A&Ftermath

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Citizens of Provo, unite! We have been dissed by Abercrombie & Fitch. And by “we” I mean “you,” because I live in Orem.

This chain of quasi-trendy clothing stores has caused furor before with its racy catalogues. The pictures in these catalogues feature lithe young men doing manly things like frolicking gaily in the surf or wrestling nakedly on a bearskin rug in front of a fireplace, always demonstrating the best way to showcase A&F clothes, i.e., by not wearing them.

A&F also publishes a magazine, A&F Quarterly, and that is where the slam came from. In the current issue, whose cover has a shirtless man kissing and groping a scantily clad woman in the front seat of a car — please, kids, classy people move to the back — there is an article entitled “College Towns: The Good, the Bad and the Nasty.” Provo fell under the category of “bad”:

“Imagine a college where all 30,000 students have signed an honor code swearing off alcohol, sex and caffeine. [A&F apparently got a hold of the extra-special top-secret anti-caffeine Honor Code, while the rest of us have only seen the version that never mentions the word.] Now imagine the town that is host to said college, if you can. Welcome to Provo, Utah, home of the biggest Mormon college in the world, BYU. Provo’s got everything most college towns have, except fun. [We’re low on drug overdoses, drunken driving and abortions, too.] Clean Flicks edits their videos to remove smut. [Because for sure EVERYONE in Provo goes to Clean Flicks.] The only dance club in town is dry, but brags about its great smoothies. The city elders shut down the topless dancing joint, LeMar’s, and protested when 2 Live Crew came to perform last year. [Remember how we also protested Toby Keith? Yeah, that was funny.] Meanwhile, sex-starved students sublimate their libidos into such healthy activities as football, the International Ice Carving Contest and trips to the Malt Shoppe. [Don’t forget hiking the Y and being offended. BYU offers master’s programs in both of those.] For happy college-bound Mormons, this town is paradise; for the rest of us, it’s something else entirely.”

Nothing fun to do in Provo?! OK, that’s sort of true. But A&F has a store here. Wouldn’t the magazine at least count that as something worthwhile in this otherwise fun-forsaken town?

To investigate, I went to the A&F store at the Shops at Riverwoods. Now, A&F employees are instructed not to go around saying, “Can I help you find something?,” but instead to wait for the customers to come to them. This is allegedly because A&F doesn’t want its employees to be a nuisance, but I suspect the real reason is that the employees were hired based on physical appearance rather than salesclerking abilities, and the company doesn’t want that to become obvious by letting them interact with the public, like how you lock your crazy cousin in the barn during family reunions.

Anyway, true to their word, the employees largely ignored me, which gave me plenty of space to examine the merchandise and do some shoplifting. A&F sells the same sort of clothes as the Gap, but at twice the price and with the words “Abercrombie & Fitch” plastered all over them. I don’t know why you’d pay $30 for a T-shirt that advertises someone else’s product. (Shouldn’t A&F be paying YOU?) But then, I also don’t understand how A&F even stays in business when its target market — gay teens, apparently — can’t afford to shop there.

But capitalism in general confuses me. Why does Hogi Yogi sell more sandwiches than Gandolfo’s? Why is Los Hermanos busier than El Azteca? And how can a town with a dollar theater be considered boring? I guess if there’s no surf to frolic in or a rug to wrestle on, the A&F people just don’t know how to enjoy themselves.

The second paragraph, and the part about A&F's target market being gay teens, were part of the material deleted, due to space constraints, from my Victoria's Secret column.

As you can tell, this column was just an excuse to make fun of A&F, which I'd obviously been meaning to do for a while. The Provo slam in the magazine, which was brought to my attention by what Dave Barry would call an alert reader, provided the perfect excuse.

Los Hermanos is a popular but (in my opinion) rather bland Mexican restaurant in Provo. El Azteca is far more authentic, from what I understand, but is underrated. Same situation with the sandwiches: Hogi Yogi is a Utah-based chain of sandwich/frozen yogurt places where the food is OK, and Gandolfo's is a New York-style deli where the sandwiches and fantastic.

You know how I'm always quoting stuff and inserting my own smart-aleck commentary along the way? I LIVE for that.

I used to have a link to the A&F article in question, but it's no longer on their Web site, so I no longer have a link to it.

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