When David Sim and I came to the States in 2001 it was easy to buy clothes. There was really only one urban outfitters to go to - Abercrombie & Fitch (AF). It was the cool thing to wear back then. Only available in the US and all the gays were wearing it. We bought fifteen bags full sir.
The only other 'choice' was Gap. But Gap was for grannies.
In the intervening years new outfitters on the block have shown up and AF has lost it's street cred. It's become so common place as to almost be naff. So we came to New York to canvas opinions on what we should be buying. What was The Thing To Wear?
What we found is that urban outfitters in the US these days seem to be mighty brand machines occupying vast central city locations but selling just five basic items of clothing in their cavernous interiors. Each item of clothing will come in 200-odd colours but all based on the same theme and variation. The brand will be brazened across the front of each item so there can be no doubt which store you bought it from. But apart from this branding the clothes in each different store are all the same though. Same colours, same basic styles, same five basic clothes; hooded sweat-shirts, t-shirts, jeans, coats & underwear. It's Hobson's Choice. The illusion of choice if you will.
So we asked some of the A-gays in some New York bars how do they differentiate between the different brands and what was The Thing To Wear for 2010/2011.
And this is what they came up with:
Urban Outfitters List (ranked coolest to naffest)
1. Aeropostale (AP)
2. American Eagle (AE)
3. Hollister (actually owned by AF)
4. Abercrombie & Fitch (AF)
And this did seem to born out by what people were wearing out on the street and in the cool bars too. The sexiest men seemed to be wearing Aeropostale (AP). The fat straight people were wearing Abercrombie & Fitch (AF). And the grannies were still wearing Gap.
So we chose and shopped accordingly. AP it was. All fifteen bags of it. But secretly we knew that this was really just the illusion of choice. One t-shirt is pretty much like another, right?