“Thieving hipsters, take note,” the article begins. It then continues to describe why American Apparel’s new security measures, RFID sensor tags on clothing, will disappoint its loyal… clothing snatchers.
“…American Apparel has long been targeted by shoplifters, many of them indistinguishable from the chain's loyal customers. The company's stores initially lacked anti-theft sensors, inciting a series of plunders whose history is documented on various Facebook groups and blogs. Former employees allege that in its early years, American Apparel had a pro-shoplifting policy, explicitly asking managers to turn a blind eye so that the right type of person would have easier access to the clothes and become an unwitting spokesperson for the brand.”
Okay, this possibility is interesting so far. Please continue.
“Whether or not these claims prove true, the fact that the company has made its money by catering to rebellious, anti-corporate youth has infuriated more than a few members of its target market. Arguably, shoplifting from the store was a way for some to subvert the commercialization of counter-culture. Free clothes were, naturally, a perk.”
Wait, wait, wait. HuffPo is saying that hipsters didn’t like being a marketing demographic, so they decided to steal in order to act out a political statement. Hipsters didn’t like being a marketing demographic, so...they…no, sorry, there’s nothing to support the rest. In fact, from what I’ve heard about these “hipsters” (kind of like how I’ve heard about fairies, elves, mermaids, etc.), it seems they’re kind of apolitical and lazy, right? No? Maybe I'm talking about another arbitrary, useless signifier for a group of people who dress similarly.
"'This is a true story about stealing from a corporation,' Tao Lin wrote in the Vice Magazine story that inspired his 2009 novella, Shoplifting from American Apparel."
Oh, now it makes sense. That guy.
“Of course, irony-tinged theft is a bad thing for any company, 'independent' or otherwise.”
There is no such thing as chronic ironic theft (with the exception, maybe, of that Travelocity gnome). People steal things when they want them, feel no guilt about taking them, and know they can get away with the act. People steal American Apparel clothing to dress themselves in clothes they like, or to profit by selling them. To do it to fuel a keen sense of irony seems rare and awfully complicated. Even Tao Lin would agree:
"I had a reading that night in Brooklyn. I wanted a nicer shirt. American Apparel has nice shirts. I went to American Apparel. The security guard who normally stands in American Apparel wasn’t there. (...) I walked out of American Apparel holding the shirt. [Shoplifting From American Apparel]"
“With demand for American Apparel's clothing so low, it's hard not to wonder whether the company longs for the days when attractive thieves flocked to its locations.”
You sexy, sexy, immoral bohemians.
“Whether American Apparel manages to pull itself up will be an interesting test of how long a corporation can continue to sell 'cool,' when one of the only constants in its shoppers' idea of 'cool' is anti-corporate sentiment.”
Whether American Apparel manages to pull itself up will be an interesting test of how long a corporation can continue to sell $14 oversized silver lamé hair bow clips while marketing to a class of largely self-employed creatives in a tenuous, post-recession economy. Or, it's a test of how long a corporation can continue to do so when one of the only constants in its retail practices has been lack of oversight over its inventory. Try again.
You can follow Sydney Brownstone on Twitter @sydbrownstone