I've been in and out of American Apparel more than ever this past summer, as my younger sister likes to blow her babysitting fast cash on clothing that she usually grows out within months because she grows like, three inches every time I come home from school. I'm her weekend ride to the mall. She likes spending upwards of an hour in American Apparel and I don't want to be one of those mall chaperones like my mom once was for me, sitting outside of the store after claiming that the music is intolerable, foot-tapping and checking her watch and mime-shooting herself in the head whenever I walked by the entrance. I want to be a supportive mall buddy, not a scary mall chaperone. I want to be cool like my sister is, putting together outfits like she's getting ready for a runway show each day at school. She doesn't understand my penchant for yoga pants.
I like the clothing there. I like 100 percent cotton. I like the people who work there, which is a new development in my tolerance (well, lack thereof) of sales people… maybe I'm maturing. Actually, it's because my ex-boyfriend's younger sister works there, and we've always had a mutual fondness/understanding of one another, like oh, that brother of yours, he's so silly and ridiculous, yeah sista you go and rock those ice skater dresses year round. I figure if I like her, I should like her kerchiefed, hot pant-wearing co-workers. She's leaving for college for the first time this year. I am maturing.
What I like even better is that the whole attitude of the company and its vibe, in stores and online, is NGAF: not giving a fuck. The models on the walls and tags and mastheads of the website are of a very specific aesthetic: no makeup, not model-y, cheeky and sassy to the max. Sexy and knowing it, but not trying hard. They're just having fun. People often complain about the blatant sexuality of American Apparel, of morally-corrupt CEO, Dov Charney. The message is a bit young at times, with prepubescent-seeming models popping up on the brand’s Tumblr page rocking thong leotards. But like, the model will often be alongside a strapping hasidic man modeling a 50/50 cotton-poly tee over tasseled tzitzis, and suddenly I'm not bothered. It's too quirky to judge.
People also never commend the brand for featuring girls who are representative of more than one size fits all, not retouched, etc. Yes, American Apparel could extend their sizes up, and yes the models could be even more of a variety of shapes, but isn’t this the case for all clothing stores?
All I know is that this store has taken progressive steps further into "real body land" than most others. The models here, plastered life-sized onto the walls and shrunken on each rack and shelf, they have asses and boobs, they have fleshy bits on their hips and bellies that are not flat. They make me feel fine, sometimes even overjoyed, depending on the day, about bearing a strip of midriff.
And American Apparel girls go braless! Or if they must wear a bra, it's a sheer lacy piece of fabric that does less to prevent nipplitis than a piece of scotch tape. But I like the concept of bringing nips back. American Apparel is so obviously using exposed breast and nips as a suggestive, in-your-face advertising strategy, but they're also unintentionally acting as a proponent of the reclamation of breasts by women all over, the desexualization of a body part that's first and foremost purpose is to feed babies, not attract the attention of mates. I've been inspired many times before to forgo padded bras, and I own many adorable lacy bralettes that can realistically only be worn under thick sweaters. But this upcoming year, after a summer of frequenting American Apparel, I'm taking the plunge and rocking said bralettes with whatever tops I please. American Apparel girls don't CARE. And I feel that as a young woman it's totally cool to rock the boobs I've got in their natural state, as opposed to pushing them up to the heavens with inches of matress-like memory foam. I am maturing.
Braless/bralette-ed and carefree. It really changes your whole outlook on life. I can be unplugging the clogged drain in the kitchen sink upon my roommate’s gentle reminding, my hand trudging through the wet fried rice that is floating around in the tiny pool of Chinese takeout dinner remains, but if I do it with a certain air of NGAF, it's so American Apparel. Kick my foot up and smirk at the schhhwooooooop sound of the suction sucking down the grossness and plan my night out with my friends in my pink baby tee that flatters my waistline more than it looked like it would on the hanger.
It's pretty American Apparel to buy that vampy shade of aubergine lipstick at CVS because even though American Apparel girls don't wear makeup, if they did, it'd just be a dark smudge of this exact color lipstick and nothing else. Aubergine is so in for the fall, but its not about being in or not, it’s about the color speaking to you. It’s cool to bare your makeup-free-except-for-optional-lipstick face to the world, to flaunt freckles and under-eye bags and the starts of crow’s feet from years of squinting at the board when you should have been wearing your glasses but didn’t want to. It makes moisturizing seem like the only real routine you should have in the morning. It makes life so easy.
It’s American Apparel to go out at night and stomp the streets in a miniskirt and giant fisherman’s sweater and platform Keds and totally own that you’re wearing platform Keds out to a bar and they’ve really come both a long way and no way from the bejeweled versions you wore in Kindergarten. At least you’ll be more comfortable than your friends in heels. The American Apparel girl dances if she wants to but doesn’t care what it looks like, and she chills on the wall like a cool exotic wallflower and lets other people come to her to start conversation. She draws people in but she doesn’t try too hard ever. She drinks whatever drinks she wants, even if her boyfriend and his pals are ordering pitchers of bitter beer and she’s the only one with a grapefruit martini. She revels in the difference. She laughs only when something is actually funny.
I am maturing but I don't ever want to look mature, I just want the air of it. Mature people never let little things get them down. That's what I think, anyway. And what I have taken with me to school in the beginning of my formidable upperclassmen years is that when I am feeling crappy and stressed, I just need to channel my inner American Apparel girl.
I don’t need to be actually wearing the brand’s clothing to do this. I can be in sweats and UGGs for all I care, but if I add a spontaneous bandana bow to my hair, wear a crop top/malfunctioning bra no one will see underneath my puffy North Face and put on my NGAF face as I rush to a class that I am perpetually late for, I can conquer the world.