The list of things I like in this world is only slightly longer than the list of things I’m afraid of, which clocks in at exactly three items: dying in a plane crash, dying in a disastrous elevator malfunction and being falsely accused of a crime when I don’t have an airtight alibi because I was home alone at the time, on my couch watching House Hunters International while eating from a tub of pretzel rods.
If I were to ever list out the things I like, though, my lovely, charming and preternaturally sarcastic 11 year old goddaughter would probably be at the top. She’s the only person who can make my heart grow to a normal size, in particular at times like when she told me that as her godfather, I was “mediocre at best.” Which is why you can imagine my internal conflict when she informed me (via emoji-laden text message) that this year for Christmas, she wants clothes from her new favorite store, Hollister.
Insert the screaming face emoji here, followed by the skull, the sad cat and the siren.
For the uninitiated, Hollister is Abercrombie & Fitch’s slightly less slutty, but infinitely more sad little sibling. Tenuously inspired by the SoCal style of Huntington Beach, Hollister is known for having “models” outside the store who wear low-slung, extra-long board shorts, rubber flip flops and zinc on their noses. Since it’s opened, Hollister’s Soho location in New York has been the site of both violent looting and a bed bug outbreak.
Now would be a good time to note that I’ve upped the list of things that scare me to a solid four items.
At first, I thought I’d avoid this whole mess by shopping for Hollister items online, but instead of “Men” and “Women,” their site is divided under the categories “Dudes” and “Bettys.” On principle, I cannot support that.
A kindly salesgirl asked me if I needed anything. My mouth said, 'Just looking,' but my eyes said, 'SEND HELP.'
So, I manned up, hopped on the 6 train and prepared to delve into the heart of darkness. To be clear, I mean the heart of darkness literally, because there are essentially no lights on anywhere in the store. And the smell—dear God, the smell. The inside of the store smells like The Real World house jacuzzi filled with water from the Jersey Shore house jacuzzi, with Malibu as bubble bath and crystallized Drakkar Noir as chlorine. The sound system is cranked past 11, to “Guantanamo Bay Torture.”
Have you ever seen footage of when hostages are released and they sort of stagger out of their dark confines into the sunlight, unsure if they’re really free? Entering the Hollister store is sort of the bizarro version of that. For the first ten, maybe fifteen minutes I spent in the store, I wandered aimlessly past endless assortments of t-shirts and destroyed denim. I thought about my parents. I wanted to call my Nana. I wanted to email everyone I’ve ever been mean to and apologize. I couldn’t really remember my life before Hollister. There are so many levels in this store. So, so many levels.
A kindly salesgirl asked me if I needed anything. My mouth said, “Just looking,” but my eyes said, “SEND HELP.”
After turning a few corners and not running into the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth, I remembered something I saw on my brief visit to the Hollister website: under the Sparkling Shine section, a helpful banner scrolled across the left hand side of the page that read “SoCal #sochill.” Just chill, brah. Everything’s going to be fine.
Ultimately, I settled on a vaguely Fair Isle-looking sweater, the one logo-less cardigan I could find in an XS and a Cozy Infinity Scarf for my goddaughter. Whatever, she’s 11.
My trip to Hollister taught me a lot of things. I learned that even in the supposedly sophisticated retail scene of downtown Manhattan exists a voracious consumer appetite for mass-produced synthetic fibers. I learned that I’ll happily set aside strong moral and sartorial beliefs to make a child happy. And I learned that there is nothing to fear but fear itself, if by “fear” you mean clothes tailor made for Dudes and Bettys from SoCal and beyond.
Steve Dool is a writer based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter.