Can American Apparel replace the Gap?

The language of style.
March 14 2007 7:23 AM

American Apparel Goes Global

Can the sexed-up brand replace the Gap?

(Continued from Page 1)

Finally—and this is where Endeavor may be in the money—there is the boring but reliable and even patriotic purveyor of wardrobe basics as luxury objects. (See: the Fine Jersey Short Sleeve T, available in 30 colors, for men and women ($15); the Fine Jersey Short Sleeve Leisure Shirt, in 37 colors, for men ($32); and the Unisex California Fleece Zip Hoody, in nine colors ($41).) Here, the hems are all straight. The zippers work. The cuts are good, if not perfect. The collar of the Short Sleeve Leisure Shirt is just the right length (i.e. longer and leaner than it would have been on a comparable shirt in the '90s). The short sleeves are longer and narrower, too. Most importantly, the shirt is cut slim in the shoulders and around the rib cage—but subtly, so as to avoid looking too "gay" (= skintight).

Whether American Apparel pays Endeavor's bills would seem to depend on how many people are willing to shell out $41 for a sweatshirt. On the one hand, a $41 sweatshirt might prove too expensive to become a staple. On the other hand, it might prove just expensive enough to forge a nifty profit.


The answer comes down in part to how much more consumers are willing to pay for a piece of clothing simply because it was made in the USA. Just the other day, I bought a perfectly functional white cotton hoodie at Target for $12.95 (reduced from $17). It was made in China. No doubt my purchase helped finance another outsourced manufacturing job whose conditions and salary were substandard. But isn't it also possible that some poor Chinese person would have been even poorer without the job? What's more, I was secretly tickled to be succeeding at what all consumers are taught to do—namely, get a bargain. I wonder how many others who bought the same sweatshirt felt just like me.

In the end, American Apparel may be best summed up by its skivvies. Underwear of all sorts appears prominently in the company's ads. But $12—the price of the Baby Rib Men's Brief—is a lot to pay for a single pair of shorts when you can get a three-pack of Hanes for 10 bucks. The BRMB comes in 30 colors, including three shades of pink alone (fuchsia, pink, and fluorescent pink). How many men actually wear pink underwear? Sales stats—even if they were available—would be misleading, as anecdotal evidence suggests that females may be the biggest purchasers of the BRMB, its genital pouch notwithstanding. A young woman friend recently reported that the BRMB is the perfect pair of underpants to put on when you "have your period or just want to climb into bed and vegetate." It's also cool in the our-generation-is-so-past-gender way that American Apparel "does" cool.

Still, it's hard to believe that an empire can be made out of cross-dressing women. Moreover, underwear, even when worn by the highly promiscuous, makes a poor advertisement for the brand. It's American Apparel's all-American basics, not its androgynous underthings, that could slingshot the company to massive retail success. Which may make this the one case in which less sex sells.



Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
Sept. 30 2014 9:32 AM Why Are Mint Condition Comic Books So Expensive?
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal. But… What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.