Despite countless centuries of attempted brand revitalizations, it feels like every generation’s pop culture cycle irresponsibly pigeonholes pitchforks as a working class weapon of choice. Whether you first read of pitchforks raised by the unnerved German villagers in Mary Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein or saw them hoisted by the dolled-up, Bowie-esque suburbanites of Tim Burton’s 1990 Edward Scissorhands, pitchforks hold an undeniable, unshakeable cultural cache. Hell, even Grant Wood’s controversial inclusion of a pitchfork in American Gothic lends darker, more ominous tones to an otherwise on-point portrayal of contemporary American rural life. The pitchfork’s reputation was solidified long ago, so what business does Kirkwell Brand have trying to reinvent it in 2014? Two years ago, I’d have bet we’d have Dr. Dre’s Retox and a headlining Smiths reunion spot at our Pitchfork Music Festival (buy tickets here) sooner than another “modern retooling” of the pitchfork as a gardening utility.
Any goodwill for the project among the few loyal quickly dissipated. If you’ve read any veritable, truly authentic blog over the past few months, you know the debacle. As the release date grew nearer, and Kirkwell started offering some first glimpses of the new model, it was hard for even the most ardent pitchfork fanboys to not deflate expectations. The design: too familiar. The price: too exorbitant. Worst of all? The, now gratingly ubiquitous, promotional rollout: conceived and received about as well as that Lou Reed and Metallica, Lulu or Hindenburg. In what could only be described as the marketing bastard offspring of Arcade Fire’s Reflektor pre-release material and Zooey Deschanel’s “adorkable” New Girl campaign for Fox, Kirkwell made it apparent that they wanted to squander any good will before hitting markets. Millennial-focused advertisements endorsing, “a new gardening tool for a new generation,” only further dated the product’s source material product. November 17th quickly changed from a release date to an expected DOA.
And now, with November 17th well behind us, we have Kirkwell’s Model #1826300 sitting in front of us. Make no mistake, it’s as superfluous, unneeded and redundant as imaginable, but, now it’s here, and truth be told: it’s actually pretty fucking good.
Coming out with a modest, but respectable four tines at its end, #1826300 doesn’t try to do too much or impress with pizazz. If anything, Kirkwell learned its lesson in the wake of 2001’s ill conceived, poorly received Model #J745 with an overwhelming 10 tines. They’ve gone back to the rugged, core basics that made Kirkwell a popular home gardening brand in the first place. It’s no surprise to scan the back of the box and realize Javier Robichaud served as Kirkwell’s chief product designer here. Robichaud’s back-to-basics approach, which previously helped revitalize LeafMate’s long dormant brand with 2009’s Model #20213 garden hoe, cannot be understated here.
This is a well-crafted pitchfork that never feels too overly polished or like a cash grab. Simply the mulch and hay functionality offers a vintage display of Kirkwell’s knack for being unapologetically accessible to the everyday gardener, while showcasing enough technical knowhow to appease the most dismissive horticulturist. Kirkwell knows their limits here and never tips their hand, as the minimalist boxing shows. “Ages 8+ / Great for nearly all agricultural uses / A real value deal from the fine folks at Kirkwell.”
It’s tempting to imagine Model #1826300 as a product meant to riot with, but Kirkwell dissuades you otherwise by sticking to their raw, unique roots. Maybe expectations were so low that Kirkwell had nowhere to go but up. Maybe this is just a flash in the pan that time won’t treat kindly. For this moment, though, we have a pitchfork that this young millennium needs–if not the one it realized it wants–from a company whose lasting legacy speaks to the importance of the product in the first place. Is it unnecessary? Totally. But, Kirkwell reminds us that maybe, just maybe, we should stop questioning validity or necessity and just ‘fork on in.
Available at Home Depot, Lowe’s and Amoeba Records on November 17th
The Higgs Weldon is an online humor magazine with funny articles, cartoons, and one liners. It was founded in the Los Angeles stand-up comedy community, but takes submissions from everybody. Please read and enjoy our jokes!