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American Apparel: You’re So Creepy but I Love Your Basics


The Setting: an American Apparel store in Brooklyn

The Characters: 2 girls, about 13 years old, and me

And, scene:

I am waiting to try on some cropped cotton pants, which will be perfect for the new gym I joined.

“Ugh, this is SO tight, I look SO fat!” says one 13 year old girl. She and her friend are occupying the only dressing rooms.

She emerges, in a backless leotard and a skin-tight mini skirt.

Her friend emerges as well, in gold lame hot pants.

“No, you look cute! I like it!”

“But like, you can see my back.”

“Yeah but it’s so cute! My ass looks huge in these,” she says, as they stand in the open dressing room, preening and posing in front of the harshly lit mirror. I am still waiting, but they don’t seem to notice, instead gazing like Narcissus at the river. How inappropriate, I think, that 13-year-old girls are trying on gold lame hot pants. Then I look around and see the life-sized photographs of underage models staring down at me. They look drugged out. They are overly sexualized. Suddenly I don’t want the pants anymore. I throw them down and leave.

The Setting: an American Apparel store in Manhattan

The Characters: Me and a friend

And, scene:

It is Friday night and my friend and I are tipsy. We have just finished a mostly-liquid dinner, and the night air is much colder than we thought it would be.

“I need more layers!” I exclaim.

“I need a hat”, says my friend.

Luckily for us, the American Apparel store on the Lower East Side is open until 11pm. For fun, I try on some ridiculous faux-denim skin-tight almost-up-to-my-boobs leggings. They, as expected, look hilarious. I end up buying a blue long sleeve shirt, which will go perfectly under the dress I’m wearing. As I peruse the store, I notice something besides the models this time: I have that shirt, in 2 colors. “I like that dress”, my friend says. Oh, I have that too. I also have 2 pairs of these leggings with the buttons on the side, and 3 ribbed tank tops. Don’t forget 1 pair of shorts and 1 pair of leg warmers, 1 over-sized long-sleeve shirt and a halter dress.

Whoa. Do I have an addiction to American Apparel? The store whose billboards make me want to vom? How can this be!? I’m so embarrassed…

I discovered this a common sentiment among my friends. “Yeah, Dov Charney is so creepy, but their shirts come in so many colors!”

“I know, those models are gross, but I can’t live without AA tights…”

“They make a dress, that’s also a sweatshirt!”

So I’m torn. Girls, help me out. How do you feel about shopping at a store whose labor practices/advertising/environmental policy you don’t agree with? Do you boycott stores you’d otherwise shop at because of something they do? Is it even possible to avoid those evil corporate practices?

My family gave up shopping at WalMart ages ago, but we can still get our cheap box store fix at Target. If I boycott American Apparel but shop at say, H&M or Forever 21, am I just trading one evil for another?

Oh the brightly colored, many layered dilemma…