There's a Product Out There for Any Consumer. The Latest? The Wearable Towel

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 17, 2009

"Our main goal," says Zoni Stein -- businessman, inventor, visionary -- "is to put the towel of today into the Metropolitan Museum. Because we just made that towel history." History, as in: Antique. Vestigial. Obsolete. "Eventually, you'll go into someone's house and say, 'You have a towel?' "

Instead of what Stein thinks they should have, which is a Wearable Towel: The Towel With Arm Openings.

In the product's video, viewable at and going viral online, a svelte woman struggles to wrap herself in a towel. "You want to stay covered after being wet," a chipper voice off-camera explains, "but your towel just won't let." Finally, the woman gives up on the complex piece of terrycloth and wanders out of the frame. But after a few seconds, she's back, this time wrapping herself in a towel that miraculously becomes a tunic, due to technology best described as "three holes cut on each side of an otherwise ordinary towel." The male wrapping method, which we later see modeled on a grown man cavorting in his yard and at a barbecue, results in a giant floppy toga. Both versions are designed in response to that common problem: Maneuvering this towel is so difficult, guess I'll have to call in sick and drip dry. Again.

"I've always had this inventive kind of streak," says Stein, 30, who lives in Miami and works for an investment firm when he's not pushing towels. "I always see what bothers me. I write down lists of what bothers me." Like the fact that red wine should be served warm and white wine should be served cold and there's no way to store them both in the same bottle -- that bothers him.

And the towel? "The towel bothered me." It left him, he said, so frequently naked, the victim of slippage or snaggage. So one day he grabbed a pair of scissors and began snipping and wrapping, re-snipping and re-wrapping, until he'd fashioned something he thought he could work with. "I tried it and I was amazed at how it covered my entire body," Stein says. "I was amazed at how it felt like it was meant to be."

"You can be," he adds, "totally undressed under this Towel." For just $19.95, plus shipping and handling.

Now the Wearable, which Stein says is produced in a Turkish factory, has become a family affair:

"My brother Ari -- " also a star of Bravo's reality series "Miami Social." Heard of him? No? " -- he does the Wearable Towel fashion shows," Stein says. "My sister, she was just in a Budweiser commercial," and that's her in the Wearable Towel commercial, gently drying her baby by dabbing it against the Wearable Towel she is draped in.

True, some people are going to get all nitpicky, comparing the Wearable to the Slanket or the Snuggie, the winter product based on the concept that people are too incompetent for blankets, and which made all of its wearers look like wizards. (So effective was the Snuggie's promise of cozy mobility that a New Jersey man tried to rob a convenience store earlier this year while wearing one.) But these people have no imagination, no sense of what the public will buy.

"It's a complementing product," Stein says. Two varieties of cloth with arm holes that should be able to coexist peacefully. "It's like a bathing suit product and a sweater product. It's like a husband-and-wife thing." He has a patent pending with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Is the Wearable Towel making us stupid?

"You must remember that . . . half of the population is dumber than average," says Bob Garfield, ad critic for Advertising Age. "Included in that are people who may have been flummoxed by existing towel technology."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company