I want to go off-uni today, to talk about a small piece of design that most of us interact with on a regular basis. Like so many small pieces of design, it’s something that’s easy to overlook or take for granted — until it’s suddenly taken away from you.
Some quick background: When I grew up, the white bread in our house was always Arnold Brick Oven White. At the time, I wished we could have Wonder Bread like everyone else (when I bugged my Mom about this, she said, “I’m not buying bread that you can roll into a ball”), but I eventually came to like Arnold bread, and I still buy it today. It’s what I use to make toast every morning (using a toaster that’s older than I am and used to belong to my grandmother, but that’s another story).
A few months ago, however, I noticed a change in my standard two-pound loaf of Arnold Brick Oven White. The change didn’t involve the bread itself — it involved the bread’s packaging. Here, see if you can spot the problem:
The problem, of course, is that the outer bag is secured with a twist-tie instead of a bread clip (i.e., the little plastic thingie that’s used to crimp and secure the end of a plastic bag). For decades, Arnold had used bread clips, but sometime around May they switched to twist-ties. And my life hasn’t been the same since.
Now, I have nothing against twist-ties. They’re handy little items, and they make swell cat toys besides. But the problem with twist ties is that you have to, you know, twist them. And untwist them. Which isn’t such a hardship, but it’s infinitely more irksome than simply snapping a bread clip onto or off of a bag, especially if it’s a bag you use every day. Plus twist-ties always manage to get twisted backwards somehow (I’m not sure how this happens, but it seems to be one of those inexplicable examples of rogue physics, sort of like one sock always disappearing in the laundry), which just makes them more annoying.
The lack of a bread clip on my Arnold loaf was clearly unacceptable, so I started cannibalizing bread clips from other, lesser-used products (a pack of hot dog buns, say). Then I started saving bread clips after I’d finished a loaf or a package, instead of throwing them out. Now I have a nice supply of them, and you can bet they’ll be among the items I take down to the Uni Watch Bomb Shelter the next time we’re hit with a pigthrax epidemic, or a Yankees championship parade, or some similar apocalypse.
Bread clips were invented in 1952 by a guy named Floyd Paxton. His company, Kwik Lok, is still around today and is the biggest player in the market. The “oral groove” of their clips (that’s the technical term for the area that grips the bag) is available in a wide variety of shapes, each one suited to a particular type of bag or product, as you can see here (click to enlarge):
That image, incidentally, comes from the Kwik Lok catalog, which is pure pornography for any minutiae fetishists out there (I’d say most Uni Watch readers would qualify). Highly recommended. And when you’re done with that, have fun with this chart.
So why did Arnold move away from the clip and go back to the inferior technology of the twist-tie? Was it for environmental reasons, perhaps, or maybe to look more “artisanal”? Or are twist-ties just cheaper? The Arnold brand is owned these days by Bimbo Bakeries (yes, the same company that sponsors several Mexican soccer teams — see, there’s a uni connection to all of this!), so I gave them a call to get the scoop.
“I wish I could say it was for environmental reasons, but it’s actually because we upgraded some equipment and decided that the ties work better,” a publicist told me. Excuse me, did you say “upgraded”? Going back to twist-ties seems like a distinct downgrade.
“We think the ties work better,” she insisted. “They do a better job of keeping the bag closed.” After double-checking the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1st, I asked if there had been any response from outraged consumers. “No — I don’t think we’ve heard much about this, one way or the other.”
I can only attribute that to the fact that most people are too busy fiddling with the damn twist-ties to pick up the phone and complain (or else maybe they’re still in such a state of shock that they can’t yet express their dismay). The alternative explanation — that people actually prefer twist-ties to bread clips — is clearly too inconceivable to take seriously.
Uni Watch News Ticker: All MLB players will have to wear the new version of the S100 helmet next season. The most intriguing detail from that story is that double-flappers might have to go single-flapped, because “the carbon fiber material and new padding in the helmet limit the flexibility so much that a double-earflap helmet might be impossible to get on” (from Tom Mulgrew). … Wedding band alert! That’s Phillies pitcher Tyler Cloyd. “I must have run the DVR back 25 times (much to the annoyance of my wife) to see if it was an actual ring or just a tattoo,” says Matt Ciciarelli. I can’t say for certain that it’s a real ring, but it sure does look like it.” Indeed. I believe the only other example we’ve seen of an MLBer wearing a wedding band on the field is Sean Green. (That’s not counting Matt Harrison, who wears his on his necklace). … Facts don’t lie: On June 3, the Mets were eight games above .500 and tied for first place. That night they wore their black jerseys for the first time this year. Since then, they’ve gone 34-54. Draw your own conclusions (from Shannon Shark). … In a related item — not uni-related but still an amazing stat — the Braves and Nats have more wins at Shea since the All-Star break than the Mets do. Think about that. That’s hard to do! … Special Veteran’s Day uniform for Iowa. … The Detroit News has published a list of the 25 best and 10 worst college football uniforms. “The writing and reasoning are interesting,” says Steve Vibert. … Over 50 previously unpublished Seattle Pilots photos have been found (from Jeff Ash). … New signature shoe for Derrick Rose. … UVA football coach Mike London has tweeted this week’s uniform choice (from Chris Newbury). … What’s the deal here? If you scroll down, you’ll see that it wasn’t just that one kid — it was the whole team. Are those black numerals on a black jersey, or numberless jerseys, or what? (From Kristina Cruz.) … The 12-year-old kid whose coach wouldn’t let him wear pink gloves in honor of his mother (a breast cancer survivor) has received an apology from the coach. … In vaguely related item, a 11-year-old who wanted to use a purple violin in her school orchestra has been told she can’t use it. I played violin myself when I was 11, and it’s a damn good thing no kid in my school orchestra ever showed up with a purple fiddle (thanks, Ricko). … Phil Johnson has written an interesting piece about the “untucked uniform” among Apple executives. … Brandon Phillips wears a necklace whose pendant is a jewel-encrusted version of his own jersey (from Kenneth Reeder). … New uniforms for the Italian national rugby team (from Eric Bangeman). … Two Washington State items from Eric Reed: (1) Fans are being allowed to vote on this year’s homecoming uni combo. (2) The team has switched to black shoes with gray socks. … There’s a new art exhibit about the Negro Leagues to raise funds for a baseball field in Harlem (thanks, Kirsten). … We all know about the Oscar Meyer wienermobile, but here’s something I’d never seen before: a Lifesavers truck (big thanks to my old zine buddy Tom Lupoff). … Here’s a really interesting infographic based on the location and orientation of every MLB stadium (from Patrick Woody). … According to one analysis, the NHL feels secure in proceeding with a lockout because it knows the fans will come back anyway. Scroll down and read the very last line — depressing. … USF debuted a new pant with horns on the side last night (from Will McGillis). … Here’s the redesigned USA Today. … Manny Machado’s undershirt yesterday had buttons and a stripe. Looks like the same “angry bird” shirt that Nick Markakis was wearing the other day (good spot by Marc Bauche). … Matt Powers refs high school football games and says he’s seeing a lot of matte-finish helmets this season, so that trend is apparently spreading. … Check this out: Back in 1960, Pitt used an end zone design that was oriented “facing” the seats, not facing the field (nice find by Jeff Flynn, Jr.). … Several Bears players were wearing their sock stripes down at their ankles last night. Also, is it just me, or are we seeing more players with exposed knee braces this season? Gonna have to keep an eye on that. … The Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League — that’s a prep school league in Minnesota — is going with corporate-sponsored uniforms this year. And when I say corporate-sponsored, I mean really corporate-sponsored. Holy shit (from Matthew Thomas). … Here’s a great old Pirates dugout jacket with NOB (from Bruce Menard). … Happy Rosh Hashanah to all who’ll be celebrating on Sunday night. … Today’s entry in the reverse-engineered Gowanus All-Stars set list is “Drinking Thing” by Gary Stewart: