Jewish World Review Dec. 12, 2003 / 17 Kislev, 5764
The way they dress, "boxers or briefs?" isn't a question
Meet Matt. Matt is a 19-year-old college student in a large
Midwest shopping mall who is wearing absolutely nothing except for red and
white boxers. Oh yeah, and a Santa hat and red socks.
Matt is a holiday greeter for Abercrombie and Fitch. It's the
Wal-Mart concept without the blue vest - and pants and shirt and shoes.
"What does your mom think of this, Matt?".
"I told her I was doing it and she was, like, cool. Do you want to
call her and talk to her?"
"Oh, like, maybe later. So, Matt, do you get paid extra for
standing around half- naked?"
"I do," Matt says, flashing perfect pearly whites.
"Hmm. Say, I'm wondering if you had to parade with other sales
clerks to see who was the most buff?"
"No, I would have lost," Matt says.
Matt is being modest. Matt has exactly the look A&F goes for -
white, athletic frat boy with a big smile and tousled hair. A&F aims for
the casual chic buyer comfortable in Destroyed Vintage Chugger Boot denims
(100% cotton, blown out knee, oil and bleach stains, wallet mark on back
pocket, blasted and whiskered, walked-on hem). Goodwill would heave the
jeans into a trash bin, but at A&F teen shoppers blithely pay $69.50 for a
"Matt, I can't help but notice that this female greeter standing
next to you is fully clothed." Well, I should qualify that. Her pants are
slung low, the top of thong is visible and her flimsy tank top wouldn't
offer protection from a window fan. You'd think an old-school outfitter
like A&F would know something about dressing for cold weather, but go figure.
"Matt, does it strike you as a double standard that you're
standing here in your skivvies and she's wearing regular clothes?"
"No," he says.
"Looks like exploitation to me, Matt."
"Well, I don't do anything I'm not comfortable doing."
The 2003 Quarterly Christmas catalog, the latest in a long line of
A&F catalogs, has made a lot of people very uncomfortable. Boasting of"280
pages of Moose, Ice Hockey, Chivalry, Group Sex & More," story headlines
too vulgar to quote, and plenty of nudity, the shrink-wrapped catalog,
available only to buyers 18 and older, was recently pulled from distribution.
Previous catalogs have featured erotic book reviews, an interview
with a porn star (with how-to tips) and suggestions for binge drinking.
Earlier this year, the chain promoted a line of thong underwear for girls
7-14 featuring sayings such as "eye candy" and "wink wink."
"Exactly what are you selling here, Matt?"
"Shirts, we're selling shirts," he says, pointing to a table of
shirts waaaaay behind him. Ah, but A&F sells so much more than shirts. A&F
sells teen sex - promiscuous sex, casual sex, group sex, sex without
commitment, and sex without conscience. A&F has a knack for making the most
vulnerable, intimate act between two human beings look so casual, so flip,
so scratch-my-back and I'll-scratch-yours.
"Matt, have you looked at the catalog?"
"No," he says.
"Well, good boy, because I think Larry Flynt edits it."
I thank Matt for talking to me and go for the handshake instead of
the hug. "Stay warm," I call to him.
Nice kid, but he seemed a touch uncomfortable. I doubt he is used
to adults engaging him in conversation. Like so many other young
people, Matt is used to moms and dads shelling out cash and then looking
the other way. But then, A&F counts on that. They count on it all the way
to the bank.
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© 2001, Lori Borgman
JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.
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