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Will Smith's 'Fresh Prince' Merch and Apparel Line Is Kind of Genius

October 7, 2019 | Brendan Menapace

Will Smith is one of those guys who seems to have transcended humanity and become a cultural institution. He’s made hit TV shows, chart-topping albums and summer blockbusters, and even worked as a genie that one time.

Still, Smith is probably best known for “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” which is how most people first saw him. Those of us in Philadelphia who are constantly accosted by the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” theme song any time we dare to mention West Philly to out-of-towners know firsthand just how popular it is.

Even though it’s been more than 20 years since it ended, the show is a cult favorite. Smith, who’s proven himself an entrepreneurial genius if nothing else over his career, is capitalizing on that by launching a new clothing line inspired by the show.

Bel-Air Athletics is a full line of apparel, headwear, smartphone accessories, bags and other merchandise all influenced by the show. A lot of the items look like gym class uniforms, but the real pièce de résistance here is the gaudy paisley pattern on multiple items.

Fans of the show will recognize it immediately as the pattern inside the prep school uniform that Smith’s character turns inside out to spice up a little. The track jacket has the pattern on the inside and is, indeed, reversible.

If the Bel-Air Athletics web store is to be believed, demand has already been high enough to delay shipment six to eight weeks.

This is a good example of making merchandise inspired by a cultural phenomenon, but going beyond basic logos to do something more creative. Everyone remembers the paisley jacket when they see it, but it’s not the first thing you think of when you hear “Fresh Prince.” (That honor goes to being born and raised in West Philadelphia.)

No one should be surprised at this point that Smith and his marketing team played this one well. Smith’s ascent from charming actor/musician to keystone of American culture proves that he knows what he’s doing here.

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