American Apparel dropping more than drawers

Despite the blow to hipster culture, the downfall of the company would be a shame

Ayame Ulrich

Ladies and gentlemen, stock up on that ever-so-sexy American Apparel apparel because you may no longer be able to in a few months time.

Stock prices have been plummeting for the controversial business over the past two quarters, and business reports are now confirming that the company has accumulated a debt of $115 million and now faces the threat of bankruptcy.
The store that has helped define hipster culture might soon be as empty as the souls it set out to serve, right?
But, as easy as the store is to mock for serving hipsters, there are three reasons we should be disappointed to see the chain go.
The first reason is essentially moral. The fact of the matter is that American Apparel provides ethically made products in a market place that is saturated with exploitative-labour goods.

It is well known that the company hires immigrants and pays them up to $20 an hour to make clothes. That’s admirable considering the locale of the manufacturing (downtown Los Angeles) and the affordability of its prices, which have not changed very much since they introduced organic cotton fabric options.

Moreover, the (until recently) success of the company allowed the opening of plenty of stores at which people can buy these comparatively ethical clothes.
The second reason has nothing to do with morals but rather sheer admiration. Somehow the chain has managed to make underwear look just as splendid on a man as on a woman.

They have made gitch unquestionably sexy for both sexes.

In the ‘90s it was all about boxer shorts that rode up to your belly button and served as a cover for your ass because your pants were too low. But in came American Apparel in 2003 and changed all that nonsense by making tight-fitting gitch cool instead.

For this fact alone, the company deserves our respect and support.

If you’re feeling nervous about inviting your date to your place, you can always find comfort in the fact that you look damn near heroic without any pants on

The third reason also has to do with their underwear. For those of us that are single, we can admit to the fact that they increase our chances of having sex.

You strap those $15 puppies on every time you have a hot date as a simple yet effective good luck charm. If you’re feeling nervous about inviting your date to your place, you can always find comfort in the fact that you look damn near heroic without any pants on.

Most business articles have argued that the company can be saved as long as they cut down on unprofitable trendy clothing designs (you really don’t look better in a spandex leotard) and instead focus on what they do best (you really do look good prancing around in a pair of their undies).

Many analysts suggest this can be done by simply replacing Dov Charney as CEO. By reigning in the company’s focus, they can serve a broader, more receptive consumer base.

Until this bankruptcy ordeal, American Apparel was proving to the shareholders and businesspeople that you can pay employees decent wages while generating impressive profits and achieving transnational success.

They had admirable success competing in a neoliberal-ethics-deprived market place. Hopefully they can revamp themselves by leaving the trend-reliant hipsters behind.

If the company does ultimately fail, it would be a shame. I would like to see them add sex appeal to millions of pairs of previously-owned grey gitch that people otherwise would toss away.

I think the whole industry would change for the better if that happened.

Matt Austman is a politics student at the University of Winnipeg.

Published in Volume 65, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 9, 2010)

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