The question ranks up there with why people visit New York and split their meals between Red Lobster, Olive Garden and other wretched restaurants easily found in the hellhole they've fled: why do tourists come to Manhattan and spend hours on line and inside the 5th Avenue Abercrombie & Fitch flagship? -
Intrepid journalist Ralph Gardner looks for answers in the Wall Street Journal. His findings make you sympathize for these tourists and maybe judge them a bit less but also wonder, still, what the hell they are thinking.
Take an Irish lass Gardner interviews. Apparently for some people, approaching the arctic chill of A & F's climate-controlled entrance is akin to having an audience with the pope:
"We're feeling it now," she said of the rush she and her girlfriends were experiencing as they inched their way toward the front entrance. "The smell," she went on, "and the guys inside the door are so gorgeous. You feel like you're bringing a slice of America back."
OK, so maybe foreigners get a pass. Air-conditioning is one of America's greatest virtues. As are, I suppose, the tan slices of beefcake that usher visitors into its cold embrace at Abercrombie. Actually, the chance of rubbing up against a half-naked model "posing for photographs just inside the front door with teenage shoppers like a hood ornament" appears to be the only real thrill tourists get from their consumerist pilgrimage.
And it's the not-so-subtle caste system that evolves between the store's employees that might be the most insidiously American thing about the whole enterprise. Explains Gardner:
"I came to discover that there are two classes of employees at Abercrombie's (sic). First, there are the beautiful models, both male and female, standing on each landing swaying ecstatically to the club music blaring through the store's sound system, and greeting each shopper with, 'Hey, what's going on?' Second, there are the grunts, the traditional salespeople, 'who fold things,' as one of the models put it.
Beautiful people. Aspiration. Distinct but barely acknowledged class warfare. There's nothing more American to an immigrant visitor and nothing more New York to a domestic traveler.
The jeans will do in a pinch too.
Photo via Daily Mail