WASHINGTON Our main goal, says Zoni Stein businessman, inventor, visionary is to put the towel of today into the Metropolitan Museum. Because we just made that towel history. History, as in: Antique. Vestigial. Obsolete. Eventually, youll go into someones house and say, You have a towel?
Instead of what Stein thinks they should have, which is a Wearable Towel: The Towel With Arm Openings.
In the products video, viewable at www.WearableTowel.com and going viral online, a svelte woman struggles to wrap herself in a towel. You want to stay covered after being wet, a chipper voice off-camera explains, but your towel just wont let. Finally, the woman gives up on the complex piece of terry cloth and wanders out of the frame. But after a few seconds, shes back, this time in a towel that miraculously becomes a tunic, due to technology best described as three holes cut on each side of an otherwise ordinary towel.
The male wrapping method, which we later see modeled on a grown man cavorting in his yard and at a barbecue, results in a giant floppy toga. Both versions are designed in response to that common problem: Maneuvering this towel is so difficult, guess Ill have to call in sick and drip dry. Again.
Ive always had this inventive kind of streak, said Stein, 30, who lives in Miami and works for an investment firm. I always see what bothers me. I write down lists of what bothers me.
And the towel? The towel bothered me. It left him, he said, so frequently naked, the victim of slippage or snaggage. So one day he grabbed some scissors and began snipping and wrapping. I tried it and I was amazed at how it covered my entire body, Stein says. I was amazed at how it felt like it was meant to be.
You can be, he adds, totally undressed under this Towel. For just $19.95, plus shipping and handling.
Now the Wearable, which Stein says is produced in a Turkish factory, has become a family affair:
My brother Ari also a star of Bravos reality series Miami Social. Heard of him? No? he does the Wearable Towel fashion shows, Stein said. My sister, she was just in a Budweiser commercial, and thats her in the Wearable Towel commercial, gently drying her baby by dabbing it against the Wearable Towel she is draped in.
True, some people are going to get all nitpicky, comparing the Wearable to the Slanket or the Snuggie, the winter product based on the concept that people are too incompetent for blankets, and which made all of its wearers look like wizards. (So effective was the Snuggies promise of cozy mobility that a New Jersey man tried to rob a convenience store earlier this year while wearing one.) But these people have no imagination, no sense of what the public will buy.
Its a complementing product, Stein said. Its like a bathing suit product and a sweater product. Its like a husband-and-wife thing.
Is the Wearable Towel making us stupid?
You must remember that ... half of the population is dumber than average, said Bob Garfield, ad critic for Advertising Age. Included in that are people who may have been flummoxed by existing towel technology.
The people of the Wearable Towel advertisement, imprisoned by their absorbent ineptitude, are surely related to those featured in the Egg Genie ad, in which a woman nearly bursts into tears after she fails the rocket-science-like task of boiling water. Or users of the JumpSnap, the ropeless jump rope, who try using a regular jump rope (you know, with a rope) only to became so confused they are forced to stop exercising altogether. Or those in the Ab Rocker ad, who have no business sitting, much less doing sit-ups, and should just be swaddled in a bunch of protective Wearable Towels.
Its a classic technique, says Remy Stern, author of the snake-oil history But Wait ... Theres More! These products are a problem-solution business. They create a problem, then they instantly give you a solution to that problem.
The terrifying thing, Stern says, is that some of them are really clever.
Watch the Egg Genie ad enough times, and the concept of being unable to boil water starts to seem oddly, reassuringly normal. So what if I cant do a sit-up? you think. Ill just buy the Ab Rocker, and nap in it. What if we are becoming a nation of stupid, lazy people who think its OK not to be able to dry their own bodies?
Lets not get all Andy Rooney, Garfield says, after a pause. But then again he hadnt watched the Wearable Towel video eight times in a row. He hadnt faced the horror of actually kind of wanting one.
Stein, who is also developing a four-dimensional picture frame, wont say how many Wearable Towels he has sold so far. His ultimate goal is to swathe 5 percent of the population, which he says would result in a modest $300 million profit.
The Snuggie, for comparisons sake, has sold some 4 million units, which Stein says should not be difficult to match or beat: Our product is really multifunctional, but the wearable blanket is just a blanket.