The sign of the hipster apocalypse is spelled out in Helvetica. Black and white. “Now Hiring.”
Yes. American Apparel is “Now Hiring.”
If this means nothing to you, you’re either far behind or just ahead.
Because it means that, soon enough, American Apparel will mean nothing at all.
What the Los Angeles-based company sells is more complicated than anything it makes. (By and large, its wares are still limited to very stretchy basics, though they’re now available in a perplexing array of colours and metallics inspired by the Euro-Disco era). It sells so-called “socially conscious” clothing to people for whom social consciousness involves being acutely aware of where, in any given room, the most important party blog photog is working. (FYI, what “socially conscious” actually means is this: the company doesn’t exploit children in underdeveloped countries, but rather employee-models with child-like faces and overdeveloped bodies.)
American Apparel sells cool to people who are too cool for cool.
Or rather, it used to.
It was around this time last year that Dov Charney, the alt-Hugh Hefner turned rebel sell-out, took his 10-year-old company public. The days of faux exclusivity (remember when the managers only hired their friends, and everyone did more drugs than work?) went from being “so over” to officially so. We all knew that already. And yet. This public? Like, you can work here too public? And yes, even you with the love handles and the Kirsten Dunst-in-Elizabethtown knit hat public?
Then again, the sign appeared to us mere hours after we’d been at 69 Vintage, where the owner hastily shoved copies of Vice Magazine into our hands. “Take these,” she implored. “We have way too many. We can’t give all these away.”
This particular edition of Vice was prettily packaged with an Aritiza tie-in, a mini-mag of Secrets and Lies, an alterna-catalogue, really, made by a company brave enough to advertise that what they’re not advertising is clothes. Instead of supermodels, there were scene stars: among them, at least three current or former employees of the American empire.
Little here is left to commentary.
After scanning for more signs (Starbucks to release a special edition Steve Aoki mix; neighbouring Urban Outfitters to be managed by Richard Lambert), we immediately texted the last-known cool girl to work at the Queen Street locay.
She LOL’d, predictably, in response: “Who knew? Maybe the demise of AA is closer than I thought.”
In the hipster hegemony, so uselessly defined by anti-establishmentarianism, an empire falls merely by becoming one. If you’re still looking, you can now find American Apparel in any university town across the country. Wander inside and wonder what’s so special. Increasingly scarce are the so-called party kids, now replaced by actual kids: twelve and thirteen years old, escaped from Eaton’s or en route to supply live applause for MuchOnDemand. Ever-present, too, are dudes old enough to be their dads, yet still decades from growing up, preferring instead to remain in Converse and on contract at the CBC. Yuppie couples, five liberal arts degrees between them, attempt recession math: to split wardrobe costs, buy three-packs of unisex t-shirts.
If you’re thinking, wait, aren’t these the people who shop at The Gap?, we have one word for you: congratulations.
Dov’s American empire has long sustained itself on the promise of masstige in a society where the currency is cachet. But will the masses still care to be part of a club that will have them as discount card-carrying members? Find out every Friday, from 1 to 3 p.m., at an open call near you.
Photo by Sarah Nicole Prickett.