Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Moment I Realized Trendy Clothing Stores are Full of Shit

There was a pivotal moment when I was much younger, when I started to question what the trendy clothing stores actually thought of the people that were frequenting them.

It was the first time I had ever walked into an Abercrombie & Fitch store.  Up until this point in my life, I saw no need to awkwardly wander into a place that was filled by employees that were so beautiful, I was intimidated by them.  That day however, I was compelled to.  A couple of years earlier I had just ended my long-haired, ratty denim grunge phase and by the time I got my driver’s license and the sweet sense of freedom that came along with it, I was gravitating toward the other end of the spectrum by becoming a preppy fashion victim. So I felt the need to utilize my freedom and glimpse into adulthood by shopping in all of the cool places I was too chicken to walk into before.

So... how long is it until I turn 21?

This specific pilgrimage to one of the many meccas of Trend was to get a pair of these cargo pants I saw being worn by all of the muscular, tanned, shaggy-haired cool kids.  Walking in, I knew I found the right place, but I wasn't sure if that was a good thing – never before had I felt so intimidated and self-conscious at the same time.  The walls were plastered with black & white photos of people with rippling abs, wistfully trotting through wheat fields… and the clerks walking around the store looked just like them... one of which I remember not wearing a shirt at all.  The people around me, in person and print, I had no problem with – that wasn’t what was bothering me.  Hell, if I looked like that, I’d probably try to walk around shirtless too.  The problem was the substantial vibe, the feeling that I just didn’t belong there – that I wasn’t exactly their ‘target market’.  Less than five minutes after I entered, I exited with the pants I so richly desired.

Once I was back home with them, I took a gander at the 100 page catalog that the girl behind the counter automatically stuffed in the bag with my new hallmark of coolness.  I was too busy to object to the catalog however, her cleavage commanded my full attention.  Hey.  I was sixteen, ok?

Fellas, even NOW you wouldn't be able to look away.

Thumbing through it, I noticed the content was more than just pictures of khaki shorts and rugby shirts.  Every twenty to thirty pages, there were what I could best describe as articles, written about subjects geared for the type of person that the A&F corporate offices seemed to think would shop there.  One specific piece caught my eye.  I can’t remember the title of it exactly, but it was something along the lines of:

“Items Every Abercrombie & Fitch Guy Needs In His Dorm Room”

I was naïve at the time, so I read on – it seemed interesting.  While the majority of its content has, by now, been lost into oblivion, a few items stuck out and have stayed with me ever since that fateful day.

-A couple pairs of tightey-whities (so you can hide your “excitement” when you’re on a date).
-A copy of The Shawshank Redemption (so women think you're deep).
-A golden retriever named Jack.

Something else about that list stayed with me – the memory of what I thought immediately after I finished reading it, “Wow.  That was fucking sad.” Keep in mind, this wasn’t a fully-grown, socially-conscious adult having that thought, it was a naïve suburbanite at the tender age of sixteen. 

I don’t know what disgusted me more; the fact that they thought every guy that shopped at those stores was a mindless genetic lottery winner that took a break from beating off in front of a mirror to bore society with his hotness, or that type of person might actually exist and had probably followed that list to the letter.
That assumption about their customers was well illustrated by the tighty whitey part.  Who the hell came up with the idea of needing tight underwear to hide a hard-on during a date?  It’s a date, not a damn lap dance.  The higher-ups not only thought the average Abercrombie & Fitch customer was a mindless brute, but also felt he had caveman testosterone levels that made him think “MM… YOU HOT GIRL.  ME FUCK YOU NOW!!!”  Hey Bam Bam, you forgot to tip the waiter.

Now onto their idea of someone buying The Shawshank Redemption to only put it on their shelf for others to see.  It’s as if Abercrombie & Fitch customers were such one-dimensional jocks, they would need to display a movie in their bedroom that made them seem like they don’t just think about the next time MTV’s The Grind would come on.  I could imagine an advertising executive putting his hand on a college kid’s shoulder to make his twisted advice sound more heartfelt, “Come on, Trent.  You’re too simple to actually LIKE a movie that doesn’t involve one single explosion or shower scene… so just buy it and leave it near your TV, and maybe she’ll see it.  It’s not like she’s going to quiz you on it while you’re on her!  Right?? *nudge nudge*”

When it comes to A&F thinking every college guy should have a golden retriever named Jake… I’m not going to even bother with that one.  Describing my hatred for that assumption would end with me jumping in my car and going on a cross country rampage, and I need to replace the rear shock on it before I go on any kind of road trip, whether it involves news-worthy rage or not.

Where the HELL did I leave that damn rocket launcher??

Now I’m not saying that was the day I stopped shopping at trendy stores.  Not at all.  The jeans I’m wearing right now probably had a price tag of over $100.  The t-shirt I’m wearing was aged artificially.  The button-down shirt that’s draped over the back of my chair was ordered directly from Perry Ellis – I still appreciate the need to look nice.  What I’m saying is that the people that run these companies should stick to what they know: clothing.  The moment they wander into the territory of the demographics’ lifestyle, that’s when you start to get the advertising campaigns that make the general public roll its eyes.  From Buckle and H&M, to Hot Topic and everyone in between, they're all guilty of reducing their view of the public to the lowest common denominator.  

I guess the same could be said about a lot of other markets.  We’ve all seen those late night commercials that depict people getting frustrated while fighting a losing battle against simple objects like a blanket or a broom.  Then again, people that find those 3am infomercial products useful might actually have trouble halving a fucking bagel.

Now Free with Order:  Endless ridicule from your friends!

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