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Dublin: 5 °C Saturday 20 December, 2014

Column: Do Abercrombie tracksuits represent the American dream?

The popularity of brands like Abercrombie shows Irish teenagers have bought wholesale into an idealised Californian lifestyle, writes Kim Cadogan – but why?

Kim Cadogan

TO SAY DUBLIN was excited to get a slice of the American fashion pie in the form of cult brand Abercrombie & Fitch was an understatement.

A queue made up of mainly teenage girls gathered on Dame Street to get the first look at the clothes, experience the dimly-lit interior of the club-like store and perhaps see if the modelesque staff members were really as good-looking as we’ve been lead to believe.

American brands such as Hollister and A&F were once only available to Irish shoppers via the Internet – or if luck was on your side, a relative on holidays would be given a list to bring back. But both stores are doing extremely well this side of the Atlantic despite the economic downturn, and the fact that they are relatively expensive. So the question is why are Irish teenagers so caught up in living the American dream via casual clothing?

Branding the lifestyle

Abercrombie & Fitch is portrayed as a lifestyle brand through their advertising, which often uses the term “casual luxury” to describe their wares. CEO Mike Jeffries believes shopping at A&F is an experience similar to a movie: “You buy into the emotional experience of a movie, that’s what we’re creating,” he says. “Here I am walking into a movie, and I say, ‘What’s going to be [at] the box office today?’”

Purchasing clothes from A&F is certainly a different “experience” from the Irish norm of popping into Penney’s when you have five minutes to spare on your college lunch break and need a selection of sweat pants to get you through the rest of the week because your washing machine broke down in your student accommodation.

Envision being greeted by a smiling (immaculate, straight teeth) shirtless (bronzed six pack adorned) Adonis who will pose for a picture with you and lead you into the store itself. Dimly lit with loud music and A&F signature scent, Fierce, wafting through the air, the atmosphere is akin to that of a nightclub – exclusively for the beautiful, wealthy and fragrant. The clothes themselves range from the basic tracksuit pants and hoody embossed with the brand’s logo to the trademark American boy staple boxers stacked on opulent mahogany counters. It doesn’t come cheap, but perhaps the quality and cult status of items that were previously only available overseas or online make the Irish consumers pay extra?

California Dreamin’

Led, blinking, back into the reality of Dame Street, you might have the sensation of belonging to an American high school clique (where the cool kids greet you with a chipper “hey, what’s going on” and entice you to spend a week’s wages on a full outfit of A&F logos). Even if it’s not for you personally, it’s not too difficult to see why the younger audience would buy into the brand. Troops of students decked out in the latest A&F and Hollister clutching Starbucks cups are now a common sight in Dublin. TV shows like The Hills and The OC first dropped the Americano style bomb on our homegrown shows and it has continued on with teenage celebrities such as One Direction and the Disney crowd who have made this “college experience” look fashionable.

This comes despite the majority of the purchases, it sometimes seems, being made by those who haven’t sat the Leaving Cert yet. The style is unadventurous – think classic Americana prep – but there is always safety in numbers. The cinematic view of the ‘It’ girls and boys lazing around on their college breaks with stylishly tousled blonde hair and natural tans is one that we are all too familiar with, and it is evidently still appealing to the Irish – although not always obtainable without a wad of cash.

Kim Cadogan is a journalism student at Rathmines College. Her fashion blog is Honey, This Mirror Isn’t Big Enough For The Two Of Us. For more articles written by Kim for TheJournal.ie click here.

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