The Longform.org Guide to the Mall
Five great stories about how malls revolutionized the way Americans shop, snack, and flirt.
The soap opera of an off-brand mall in West Houston:
The kids have come here to cruise the strip, strolling in groups as big as ten or as small as two. They check their cell phones, stop for ice cream at Maggie Moo's, pump tokens into the video games at Jillian's, and duck into the theater to catch films like Halloween: Resurrection. Boys sporting do-rags and oversized basketball jerseys introduce themselves to groups of girls dressed in low-riding baggy jeans. A pair of spindly limbed, baby-skinned brunettes flash their braces at a boy wearing XXXL clothes and a puka shell choker. Some kids dress like athletes, some like hard-core punkers. Clusters of both genders discuss their sexual exploits. A punk store-clerk recalled overhearing one twelve-year-old girl tell another twelve-year-old girl, "You think he's cute? I had sex with him; he's cool. You should do him."
Sweatpants in Paradise Molly Young • The Believer • September 2010
How Hollister employs the dark art of "immersive retail" to bring the allure of the mall to its flagship store in New York:
"Topless men and girls without pants stand at the entrance, some wearing zinc oxide smeared across noses. The employees are selected for their insane good looks and friendliness, which creates the disorienting customer experience of receiving attention from people way out of your league over and over again. You can't avoid having a sexual experience at Hollister, even if it's just to stare at a greeter's bullet-hard nipples. Hollister's strategy may not be subtle, but it is clever. By literalizing the mall's sexual promise in actual naked flesh, the brand makes it unnecessary for shoppers to wander elsewhere. Rather than provide the neutral spaces of food courts and lobbies for promenading, the store offers a prefab (and make-believe) environment of sexual opportunity. It's the whole mall in one store!"
Max Linsky is the co-founder of Longform.org.
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