You may remember American Apparel. From about 2005 until 2010 or so, it was THE hot clothing store in the US, and several other countries, for teenagers to young 20-somethings.
AA sold bright-colored basics made in America by well-paid workers in Los Angeles. The company took up popular causes, including sustainability, gay rights and immigration reform. It sent clothes to hurricane and earthquake victims.
It even sponsored a celebrity bikini carwash to raise money for a noble cause.
The company grew like mad, but probably not for its good citizenship. American Apparel courted attention with flagrantly sexualized ads, some featuring porn film stars.
Here are some examples from those days.
In 2007, as the company was growing, a generally approving NY Times Magazine profile called its advertising "highly suggestive, and not just because they are showcasing underwear or clingy knits."
" . . . . (they) depict young men and women in bed or in the shower; if they are
casually lounging on a sofa or sitting on the floor, then their legs happen to be spread;
frequently they are wearing a single item of clothing but are otherwise undressed; a
couple of the young women appear to be in a heightened state of pleasure. These pictures
have a flashbulb-lighted, lo-fi sultriness to them; they look less like ads than photos
you'd see posted on someone's Myspace page."
How Times Have Changed
We still have plenty of raunch in our culture -- Tinder and Ashley Madison websites; Fifty Shades of Grey books and a movie and sado-masochism product sales, and news reports of children and politicians flashing pictures of their private parts to friends and online acquaintances.
But some things have changed, at least at our colleges.
Now students demand, and get, "trigger warnings" if they are expected to read literary classics that discuss sex. There are "safe spaces" where students may retreat when they feel threatened by speeches from scary dissident feminists who do not agree with them down the line.
All very strange.
American Apparel isn't the dominant youth fashion store anymore. Arguably, H&M is. Here are some of its ads from 2015.
Every model is fully dressed!
The last ad above even promotes the store's interest in business from Muslim women, who dress far more conservatively than those nubile children from the American Apparel ads of the aughts.
I can't remember a time when I quoted the Grateful Dead, but I will do so here:
What a long, strange trip it's been.
American Apparel's business history is a fun story on its own.