Summer’s must-have accessory | AspenTimes.com
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Summer’s must-have accessory

Credential season is here. Just look at the person next to you.With last weekend’s Food & Wine Classic, the Aspen Music Festival & School four days into its nine-week schedule, the June Jazz Fest in full swing this weekend and the Aspen Ideas Festival only days away, the invasion of shiny laminates hanging on well-heeled, well-fixed necks all around town is in high gear.Back where I come from, credentials only became chic after Sept. 11, 2001. Following the terrorist attacks, office buildings around Manhattan strictly enforced security policies requiring employees to display proof of company and personal identification at all times while at work.Here in Aspen, however, credentials aren’t used for identification purposes so much as for social status verification. Credentials are worn not just while attending the events for which they’ve been printed but on the sidewalks outside the events, the sidewalks nowhere near from the events, inside restaurants miles away from the events and while shopping at stores that have zero affiliation with the events. Credentials have replaced silicone breasts, golden retrievers and hybrid cars as the must-have accessories in Aspen.To be fair, it’s entirely possible that some people wear their credentials round the clock because they’ve planned their ensembles around them. Some may have chosen their outfits depending on the colors of the credentials. Others may have weighed whether to wear a polo, v-neck, scoop neck or button-down if lanyard chaffing around the neck or on the sternum is a concern. Many may have accessorized accordingly, choosing not to wear necklaces or other upper-body jewelry so as to avoid having anything that could potentially block the names or access written on the laminates.Analysts have yet to determine whether Aspen’s winter season – with the World Cup ski races, Winter X Games and U.S. Comedy Arts Festival – means better business for lanyard and plastic companies than the events of the summer season.Of course there are also the unofficial, non-traditional tourist credentials during the cold and warm weather. The presence of fur coats the week between Christmas and New Year’s indicates people from both coasts have arrived. Cowboy hats usually signify the presence either of Texans or blondes or anyone looking for a little extra attention (or a combination of all three).Hummers or other unnecessarily large, pricey SUVs or extra small, mid-life crisis sports cars generally denote the time of year has arrived when second and fractional homeowners are in town for their annual 10-day stay. The single-day ski pass from 1992 still attached to the pocket zipper of the CB ski jacket whispers that value season has begun.Then there are the informal local credentials – the ones that scream, “I live here all year, bro.” A ZG license plate. Bike and Thule racks on the backs and roofs of the Subarus and Jeeps. Permanent raccoon eyes. A picture on the wall at the Tavern. Calling the Tavern the Tavern without putting the Woody Creek in front of it and not feeling silly saying it – like saying Ajax instead of Aspen. (Although the people who actually own the mountain – Skico – specifically make a point never to refer to Aspen Mountain as Ajax.)Less clear is how many birth names match those on the official credentials worn. While at a Food & Wine grand tasting last weekend (through the generosity of a co-worker who forked over his pass for an afternoon), I saw one gentleman with a full gray beard (who was probably advanced in age enough that his grandchildren could have joined him in sampling the various vintages) displaying the credential bearing the name of a City Council member only old enough to maybe have a child almost reaching the age when it would be time to start thinking about studying for the PSATs.Nothing says “I paid full price to be here because I didn’t know anyone who would lend me their pass when they weren’t using it” like wearing a credential with your actual name on it. Excepting the local media, of course – their credentials may as well read, “Chances are you’ll find no coverage anywhere of the event which I’m attending, but that absolutely doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy your offer of free [pick one] food/wine/music/suggestions on how to save the world, one soda can at a time.”Like the New Yorkers who have no choice but to wear credentials, the national media doesn’t necessarily have the same love affair with access and status as those in Aspen. During last week’s U.S. Open golf championship, Canon ran a two-page print advertisement. The first page read, “What the pros need to wear around their necks,” accompanied by a picture of 10 photographers’ PGA media credentials. The other page read, “What the pros choose to wear around their necks,” accompanied by a picture of an EOS-1 camera.At least Aspen’s status symbol du jour doesn’t require check-ups with a plastic surgeon, a green poop bag in the hand of a responsible owner or a tank of gas at $3.92 a gallon in order to be maintained. A shiny new credential every once in a while seems to be enough to keep most people here happy.E-mail questions or comments to meredith_cohen@hotmail.com.


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