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2015-2018 Annual Map Producer: Jeannine Patané/RV Compass

Green Eggs Rally

Inyan South Dakota Rally

Goin' Gangsta on Fiberglass Graphics

By Jeannine Patané
April 10, 2018

Many cold moons ago while I was living in Alaska, I was in the market for a warm winter coat. My eye was set on a Cabelas down filled jacket, but they were out-of-stock for my size. The North Face had an almost identical jacket. The biggest difference was the price tag, being $50 more than my first brand of preference.

There was a sense of seasonal urgency for the winter coat, so I swallowed the extra cost for the fashionable name brand. It was not the Cabelas jacket I wanted, and I was irritated to be another walking body of brand recognition for the largeness of The North Face logo. A scrap piece of black Cordura and a few shiny butterfly and dragonfly patches strategically stitched over the logos soothed the extraordinary cost and gave me a customized jacket.

Jacket with patch over brand

The front and back logo on the jacket are covered with butterfly and dragonfly patches. The author wearing her jacket in 2001.

Three winters after The North Face purchase, I was wearing the jacket on a biting cold day in New York City. My friend was part of the film crew for Tommy Hilfiger’s “The Cut” reality show, and he brought me along for the day as his volunteer assistant. My task was to be placed out on the sidewalk for the duration and stop pedestrians from crossing the street when filming was taking place. Have you ever tried to stop a New Yorker at an intersection? It was a near impossible job.

In between film shots, I just paced the sidewalk to stay warm. At one point, three teenage boys sauntered past me with droopy jeans, gold chains and raised brimmed caps. The young man in the middle commented to his friends, “Yo! Yo she put da butterflies over da North Face. Dats so gangsta.”

Gangsta. I liked it. It was apparently cool enough for a fashion conscience urban youth to spot and comment on. It reinforced the idea that as a consumer, I get to decide what brands I choose to associate with, and to what extent. I had the ability to take a product and customize it to a level of becoming identifiably mine.

Over a decade has past since the city street scene, and the jacket has been abandoned for warmer climate living. However, my desire to hack brands has not diminished. In fact, I took on the bigger customization of my travel trailer last year. Who wants to be the rolling billboard for ugly, abstract and antiquated graphics?

My trailer’s manufacturer did me no image favors; why should I advertise for them? The travel trailer’s brand name was vinyl-smacked on at least one-third the length of the trailer. It’s my 3-D space and I demand a naked canvas.

The trailer was backed up in an Emerald Isle, North Carolina driveway where a homeowner had the tools and space for me to remove the graphics. I went gangsta on that ghetto mess and put the heat gun on its sticky font face.

The caveat to removing graphics is that the longer they are on, there’s a greater chance of ghosting due to the oxidization on the surrounding surface of the graphics. With this knowledge and a creative idea, I was armed with a scanner, PhotoShop and a tape measure. I took my idea to Styron Photo and Video, next to the Bogue Inlet Pier, to see if the project was possible to output.

A flash drive holding two gigabytes of full-scale graphic files were handed off to Brad Styron, owner of Styron Photo and Video. He output the vinyl wrap and installed my custom design. Not stopping there, I added 3M reflective tape on top of specific images to incorporate another design element and add artistic visual safety.

Brad applies the wrap to the trailer

Brad Styron of Styron Photo and Video applies the art of the wrap to the author’s travel trailer.

Like the numerous boats along the Crystal Coast, our RVs are a tool to express our freedom and playful activity. RV owners don’t have to submit to someone else’s abstract idea of what fun and inspiration should look like.

If your fiberglass toy is coming from the factory with options, graphics can be left off (or customized) there. If you purchase from a dealer or private owner, it’s never too soon to strip your canvas clean. There are products on the market that can help with ghosting and oxidization removal if you are looking to restore the gelcoat surface.

Nautical Wrap on trailer

The author’s mobile crib is stylin’ with her design and reflective tape.

For the same reason some motorcycles have shed fairing and gone naked, the architecture of the RV can—and should—be so super good looking that graphics would only distract and cheapen esthetics. If you have an RV that falls short of being a beautiful design in its own right, then claim your mobile crib and go gangsta on bad graphics.