You can tell a lot about a man based on how he reacts to being taken into a shop like Abercrombie & Fitch, or Hollister, its little sister brand. It’s the real test of whether or not a man is ‘metrosexual’; if he can survive this shopping experience, he can survive anything.
I recently had a traumatic visit to a Hollister in an American mall. On the day in question, there’s a sale on, and on top of that there’s a further 50% off everything. I barely see the topless teenage models at the door, awkwardly sexualised in their Hollister brand tight jeans and trademark scent. I, after all, am used to the Abercrombie & Fitch in London. On particularly windy days you can smell it all the way down Bond Street; expensive and intoxicating. Models with aggressively toned chests stand guard over the unmarked door. Once inside the shop, to further the sense that this is a secret club that you have to be cool enough to know about, you have to navigate your way around in the darkness and flashing lights. It is a genuine worry that you won’t be able to hear the shop assistants (are they shop assistants or models? Will they stare blankly, or worse, walk away, if you try to ask them a question about jeans sizes?) over the loud club-scene soundtrack.
This Hollister is therefore tame in comparison, with its decorative surfboards, live stream of a Californian beach and ‘mellow’ Indie music. I can actually see the clothes, which makes a nice change. I set to work combing the shop for bargains, and notice that my boyfriend doesn’t look terribly comfortable. He doesn’t seem to know where to look, and when a shop assistant asks him how he’s doing he jumps and mumbles that he’s fine. I don’t think he even knows – or wants to know – where the men’s section is. I lose him for a few minutes while I’m looking for a pretty camisole in my size. As I join the queue for the changing rooms he turns up with a pained expression on his face, and tells me that he needs some air. ‘I’ll be outside if you need me,’ he says apologetically.
As he explains later, places like Hollister are too tied up with the douchebags of his high school memories for him to be able to stand them. That’s okay, I say; I like shopping alone. I pride myself on my ability to dive in, ignore the over-the-top branding, and clear-mindedly judge what I want, I tell myself. I am a lioness shopper, I do not get distracted. But deep down I’m wondering how much of the appeal is actually in the clothes, and how much is the packaging. Maybe it’s easier to shop alone because it’s easier to ignore the ridiculously pumped up shiny teens staring down at me and approving me as one of the ‘cool kids’. True, the camis are nice, but seen through my definitely-not-metrosexual boyfriend’s eyes, I can’t get away from how silly it all is. Am I getting too old for Hollister?
Are there any labels where you feel the branding puts you off the clothes? Let us know, below.