Today’s teenagers have realized something that my peers in high school failed to realize back in the mid-2000s: Abercrombie and Fitch is totally lame.
Earlier this month, The New Yorker published a lengthy discussion of how and why some stores aimed at teens are floundering. Analysts have actually tried to come up with reasons for A&F, American Eagle, and Aeropostale’s rapid decline in popularity. Apparently it’s because everybody I went to high school with was a conformist, while today’s teens care more about copying high fashion cheaply.
Abercrombie in particular shot itself in the foot in the late 2000s when it marketed itself as a “luxury” and “exclusionary” brand (The New Yorker‘s words, not mine. I never thought of the moose logo as being somehow exclusionary. I just saw it as a representation of a store that doused its clothing in cologne and made you rifle through its merchandise in the dark. I was, however, quite the fan of American Eagle.).
This attitude started working against Abercrombie during the recession, around 2008. That’s when [analyst Steph] Wissink started noticing fewer Abercrombie logos in the schools she visited; people (young, old, fat, skinny) could no longer afford Abercrombie’s prices for T-shirts and hoodies. Around this the time, H&M and Forever 21 started to thrive by selling super-cheap, accessible runway knockoffs. The economy has recovered since then, but the turn toward “fast fashion” proved durable.
Over the past few years, I realized I didn’t see as many people wearing stuff with the moose, eagle, or seagull logo on them, but I attributed that to the fact that I am now an old person who doesn’t hang out with kids who are still running around with learner’s permits. Little did I know that these young kids have wised up and are swapping out their popped collars and lace-trimmed camis for cropped skinny jeans and whimsical button-downs.
This observation from Wissink also stuck out to me:
Ten years ago, I could walk into an auditorium of two hundred kids, I could turn my back and tell them to switch seats and scramble.” Then, she said, she would turn around and guess which kids belonged to the same social groups according to what they were wearing—usually with great success. “Today,” she said, “it’s next to impossible.”
Today’s teens use Instagram, Twitter, and blogs to express their personalities, their views on the world, and their likes and dislikes. It makes sense that they want their clothing to be another vehicle of self-expression. They don’t want to all send the same message as everybody else in their class.
The tail-end of the Millennial generation may be selfie-obsessed, but we should at least give them a little bit of credit for being more creative with their clothing than we were.