I coveted those clothes. The sickening and invasive scent of thick mens cologne and lights dim enough to confuse women for men and visa versa, the longstanding overpriced retail chain swallowed us middle-schoolers like Jonah (and the whale). The starting point for sexy, of which we knew nothing about, mixed with the designer status price points, of which we were learning about, were as educational to us as science period. Throw in their all-Americana flair and a staff who willingly strips down for Christmas, and you’ve got yourself a money-maker.
I remember the first pair of jeans I ever got from A&F: zip-button closure, light wash, flared bottoms, floral pocket linings, and a bit of wear along the edges. They were a size double zero, which I fit into with a belt; I barely had any business being in the high-profile store filled with ample bosoms and rounded hips. If anything, I should have taken my cue from the wallpapered models in black and whites slinking around with their (multiple) significant others, but I wanted that life; I wanted to tote around their bag of screaming self-advertising. I was as intoxicated by Abercrombie 8 as anyone else.
My freshman year of high school, Mom took me shopping to pick out my new set of clothes for the year. And since cool had just dropped Gap in a heartbeat and elevated my new found lust, I brought my mom into the musky store. I quickly winnowed my selection down to a mandated six piece collection and we made our way to the front of the store. Not thinking about anything other than trying my new clothes on over and over in front of my home mirror, I was shaken to reality by discussion between my mom and the cashier.
“What’s this?” She asked of the black plastic-wrapped magazines, labeled “XXX.”
“Oh, that’s just our catalog,” he said.
After a small exchange of him explaining why the magazine had to be wrapped, I hurried after my mother shouting back into the store that this was the last time she would ever give her money to such a sick place. I was mortified, but more so confused. I had missed the exchange as a result of my elation and besides, why would a clothier sell a catalog without clothes?
About a year or two later, I was flipping through my closet before school one morning, searching for a prized yellow shirt with the blue-glittered branding and couldn’t find it. Searching for yet another backup A&F shirt, I was surprised not to find it either. I called to my mother to ask if she had done a load of laundry. Instead, her coy response was that she had “thrown them out.”
“What do you mean you threw them out?” I said, my voice getting heated.
“They went out in last weeks garbage, they’re gone.” she said.
She had, in her own words, “pitched the junk” that she regretted buying, the whole lot. I couldn’t believe it. No forewarning, no asking, and not even the slightest consideration to donating the items. My Abercrombie & Fitch collection, though humble, was being worn by the trash guys daughter. It was a teenage nightmare.
A few months later, a local store opened up called Hollister. When affiliation rumors came out about their partnership with A&F, I denied their legitimacy. I never bought a single item again from their store, considering it (as my mother had so literally put it) ‘throwing my money away.’