examples of this phenomenon include Paradise Found, purveyors of authentic Hawaii shirts, who in the midst of their passion for what they make have completely forgot about presentation. Its refreshing and loveable. Gullible, some would say. But I appreciate the lack of shallow trimming; the Paradise Found site is dedicated to quality products and the amazing heritage of the Aloha shirt. The same goes for Dehens website selling heavy knit wool jackets and cardigans made in their Portland, Oregon-factory. The family-run business was started in 1920. The website looks like it was launched the same year. Ancient. But I wouldnt have it any other way. Heres to product superiority over cyber domination.
David Hellqvist is the Online Editor at Port Magazine and a menswear writer. His book about the London SS13 menswear shows was release in November 2012.