Thursday, February 21, 2008
READERS CHOICE TOPIC 5: Abercrombie and Fitch
The last readers choice topic was bowl cuts, which took us down memory lane to look at middle school Kale. This topic will serve as a nice slice of past pie from the late 90's and turn of the century.
Basically, A & F was a sporting goods store fo rthe rich in Manhatten New York about 100 years ago. Abercrombie is the dude who started the store and Fitch was a rich lawyer guy who quite his job and bought part of the store. They did pretty good for a while and expanded till the 60's when they started to go bankrupt. After a ownership change or two, it was time for the late 80's. This guy from The Limited apparel group headed up the new division under this A & F name and decided to make the brand "All about Sex." They opened up all over in malls to target teenagers. The last part of the history is that they send out explicit catalogues all over the world, have giant sexual posters in their stores and generally are piles of techno playing crap.
Thats their history, here's mine. Leaving middle school for the big Peninsula High School was a tough transition. Half of the middle school I went to went to the rich kids HS across town, the rest of us went to my HS Peninsula. Now our school had the richest kids in town (from the illustrious Country Club and Golf Course at CANTERWOOD) we also enrolled the poorest kids, the commonly referred "white trash" from Key Peninsula. Because these KP WT made up a simple majority our school was referred to as the WHITE TRASH SCHOOL. This was fine with me, being a Washington State Cougar, I have an affinity for being from the poor underdog school in a rivalry. Huskies were rich prep jerks, and for the most part so were Gig Harbor Tides.
What does this have to do with A & F. Everything. You see when I got to high school the apparel changed. Their was khaki everywhere, cargo pockets, rugby shirts, pastel colored hats with a fabricated beat up brims. Everyone wore beat up clothes, but there was something odd about them. The beat up hole, or stain, or fraying was actually put there on purpose! They were actually bought and desired for their level of wear and tear. This boggles my mind today, but leave it up to the rich to invent a fad that shows how rich you are by how beat up the clothes are that you can buy that are also brand new. Not only were the clothes ridiculous, you had to have em to be "cool." This frustrated me greatly. My family didn't have the type of money to go around buying beat up clothes. My parents wanted us to feel cool and so we would get A & F clothes for birthdays and Christmas. Unfortunately, to be REALLY cool you had to have a whole wardrobe of A & F and we, at most, could only fit one or two pieces in a week. If you didn't dress this way you were labelled trash. At the time, for which reason I don't know, I cared enough to do my best to stay situated snuggly in the middle of cool, nerdy, and poor. I wasn't part of any of the groups.
Now, America is really good at providing a poor peoples substitute for the elite trend. So what popped up next? American Eagle. Basically the store was exactly the same except it was cheaper prices and in all honesty, the clothes were of a nominal quality. That was one thing I did always respect about A & F, although they were expensive and pre worn, they lasted, were durable, fit well and were nice. American Eagle (A & E) was kind of cheap. I still have a pair of Abercrombie Jeans form tenth grade. I still have a pair of camouflage Abercrombie cargo shorts. I am not ashamed of this, they are part of my past. The point is that the kids from the Key Peninsula wore A & E.
So now in late 90's Puget Sound white dominant High Schools you have whole preppy cliques of kids wearing these pre adult semi sexual low rise tight fitting richy rich clothes, and a whole social underbelly trying to get away with knock off, look alike versions. You also can sprinkle in some GAP or its knock off Old Navy. It was actually a rather complex social indicator that is even going on today. My least favorite part of going to the mall in the summer is having to walk past some guy that has been recruited by the A & F store to stand in the entrance as a shirtless greeter. How freaking ridiculous is that?
Today the rich, because of need, or accessibility, have had to distinguish themselves from this lower class. A & F brainchild Jeffries steps in again and invents a richer, sexier, more mysterious version of A & F called "Hollister." They also start marketing "Abercrombie" for younger teens! American Eagle then creates "Aerie" a similar store and then there is "Baby Gap" also. Its like an amazing thing to watch.
I eventually got off the A & F wheel around my Junior year of school. A classmate died in a car crash, after that I started hanging out with a lot of different people. "Artsy Fartsy" kids is what most people would call them. My best friend Sean was leaning that way at that time also I we were inseparable. The only difference was that I played Football and Baseball. In this art kids group a different dynamic was going on. In general, they truly could give a rats ass what Chance or Trent or Jessica or Tiffany or any of the A & F Young Life kids thought about them, actually, the less these rich kids thought of the art kids the cooler the art kids became in their social world. To prove that they didn't care about rich fashion, art kids would comb the Value Villages, Goodwills, Salvation Army's and Seattle hip spots for new "old" clothes. The goal being to score a find of the most unique real pre worn finds. Accessories such as glasses, belts, shoes and hats were a vital part. I found this type of fashion much more suiting to my tastes. I loved going vintage clothes shopping with my friends. We did it almost every week. We bought 70's leisure suits, 80's track suits, old sports jersey's and tourist t shirts of far away american towns and states. Basically it was the beginning of what the kids call the emo/indy look today.
Around that time a new look emerged also. This was the extreme sports look. Skateboarding, Snowboarding, wakeboarding and surfing made a major comeback with the teen age population. All of the brands that made these boards started expanding into clothing. If extreme sports were your thing you could side step the richy rich look, the art kid look, and the trash look by simply wearing clothes that showed everyone you liked to "board." Now you can go to Zumiez, Pacific Sunwear (PacSun), and pick up the latest Hurley, Quicksilver, or Fox gear.
From what I can gather this is the most popular look of all of my students, which cracks me up because non of them surf, skateboard, snowboard or wakeboard. One student skateboards, (on a wooden playdeck :( If this is any indicator, then the fahion on my island is about 8 years behind the lower 48 fashion trends. I'd be interested to hear what is going on in Bethel High School.
Last but not least, you have the emerging "Northwest/Colorado" look (Pretty Recent). This is the organic, I care about the environment because I go out into it look. Teva's, REI, Kavu, Keen, Berks, Crocs, Mountain Hardware, Northface, and the list goes on. This is a popular look in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado. But anyone can appear to give a crap about the environment even if they drive a Hummer.
So hear I sit in the Anchorage Airport, wearing Carhart Overalls, long hair and beard, an REI Fleece, Sorel Boots, Mountain Hardware snowpants and long underwear, an Element fitted hat, a Nixon watch, a wool elf hooded sweater from Woolies, and a hanes green defect shirt from Walgreens. I have a Northface backpack with two Nalgenes (bought a new one, again), and my Heli-Arctic Canadian Goose Parka. So I think if I can sum this up, I'm a Outdoorsy, hippie, arctic, boarder, with a touch of class and a heart of gold. My philosophy is now that I buy stuff and hold on to it over time so that I make it cool by beating it up myself. I love colorful clothes that look good on sunsets in a Washington summer. I love clothes that have a function. I love clothes that are good to dance in. I love clothes that no one else has. I love clothes! I know a lot about fashion of my generation also and I'm glad I got to share all of my vast Generation Y fashion sense with you. Even if you think I'm not into all that stuff it takes a lot of time, thought and effort to look as weird as I do!