Is Starshower the new Honey Cowl? Only time will tell (but it looks good).

Where Is Virgil When You Need Him?

Dear Ann,
With apologies to Dante Alighieri, who deserves much better:
CANTO III
The inscription above the Gate of Hell Abercrombie & Fitch. The Ante-Inferno, where the shades of those who lived without eating carbs and without blame now intermingle with the neutral angels. The River Acheron. Charon. A middle-aged woman’s loss of her senses as the earth trembles.
THROUGH ME THE WAY INTO THE CITY WITHOUT FACIAL EXPRESSIONS,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE ETERNAL SOUTH BEACH DIET,
THROUGH ME THE WAY THAT RUNS AMONG THE LOST AND THOSE WHO WATCH “LOST”.
JUSTICE URGED ON MY HIGH ARTIFICER,
MY MAKER WAS A FACTORY IN CHINA,
THE SHORTEST RISE, AND THE PRIMAL RINSE.
BEFORE ME NOTHING BUT IZOD WERE MADE,
AND I ENDURE UNTIL THE GAP FREEZES OVER.
ABANDON EVERY HOPE, WHO ENTER HERE (IF OVER 40).
abercrombieguy.jpg
Greeting us at the door (by greeting I mean staring into space) a shirtless young man in jeans (see photo–it’s the eggzact same guy). Leaving the sunlight of Fifth Avenue, the floor fell away. All was blackness and throbbing remixes of songs from the Eighties (which were much better in the Eighties, just saying), with glowing stacks of identical shirts and jeans.
abercrombiecologne.jpg
The darkness and the din, and the anesthetic fog of Eau de Fitch, caused me to remark (shouting), “It’s like going to the Palladium and your date has on too much after-shave.”
Tween: (Shouting, but also rolling eyes) And you know this from…. experience?
Me: (Shouting). Uh….YEAH as a matter of fact.
We got the Sacred Overpriced T-Shirt. We made it out alive. The hearing loss and respiratory distress were only temporary. One of us thought she had seen Paradise.
I thought I wasn’t “that old”.
I thought I wasn’t “dead yet.”
How could I have been such a fool?
Don’t make me go back there.
Love,
Kay

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80 Comments

80 Comments

  1. I truly do not understand why the music has to be SO LOUD in that store. Even as a teenster I wouldn’t have enjoyed it…can you imagine the hearing loss of the people who work there? Huh? What?

  2. I had the EXACT same experience with my 14 year old in San Francisco! Do you think there might be more than one Gate to Hell?!

  3. Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Nation’s Leading Bi-regional Soft-core Knitting Blog.
    LOVIN IT!
    I think I can smell the Fierce oozing out of my browser.

  4. I have cured my daughter of making me ,anyway, take her to A nd F. I have effected this cure by dancing to the music they play while in the store . SHE IS MORTIFIED
    Try it ,it works….

  5. The back door to Hell is at Hot Topic. The natives will stare at you and slowly shift backward if you are not clad from head to toe in black. The fastest way to acceptance is to ask if they have a CD from an underground band . . . then the denziens gather around, drifting like smoke, offering assistance and free band stickers that are stashed behind the counter.

  6. OMG!! I just had the exact same experience with my almost 13 year old daughter. She asked me so nicely if she could get a pair of Abercrombie jeans (she said she didn’t want to be one of those Abercrombie kids in her school. I still don’t exactly know what that means) if she paid for them herself… I reluctantly said ok because I have worked very hard to not become a slave to labels and brands. When we got there she was so freaked out by the darkness and loud music and vapid sales help/greeter person and I was choking from the stink in the store. We walked around for 30 seconds and she told me, “This isn’t worth it. These are a rip-off! Let’s go to Target.” That’s my girl!!!

  7. AHAHA…..I absolutely detest this place. My daughter who thinks there is a Hilton sign blinking over our roof drags me there everychance she can. She is now 17 and I either go to starbucks or stay in the car. TOO LOUD!!! TOO MUCH SMELL!! NOT ENOUGH LIGHT!!!!
    Let’s not even begin with Hollister……

  8. Fierce? As in Project Runway Fierce? Yikes. A&F is so the antithesis of Project Runway.
    My teenage niece loves thrift stores and I love her for it!

  9. And why is it so DARK in there?! I can’t tell what color anything is!

  10. And why is it so DARK in there?! I can’t tell what color anything is!

  11. Don’t get me started on A&F. We have one in London, and it’s one too many, though this is nothing to do with any offspring as (thank goodness) we have none. My objections are purely on the peddling of ridiculous fashion and image. Further, more detailed rants available…. I could write a thesis on this!
    I thought C was FAR TOO COOL for such silliness! (I assume it is the lovely C we are talking about here!)
    B x x x

  12. Fortunately at our local mall they have clustered both A&F and Hollister on one floor and I can just skip that floor (an actual Circle of Hell) entirely. But then, it helps to have boys. As long as the t-shirt has a skull or a guitar on it (double bonus points if it has both!), they’re happy.

  13. I always tell my daughter the only reason she gets to shop in there is so i go ogle!
    The problem is, after one washing, those overpriced shirts are so thin you can read the newspaper through them. So then you have to go back and ogle and buy more overpriced shirts.

  14. The shirt’s gone, the trousers are leaving. The closest A & F to me is 182 miles away…. thank goodness.

  15. I think that’s why they let that “Eau de Fitch” waft out the doors — to give us some warning so we can steer our offspring in the opposite direction!

  16. I just have one word for you: American Eagle Outfitters. It’s the A & F for normal people with normal prices. Your kid will even like it. They also have sizes that fit kids who are inbetween boy and man (Very skinny 15 yr olds). I love the Dante.

  17. I am so thankful that there wasn’t an A&F in every mall or on every street corner when my kids were teenagers–they’ll just have to deal with it when their kids are teens! I become temporarily deaf, also, just walking by the A&F store at our local mall.
    Mary G. in Texas

  18. Just wait until she wants to go to Hollister. It makes A & F look as clean and bright as Target. I claim I break out in hives if I have to go in there…fortunately my daughter is old enough to shop for herself. But I second the American Eagle recommendation. Much nicer place.

  19. I’m glad my boys never did the A&F thing.
    I think A&F Dude’s torso looks pretty interesting, until I realize that his waist is at his belly button, and his pants are…falling off. Who wears these things?

  20. Nothing changes except the store – I had the same experience with my son 19 years ago. Then I wasn’t young enough to appreciate the experience. Now I think I’m just not old enough! Hang in there!

  21. I had a colonoscopy the other day that was less painful than my last trip to A&E with the pre-teen.

  22. Sorry, I missed all your words when the pic of the kid with his pants falling off came into view. Did I say kid?
    :)

  23. Ohhh lordy how I despise that store. You can’t see, hear or smell anything they don’t want you to. The lighting is horrible, the music is TOO LOUD (coming from someone who really likes rocking out to loud music), and the cologne is overpowering even as you walk BY the store. Do they have a 2-bottle-spray minimum before they open the store every day?
    Jeebus. /rant.

  24. I have braved both Hollister (A&F downscale store) and American Eagle armed with ear plugs and a knitting project, settled in one of the chairs they had scattered around and knit until my opinion was required. The only thing I found difficult was coping with the eau du cologne that was liberally sprayed everywhere!
    I do get lots of comment on my knitting as well

  25. Now you’re ready to try Zumiez. And I agree that the service door to Hell is Hot Topic.

  26. I don’t know if this experience makes you old– I’ve been feeling that way about A&F since my first trip there, and I think I was about 22. And I haven’t been back since. (But man that guy is cute)

  27. Ok. Just clicked on the Palladium link, thinking it was funny that my gym is also called the Palladium. Turns out my gym was built where your nightclub used to be… I feel like such a poser now. (Sort of how there was this bank next to my grad school, and I realized at some point that it had once been The Filmore East…)

  28. That’s how I feel about Hollister…a little afraid…it reminds me of going into a haunted house! I usually sit on a bench outside and wait until choices have been made and then go in to pay.

  29. At our local mall, you have to give the entrance WIDE berth, the stench is so bad. Luckily they vent to the outdoors but it’s air pollution, plain and simple.

  30. Youth’s shock that (ahem)age also has had the experiences of youth is so touching. While instructing a tween son on how to throw a punch without breaking his hand (in the event that he should decide to respond physically to a physical attack) he demanded to know how I knew how to do this. Middle aged mothers apparently never were anything else, and never in danger? He was a bit more respectful, however during the lesson on how to throw and take a pie in the face. What can I say? We all have our skills.

  31. Welcome to puberty. Doesn’t it look sooo different from this side?

  32. My kids are 16, 13 and a rather huge 11 yr old (thank God that is the boy.) Teach your children about the clearance room. Yes, there is one at every A & F, Hollister and Abercrombie (the kids size version, prices are MUCH better for the small ones, my kids can all still get shirts there.)
    Hot Topic (amusingly, owned by A & F) is the gate to Hell as far as even my kids are concerned. They will not go in there, even to accompany me to buy a T-shirt as a gift for a teenager.
    PacSun is still loud, but much lighter and brighter and not quite as scented. Oh, and it also has the clearance racks. Generally stuff makes it to clearance within two months, at a substantial discount.
    American Eagle can be a rather nice place to shop, however, they are the only store we have ever been in that refused to strip a mannequin for my daughter to buy the jeans. (Those were the only ones in the store in that style in her size.)That was a bit frustrating.

  33. My kids are 16, 13 and a rather huge 11 yr old (thank God that is the boy.) Teach your children about the clearance room. Yes, there is one at every A & F, Hollister and Abercrombie (the kids size version, prices are MUCH better for the small ones, my kids can all still get shirts there.)
    Hot Topic (amusingly, owned by A & F) is the gate to Hell as far as even my kids are concerned. They will not go in there, even to accompany me to buy a T-shirt as a gift for a teenager.
    PacSun is still loud, but much lighter and brighter and not quite as scented. Oh, and it also has the clearance racks. Generally stuff makes it to clearance within two months, at a substantial discount.
    American Eagle can be a rather nice place to shop, however, they are the only store we have ever been in that refused to strip a mannequin for my daughter to buy the jeans. (Those were the only ones in the store in that style in her size.)That was a bit frustrating.

  34. OMG flashback, thank heaven’s my daughter outgrew that about halfway through college.

  35. OMG flashback, thank heaven’s my daughter outgrew that about halfway through college.

  36. OK I’m thirty years old and I really wish he’d pull up his pants! That weird hip muscle line thing is just disturbing. Other than that, WOW.
    But I’m still not going to the mall.

  37. I am still under 25 but absolutly hate that store, so no you are not that old or dead, just a real person. My husband made me go in there once in the search for the perfect jeans (for him) and i wanted to cry. He took one look at how tight the guys jeans were and how much they cost and practicaly ran out, thank god almighty.

  38. Ahhh, the Palladium, we had a work holiday party there the last year they were open, and it was so ODD to go there as an adult with colleagues. The place we got married bought their staircase though, so I was able to giggle about that at my reception!

  39. Ahhh, the Palladium, we had a work holiday party there the last year they were open, and it was so ODD to go there as an adult with colleagues. The place we got married bought their staircase though, so I was able to giggle about that at my reception!

  40. As a Young Person, I can proudly say that I have never been in an A&F. My mommy made us pay for our own back to school clothes, so we got a pair of new jeans and then went Macy’s clearance shopping!
    To their credit, the people at Hot Topic (when I was in that phase) were always the most courteous to my mom and the most helpful to me than any other mall employee. Don’t be distracted by the gauged ears or solid black.

  41. You do know that 99% of the people who set foot in there have no idea who Dante is, much less understand half the words you used? They’d still be stuck on “Canto III”.
    *sigh*
    I hate that store.
    A nice flamboyant man in Bath and Body Works told me that they go out and break a bottle of their cologne right in front of the store every day. Yikes.

  42. UGH. That store. I hear you. barely. :)
    your child is lucky to have such a strong mom.
    ek.

  43. I’m sorry to laugh at your despair, but that ia a really funny post !
    You need some Gothy nail varnish to embarrass her I confess that, at that age, I made sure I was rarely seen in public with my mother ! :0)
    I have so much to look forward to. ;-]

  44. you neophyte. (or as the young ‘uns say “nube”). I often wonder how the purveyor of safari and outdoor gear to the wealthy, hits the slippery slope to every mall in america selling shrunken (over priced) t shirts. what would hemingway say!!

  45. And that it’s so dark in those stores proves it doesn’t matter what the clothes actually look like. You lay your money down to buy into the very sad-making fantasy. Don’t get me stahted.

  46. oh this is just plain fun
    steamy romance book covers
    nora roberts eat your heart out
    this is a hoot – can i take him
    to my huricane center -go print
    me one – ike is on his way
    thank you kay

  47. OMG, I live in fear of the day my daughter wants to shop there. She’s only 9 so we’re still at the “Justice” stage, which is its own level of Hell-Lite, where the soundtrack is 50% Hannah Montana and 50% Jonas Bros. Much less frightening but more annoying. –Sydney

  48. OMG,,, I too have entered the dead zone… I , too have purchased the overpriced tshirt… I, too have a 13 year old daughter..
    I shall dance and thereby be excused from having to go there again.. great tip.
    Nancy

  49. OMG,,, I too have entered the dead zone… I , too have purchased the overpriced tshirt… I, too have a 13 year old daughter..
    I shall dance and thereby be excused from having to go there again.. great tip.
    Nancy

  50. OMG,,, I too have entered the dead zone… I , too have purchased the overpriced tshirt… I, too have a 13 year old daughter..
    I shall dance and thereby be excused from having to go there again.. great tip.
    Nancy

  51. Buckle your seatbelt, Kay. Believe me, this is only the beginning….
    However, God willing, in a few years, you’ll emerge from the other side like most of us do. And have some laughs with said child over the memories.

  52. Winter’s coming, let’s knit him a sweater (and a G-string, perhaps?)…
    LoveDiane
    :)

  53. Hah – here’s the thing – they do it on PURPOSE – the darkness, the music, the vapid stare from the salesperson as they take your 60 bucks for the only pair of jeans that fit your too skinny kid. It’s all a deliberate marketing ploy to discourage adults from shopping there. (Sadly I am serious – I am a former retailer). It is to train you for the Coach store when you have to be humiliated by both the staff and the child who wants the mortgage payment for the bag.

  54. Terrifying. Just terrifying.
    Kay, can we just declare you Cool Mom of the Year by acclamation?

  55. Two words – clothing allowance.
    A sure cure for the overpriced tee. When it is their money, they suddenly understand the price/value equation.
    (And I agree with an early commenter – the Hot Topic folks were always very polite to this dowdy mom.)

  56. I have a beautiful wool fair isle sweater from A&F – bought it there 14 YEARS ago as a teen, before they went dark & nude & stinky. Well, they were stinky then, just less pungeant. A&F may make dissolvable tshirts and pre-shredded jeans, but that wool sweater has worn like IRON – even resists pilling like you wouldn’t believe.

  57. So sorry, Beatrice— but it’s just like when Persephone ate the pomegranate seeds. Once you’ve smelled the Eau de Fierce, you can never really leave….

  58. … you hardly need more posts on this subject, but I can’t resist!
    like Nancy, I’m a mother of a 13 year old girl.
    When I was there I have to admit I was tempted to buy the cologne for my husband, because I was so intoxicated by the smell… and forgot that I was 40 until I passed a mirror and gasped.
    (But that happens in my own house too.)
    So I think the low lighting is to benefit all the Mom’s who are dragged there under whatever pretext of payment option previously arranged with their daughters, (ours was 50/50)… who don’t need to be standing in the ugly lights, everybody inspected… which is from 80’s Prince song. U Got the Look.
    Have you seen Mama Mia? Lighting does wonders.

  59. Aren’t they the ones selling the Jewish American Princess tees a few years back? My Jewish friends (and even their daughters) were so offended that I vowed never to set foot in the stinkin’ place. My 11 year old thinks it’s scary with the low light and the loud music.

  60. Aren’t they the ones selling the Jewish American Princess tees a few years back? My Jewish friends (and even their daughters) were so offended that I vowed never to set foot in the stinkin’ place. My 11 year old thinks it’s scary with the low light and the loud music.

  61. I recently had the misfortune of my first shopping experience at Abercrombie & Fitch to buy a gift card for my teenage niece. The music was SO loud & there was no one in the store – I thought the employees were just goofing off. Thanks to your post – I now understand that they are ALL that loud. The clerk (I assume she reads lips) got a gift card for me & handed it to me to look at. She wanted to know if it was OK. OK?? Why wouldn’t it be OK? I opened it up & found an even more nekkid fellow than the one on your post – butt crack & all. I explained that my niece was a little too young for that – so she gave me the only other option – a couple french kissing. At least they were fully clothed.

  62. I went in there 12 years ago to buy a pair of jeans for my husband. I went after work in my business suit and my expensive handbag (no kids yet) and none of the young salespeople would wait on me! I guess they were waiting on their friends to come in to buy the flimsy T-shirts. Anyway, I walked out without buying anything and have never been back.
    I thought that it was too bad that they didn’t train their employees to want to sell to the people who obviously have an income, esp. since some of their clothes are really great. Everything my hubby has from A & F still looks like new and it’s 15 years old.

  63. Praise the Lord my daughter is Converted. We shun AF and also the lesser Satan, Hollister the Beast.
    But sheesh those Manly Angels of Light are difficult of which to divert thin eyes.

  64. The anthropology of teenage clothing: there’s a thesis topic.
    My grown son came home from college several years ago with an A+F item or two, but explained that it was OK because it came from the “free” box at the cafeteria. Apparently, all the freshmen get to Reed (famously countercultural college) and toss their mall duds. At which point, said duds are fair game.
    Try explaining that to someone not of this culture.

  65. Greater love than this hath no woman
    That she would take leave (if not ruin) of her senses
    And accompany her daughter on a back to school shopping spree!

  66. Never fear. You are one among many carb-eating interlopers. We all scream and run for the door after the Master Card is put back in the wallet.

  67. There are some places I just won’t go to shop for the youth in my family. You guessed it! A & F is one of those places. Music is not a problem, but strong smells. They would have to call 911 because I wouldn’t be able to breath. A workmate has a son that worked at A & F and has carried on their tradition of bathing in his cologne. I don’t even have to see him when he comes into the office. The smell beats him to us and lingers after he leaves. I can think back quite a few years when there was a cologne that started with a “G” that ladies would wear. I guess that was enough to repulse me from strong scents. But then, I was young once too. I remember I had to have all the new fragrances, make-up, jewelry, etc. Ah to be young again! Have fun youngsters! You’ll look back and say I can’t believe I wore this or that and even hide pictures. :):):)

  68. Dear Kay, you are neither “that old” nor “dead yet.” You were merely visiting a vastly different culture which caters to Teens and Tweens who, as you know well, do not speak the same language. You may be smugly assured that, when the boy-in-the-photo reaches the age of wisdom and looks back, he will indeed think, “Dude, that look was so stupid!” (just as we did when looking back to our teen ideals of high fashion). Or else his own children will look at the photo and laugh themselves silly at his expense. Except that he won’t be able to hear them because he’ll be deaf as a post. Take courage, mother-of-tweens. This, too, will pass.

  69. If it’s any comfort, I’m still in my twenties and I feel like that, too. Must be all the pasta I’m eating.

  70. Cut the guy a break will ya? He’s concentrating on flexing every single muscle above his waste, you can’t expect him to be able to manage an expression too!

  71. I think I’ve just passed some sort of watershed. I don’t think he’s cute. Not even a bit. Blimey, how old am I?
    Let’s just say your George Clooney dream was more like it.

  72. I’m rather glad we don’t have A&F (yet) here in my town. There was already a rather fierce competition in one of my classes about who could wear his low-riding jeans the lowest… Even at a technical high school the boys of that age get very fashion-conscious. And I get to play ersatz-parent for them during those 6 hours and explain to them that it really dosn’t matter that much, that some girls prefer clean clothes, clean smell and clean body and teeth to high fashion, etc. etc. etc.
    You may have one or two teenagers, I got 120…

  73. My little girl, she is 10 has just discovered A & F on a trip to the US. She begged me to buy her a pair of jeans, they had to be skinny jeans.
    I almost refused, I still feel I should have done. They are so low cut it is almost rude.
    Who dreams up such low cut jeans for kids?
    Does American Eagle have a children section?

  74. I’m right in the heart of A&F country. Columbus, Ohio area not far from headquarters. In fact, I worked as a nanny for one of the VP’s of A$F and my husband did some computer consulting there for a few months. Very strange place. The headquarters is seriously like a college campus. Everyone looks the same and they ride on scooters, skateboards, etc to the different buildings. The same music that is played in their stores is played in all the buildings at their offices as well. This was like the seventh ring of hell for my husband.

  75. Okay, now I know it’s a universal experience from moms-of-teens everywhere. I feel a little better.

  76. This phase is just beginning, but I managed to discourage my daughter by walking right up to those oversized posters and staring at them as if I were assessing a fine painting. I also insisted on sitting outside the store in the mall and watching one of their live models for an extended time. After that, I only had to show an inordinate interest in the posters as we passed the store for my daughter to pick up her pace and try to redirect my attention to something (anything) else.

  77. An alternate gate: Armani Exchange, Broadway & Prince.

  78. Back in March I dragged my two girls, one 10 one 19 along with me to the Knit Out 08 at the Mall of America, all in all they were pretty good sports about the whole knitting thing. There was a few occasions in which both girls stood a few feet away and tried very hard to pretend they had no idea who that crazy lady was and no, they weren’t with her. On the way back to the parking ramp we had to pass the dreaded A&F and as we held our breath and covered our ears as we passed, we were rather stunned and slightly amused that there was an actual half naked man standing in the doorway, we giggled and took pity on the poor man, he looked cold, this is Minnesota after all.
    I have been spared the experience of A & F but my husband and I have had our tour of duty among the frightful gothic world of Hot Topics. We’re still not safe with the ten year old but we are still praying we’ll be spared and praying hard.

  79. We put our teen daughter on a clothing allowance, and one of the primary motivators was that it meant I would never have to set foot in A&F again. Ever.
    But she’s a pretty smart cookie, she mostly only buys their sale items.

  80. Okay, I think you can shop online, just saying…
    And you really need to check out A & Fitch model Peter Kortenhoven. If you can’t buy online, he is totally a reason to go to the actual store!