Many of us are struggling with the real and the fake – but if you’re willing to pay enough, you don’t have to worry about it. Your host collaborates with 99% Invisible on a story about the Emeco Navy chair (the real one and the knockoffs). Artist Sam Stewart introduces us to a creature and his luxurious useless furniture. Starlee Kine of Mystery Show explains that my real podcasting problem isn’t the real vs fake but ads… and it’s true, dear listeners, because without more ad money, this means I might have to let my amazing producer Andrew Callaway go! Unless our new ICO pulls in millions! Learn all about it.

Illustration by Jordan Crane and new series logo by Val Dorito.

The Torpedo Proof Chair

The Navy needed an indestructible chair. Emeco got the contract because it had a lightweight aluminum super strong chair – and the founder proved this by throwing it off an eight story building. The contract this feat won them kept the company afloat for decades… but things weren’t looking so great for Emeco when Gregg Buchbinder took over in the 1990s. But he discovered the chair was beloved by designers and architects around the world and he turned things around.

But this newfound popularity led to some new challenges.

A real Emeco Navy chair vs. a Restoration Hardware Naval chair.

Gregg Buchbinder uses Emeco’s trade dress protection to fight the fakes.  For him, the worst things about the knockoffs chairs are how disposable they are. His chair is made with a 77-step process in the USA and will last forever — Navy Chairs made in the 1940s are still in circulation — while the knockoffs rust, break and fill landfills.

He’s been pretty successful at taking down the knockoffs from bigger companies. He’s won battles IKEA and Restoration Hardware — but the one chair that he can’t take down is Crate & Barrel’s Delta chair.

A real Emeco Navy chair vs. a Crate & Barrel Delta chair.

The Delta chair is just different enough that Emeco can’t go after them but he still believes them to be knockoffs. Sure, they took out the crossbar, but the butt divot is still there… and they even kept the signature welds on the back of the vertical bars.

Christopher Sprigman wrote a book called the Knockoff Economy in which he argues that lookalikes and fakes are actually a net good for society. The Emeco Navy chair costs over $500 — not a seat for the masses. The knockoffs are  democratizing, allowing for regular people to make similar aesthetic choices to rich people.

But how real is  this knockoff? To find out, I decided to use the same test that won over the Navy… the throwing-it-off-an-eight-story-building-story test. It didn’t do well.

The Cryptid

Artist Sam Stewart took over a commercial/residential space in the former meat packing district of NYC and filled it with art pieces and furniture he made for a fictional client, the Cryptid


Mystery Show

To conclude my rounds of getting advice from podcasters, I talk to one of the masters of helping people… Starlee Kine. It turns out she’s been thinking a lot about the real and the fake.

She told me that this thing about having ads in the middle of shows is the real/fake problem manifesting itself in the podcasting world. In fact, it’s part of the reason she has no plans to come back to podcasting… because it almost seems like there’s no way to do this without relying on the ad model.

But we here at Theory of Everything are trying out another way. That’s right… our ICO is real.


8 comments on Real costs extra (False Alarm! part v)

  1. lei says:

    wtf where is the image of the delta chair after thrown off of 7.5 stories?

  2. Michael says:

    I can’t stop laughing. Where’s the after pic of the Delta chair?

  3. Gregg says:

    You should do a follow-up where you throw an Emeco chair off the same roof. Lots of companies have embellished or completely fabricated origin stories, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to confirm that the original can actually withstand the punishment they claim it can.

  4. Jason Leber says:

    To see the aftermath of the chair experiment, see the second photo. Andrew Callaway is holding the mangled chair like it’s a trophy won from eating a 10 pound pizza.

  5. Wiebe-Marten says:

    Having been not only a long-time listener to TOE, but also in my day job as decentralized developer interacting with many blockchain-based-solutions and Initial Coin Offerings on a day-to-day basis,
    I have to say: You blindsided me completely, and the ICO you present here is one of the most fun ideas I’ve heard in a long time.

    Also, the pun that ‘Pre-bit coin’ entails is just marvellous.
    I love this show so much!


    ~Wiebe-Marten of Resilia

  6. No aluminum chair with heft is likely to end in a landfill. The raw material is too valuable.

  7. Trent Ranger says:

    I can’t believe we have to say this. We want to see what happened to the chair you threw off the roof. Why would you not show that? Show. Us. The. Chair.

  8. Pashko Vasa says:

    Actually what happened is guy on the roof threw the chair down & the other guy in the street caught it with one arm

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