Every generation has been coined. Hemingway and Fitzgerald were part of the Lost Generation. My generation was X and supposedly, I was not considered part of the dominant culture (who knew?). A well-known New York Times columnist branded our current young adults Generation Q, for Quiet. If they can't text it, Facebook it or click on it, he says, they are not involved. Generation Quiet my arse. Visit the mall, and step into a Hollister clothing store. It's a teenage maelstrom.
The experience starts somewhere around Auntie Anne's Pretzels. The smell of cinnamon and butter changes to something more seductive, and slightly naughty. You are pulled towards it, and as your eyes seek out the origin of the wild musky scent, you spy a hooded conclave from which emits pounding house music. You are greeted by a smiling model-type, welcoming you into the musky interior. You enter, wondering what delights you will find attached to that sexy scent.
You squint your eyes at the assorted tchotchkes resting on tables. You think you spy some folded T-shirts on a counter, puffy sweaters hanging on a rack and some tauntingly infant-sized jeans, but the murky darkness makes it difficult to focus. The music beating against your skull makes it tough to hear what the rugged sales boy is saying as he slides by in syncopation to the music - you hope it's to ask you if you want something from the bar. You feel as if you've managed to sneak into a really cool members only club, and figure someone is bound to bounce you out on your not size 2 keister.
But amazingly you're ignored, and you notice that the teenage consumers seem to not be fazed by the aural and olfactory assaults. They are smiling, purchasing, texting and flirting, while you walk in circles, continually bumping into the same half-naked mannequin wearing only sunglasses and a scarf. Claustrophobia hits, and you head for the exit and fresh air. Looking back, you wonder what you just experienced.
Just when did clothes shopping become sensory paella? And was the experience in Hollister any different than shopping for under things in Victoria's Secret while listening to Mozart and breathing in the perfume Heaven? Should stores be given carte blanche on consumer manipulation?
I logged onto the Hollister (little brother to Abercrombie and Fitch) clothing site, and ironically, there seemed to be no emphasis on, well, clothing. The hot dude on the home page is shirtless next to his surfboard, staring bemusedly and quizzically into the distance with his tan fingers resting on his temple, as he no doubt ponders, "Dude, where are my pants, my mom is going to LOSE it!"
Navigating the site is like being in control of a music video. Go to the playlist, and you are rewarded with the same cool house beat that plays in the store. That musky Hollister scent is for sale, and so is your butt. You can fit your perfect butt into Hollister jeans, take a picture of it, and win a surf van.
But before shopping, if the music has not provided enough cool vibes for you, you can go to the photo and video gallery. It is here that you will see more of nothing, except, you know, cavorting.
The videos feature gorgeous tanned former Hollister shirt-folders who have landed modeling jobs for the company, and now specialize in cavorting. These cutie patooties are wearing very little while doing very little other than running on the beach and making out in the sand. They are cute, and it is effective. It makes one want to go to Hollister, buy a half dozen T-shirts and toss them unworn onto a beach blanket.
The Abercrombie and Fitch site is more of the same, but with more expensive clothes. The young gods and goddesses are cavorting in meadows and woods, still only half-clothed, those usually being tossed off in mid-stride. Most parents probably wouldn't want to know where they're rushing to as they drop their $50 T-shirts. And on this site, you can take a screen test and be in a movie.
I love summer, and I can see the appeal these ads have for young people. They look like beer commercials without the beer. Who wouldn't want to cavort in lollipop-colored shorts, precious little sundresses and strappy T-shirts?
But for you young non-cavorters, be forewarned: you may have to find an alternative. Maybe try frolicking. Banana Republic specializes in frolicking.