Maybe the slow cultural acceptance of marijuana is tied to how ugly it looks when smoked. Cigarettes and cigars will kill you, but damn if a century of media and marketing hasn’t made them look cool doing it. The face of pot, though, is my college roommate carving a bong out of a Dasani bottle. Or, on classy occasions, two adult friends taking turns sucking the trunk of an elephant-shaped, rainbow-colored glass pipe.
Even vaporizers, the self-proclaimed smoking tech of the future, tend to look like something serendipitously broke loose from a costume at a Steampunk convention. Today's announcement of a flashy, golden Pax 2 changes the script.
Pax was and still is the clear alternative. Though I must clarify here, Pax markets itself as a tobacco product. Anyway, for people who crave coolness as much as their next hit, Pax and its e-cig cousin Juul, are the more expensive, but markedly better-looking option. But as tends to happen with trends, with regards to the gizmo's design, the pendulum swung far in the opposite direction. Slim and polished, a Pax looks like it could be the original iPod Mini's fraternal twin. Early models were purposefully subtle, as if explicitly constructed to be hidden in a sock drawer or over looked when traveling through airport security. Where other paraphernalia embraced an extravagant head shop chicness, a Pax and its even stealthier follow-up Pax 2, could disappear completely among the rest of one’s gadgets. At $280, the Pax 2 is an awfully expensive object to go unseen.
For years, Pax has represented the pot for the normal person without normalizing pot. That's changing.
Pot smoking gone mainstream
Over the past few months, Pax's new designs and promotions have been splitting the difference between the grungy past of pot smoking and the featureless present, and the aesthetic loop-de-loop may nudge pot smoking further into public eye. The result is what I can only call mainstream gaudy: cool, but also loud enough as to demand to be seen.
Racked’s immensely talented Nicola Fumo captured the beginning of this shift in her piece "Pax Has Brilliantly Positioned Itself as Fashion’s Vaporizer." The company has partnered with retailers like American Rag and Opening Ceremony along with festivals like SxSW and Coachella to get the device in front of fashionable folk who might use a vaporizer, if only they knew it existed.
Whether the company will state as much explicitly, Pax's public appearances — be it on posters at festivals or in the hands of hip young folks — normalize marijuana paraphernalia, thus eroding in some part smoking's stigma.
While fashion and music is the beginning of this turn for the company, the golden Pax 2 is like a cosmic self-actualization of Pax's place in the universe. The tweak is so simple and smart and tacky and wonderful.
This is the pot smoking fashion for everybody with a modicum of curiosity about pot or vapes. It’s gaudy enough for the old school crowd and crass enough for Supreme nuts; it’s fashionable for the high brow and aspirational for the rest of us; and it is a companion piece for the trendiest smart phones on the planet.
A gold vaporizer is cool in its confident uncoolness.
This — high-quality, but disposable in its trendiness piece of tech — is what mainstream pot smoking looks like, or will look like, as laws loosen across the country. It looks like everything else that's popular: a little showy, a little modern, and underneath it all, the best at what it does.
Cool in its confident uncoolness
Pax is ahead of everyone else and still sprinting. Here’s how Pax CMO Richard Mumby described the company’s strategy to Fumo:
"There is a cultural movement for the categories that we're in; a cultural acceptance that’s happening," Mumby explains. "The overall category is growing well and we're uniquely positioned in a few ways," he furthers. "One, our product is the premium of the category that we're in. Second, we're capitalized well to realize the growth that we want. And third, our consumers include really influential, creative, interesting people," he boasts. "Fashion, art, and music aren't just hollow words [for us]. They're very clear areas of connections that we already have and are looking for interesting and relevant ways to magnify."
You read that, and you see a company preparing for the gold rush.