Some of you might remember about how I wrote about the retail youth culture at the mall initiation that I had with my neice when we went shopping. Usually, to avoid feeling old I avoid stores that dress 13 year old girls like disco hussies. I avoid stores that hustle brands that are almost meaningless, but their mere presence on a shirt or cap gives that item a new improved “identity” that is desireable. (I go in more for the shirt without the identity and I give the shirt the identity because I am wearing it and I am so inherently cool. Ahem. Haha)
Anyway, I kinda spoke about Hollister. About how totally slimy the place felt to me. And then I read this article about the MAN behind these marketing gimmicks.
Mike Jeffries is just over 61, has OCD, way too much fake tan and blonde hair plus a WHOLE lotta plastic surgery to make himself look like the iconic image that he sells. He is a grandpa in ripped jeans, flipflops and a muscle polo, a walking advertisement for the “casual superiority” that his brand sells. Moodiness, cynicism are not allowed in his realm. Everyone is happy. Even if he does have to walk through the revolving door 2 times every day when he arrives and wear his lucky shoes when he reads the financials.
Stores, marketing that portrays the sort of superficial, “only valuable if enjoyable” type of valuable system is common enough. I suppose where it gets really nauseating is in selling this “image” to people who really don’t know what BS it really is: young people. Some youth see it as the all sucking vacuum that it is, but others want this sort of vicarious credibility and coolness so badly that they BUY it, in more ways than one.
I remember walking into an Abercrombie in Seattle in like 93, and being so bored because all the store sold was like golf preppie clothes for old men. Fast forward 13 years and this place is smokin hot. But with what? Some day, maybe, being smart, well read, informed and realistic might be cool in America, but for now, it is much cooler to be a featherweight, because it is so much more “accessible”. In other words, not too smart is cool in the A & F “persona”.
Mike Jeffries, the 61-year-old CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, says “dude” a lot. He’ll say, “What a cool idea, dude,” or, when the jeans on a store’s mannequin are too thin in the calves, “Let’s make this dude look more like a dude,” or, when I ask him why he dyes his hair blond, “Dude, I’m not an old fart who wears his jeans up at his shoulders.”
This fall, on my second day at Abercrombie & Fitch’s 300-acre headquarters in the Ohio woods, Jeffries — sporting torn Abercrombie jeans, a blue Abercrombie muscle polo, and Abercrombie flip-flops — stood behind me in the cafeteria line and said, “You’re looking really A&F today, dude.” (An enormous steel-clad barn with laminated wood accents, the cafeteria feels like an Olympic Village dining hall in the Swiss Alps.) I didn’t have the heart to tell Jeffries that I was actually wearing American Eagle jeans. To Jeffries, the “A&F guy” is the best of what America has to offer: He’s cool, he’s beautiful, he’s funny, he’s masculine, he’s optimistic, and he’s certainly not “cynical” or “moody,” two traits he finds wholly unattractive.
This is what teens clamber for. Girls bite their fingers at “dudes” in this garb and proclaim him “hot”, regardless if he does talk like a boxer who has had a few too many blows to the head.
I know this isn’t new, I know I am not “discovering” this. It just makes me irritable when the “desireable” is so consistently embarrassing, shallow, and dumbs down youth to paper doll status.