Warby Parker is not your average brand. Nor is it your average brand name. In fact, here at Zinzin we think it’s super awesome. And we’re a hard naming-bunch to please. So we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight a brand we admire and talk a little naming-talk while we’re at it.
What’s so special about Warby Parker?
Warby Parker, an American retailer of prescription glasses, contact lenses, and sunglasses, is a great example of a brand created from an invented character name. With this invented construction, it perfectly evokes the milieu of 1920s-1950s history, literature, and music. The company also features eyewear products named after historical and cultural figures: Corretta, Dinah, Hughes, Roosevelt, Wallis, Winston, etc.
As to its naming origin story, Warby Parker once explained,
We’ve always been inspired by the master wordsmith and pop culture icon, Mr. Jack Kerouac. Two of his earliest characters, recently uncovered in his personal journals, bore the names Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper. We took the best from each and made it our name.
Why does the name stand out?
For starters, Warby Parker stands out because it’s not afraid to stand out. Zinzin loves company and product brands that have no FOSO, or Fear of Standing Out.
Superhero at heart
We think the extra special vibe that the name “Warby Parker” exudes is that of the incognito comic book superhero. We imagine Warby Parker as an awkward nerd trying to blend in with the crowd. But we fans know his or her true superhero identity — think Peter Parker (Spiderman), Clark Kent (Superman), Snapper Carr (Justice League TV news reporter), Pepper Potts (Rescue and CEO of Stark Industries), and Harley Quinn (mostly reformed villain).
Warby Parker is a gender-neutral name on its own. However, we’d like to give a shout-out to many smart and sassy women portrayed in period films, such as His Girl Friday (Rosalind Russell as the feisty Hildy Johnson), The Philadelphia Story (Katherine Hepburn as the regal and queenly Tracy Lord), and Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (the incomparable Jean Arthur’s Babe Bennett opposite Gary Cooper’s Longfellow Deeds). All are vitally important to the brand narrative of the name Warby Parker.
Beat literature & art
Jack Kerouac himself was a product of the generation that the name Warby Parker alludes and pays homage to. This extends the brand’s metaphor range into the Beat era as well. For example, think Allen Ginsberg with his iconic black-rimmed glasses. It’s perfect for a brand catering to today’s prep school iconoclasts, creative class hipsters, and mid-century modernist mavens. (As a bonus for all you artists, writers, and namers out there, slip on your favorite pair of reading specs and check out Visionary tics shivering in the chest: Jack Kerouac’s List of 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Prose and Life. )
Another reason to love Warby Parker
As if having the brand name of a gender-neutral superhero inspired by Jack Kerouac isn’t cool enough, another reason we admire Warby Parker is their aptly named Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program. Here’s an excerpt from their website. Note their use of brand language: a conversational tone with every day language that makes us feel that friendly, familiar Warby Parker vibe.
We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket.
We also believe that everyone has the right to see. 2.5 billion people around the world need glasses but don’t have access to them; of these, 624 million cannot effectively learn or work due to the severity of their visual impairment. To help address this problem, we work with a handful of partners worldwide to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need. To date, over eight million pairs of glasses have been distributed through our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program.
There’s nothing complicated about it. Good eyewear, good outcome.
Zinzin sees clearly now
Like many superheroes, Warby Parker is strong, yet humble, and out there doing good things. They aren’t afraid to have an evocative name that stands out in this wide brand world. That’s a name we can get behind. And we’d like to think that somewhere out there in the cultural exosphere, Clark Kent is thinking, Peter Parker is slinking, Sam Spade is drinking, and Pepper Potts is winking.
Bonus: Here are the name origin stories behind two more great, enduring examples of brands created from an invented character name: Pink Floyd and Humphry Slocombe.
Ali Sell says
Fun fact: The Simpsons have a character named Warburton Parker! He’s a hipster branding expert. https://simpsonswiki.com/wiki/Warburton_Parker