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The Summer Mall Report Card

Written by Mr. WellCultured, Sunday, May 29th, 2011 in Fashion, Seasonal Fashion
Most brands have now come out with their full summer lineups, and thus it’s time for a quick overview of their new styles. Unfortunately, because of the poor economy, most brands haven’t done anything terribly new, but they’re still marketing hard for the season — and we’re giving them all grades.
Store Name Grade Thoughts
Banana Republic C Not much has visibly changed with Banana Republic, but the company has definitely tried to cut back. Banana Republic’s Monogram collection is completely gone now, and the company appears to be trying to make safer, less risky choices with their fashion decisions — it’s all about the basics, with a suit or two thrown into the mix. Much like its lower-tier Gap corporation brethren, BR is pushing godawful short sleeved button-ups in a variety of terrible patterns. Their summer clothing is decent, but it really boils down to “plaid shorts, short sleeved button downs, and maybe some linen somewhere along the line.”
Gap B- The Gap is still the Gap, an unyielding purveyor of the same crap they sell year-to-year with few changes each season. Still, this season’s Gap offerings have some surprising gems — a few good (and fairly affordable) summer weight shirts, some fairly priced and simple enough shorts, and the like. While the Gap suffers from the corporation’s godawful shift to short-sleeved button-down shirts, somehow the shift seems more bearable when the brand doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a mid-tier mall brand.
Express D- Break out your dark suits and black ties, because the fashion world will be holding a funeral for Express very soon. What was once a brand attempting to mix slightly European (if not ever-so-slightly metrosexual) style with cheaper but more fashion savvy suit basics has become an absolute pit of Jersey Shore inspired trash. While Express’ website still pretends to be mainly a modern suiting outfitters, their stores appear to be catering to the lowest common denominators — guidos. Worst of all, Express is still greatly overcharging for what they sell while simultaneously offering so-called “discounts” for multiple shirts, essentially making their stores feel like bad fashion choice warehouses. While Express’ suiting fundamentals aren’t terrible (if you don’t mind lycra, that is), everything else is just godawful, especially this summer.
Old Navy F
They now carry Hawaiian shirts and cargo pants. God save us all.
J. Crew A- More of the same, but the same is a good thing. It seems as if J.Crew is putting a lot more emphasis on having a wide variety of colors and patterns for their shirts, which is frankly pretty damn awesome — most of what they have available is classic but unique and totally wearable. J.Crew’s outerwear still kinda sucks and they still push basic tees for a quick profit, but everything else is pure gold.
H&M B- H&M is remarkably like the Gap — there’s a lot of absolute crap that looks terrible, but some surprisingly affordable gems are buried in their stores that are worth searching for. For some reason H&M loves to carry tacky clothing choices — like stylized wife beaters — that are simply too tacky to be worn by most, but their basics (including their super-cheap slim chinos and sweaters) make up for these problems quickly. If you’re a slim guy and need basic clothing on the cheap, H&M is definitely the place to go this season — just prepare to sift through a lot of crap.
Armani Exchange C Nothing new: just the same old overpriced Eurotrash-y stuff for guys who think they’re buff. Some of their shirts and pants aren’t terrible, but the vast majority of it is just ridiculously ugly looking.
Polo Ralph Lauren B- The same old stuff, re-branded year after year, with minor changes. Like J.Crew, this doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing — most of PRL’s fundamentals are sound and tasteful, and their polos are a godsend during the summer. Still, Polo has taken a decided step towards tackier, more over-designed polos, which aren’t terribly flattering and which make the wearer look like a racecar driver.
Fred Perry C- As many brands are doing, Fred Perry is trying to stay safe by sticking to easily purchased and readily affordable fundamentals like polo shirts. Nothing in their new line is terribly impressive or stylish, but if you like what they do, you won’t be disappointed.
The Phillips-Van Heusen Line (Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole, etc) C More of the usual — simple blazers, shirts, and jeans. More slim fit offerings, which may appeal to some. The P-VH lines are beginning to feel really tired, like an old man who, while once popular, cannot compete with the big boys anymore.
Lacoste D Lacoste has always been about bright and bold colors, but they’ve managed to make themselves obnoxious this summer. Lots of garish patterns and tacky dyes and not a lot of stuff that most people would be interested in buying. The brand, of course, has great fundamentals — they’ve just lost their way.
Diesel D- Diesel seems bored with itself. While its always had a pretty decent line of jeans, it has now reduced itself to selling 3D effect t-shirts.
Guess C Nothing exciting or eye-popping here. Tacky t-shirts and generic button-downs as usual, and some new jean offerings, but that’s about it. If you like what they do, you’ll continue to like what they’re doing now, but there’s nothing new or interesting to speak of.
Urban Outfitters B- While I loathe a lot of what Urban Outiffers carries with a passion, surprisingly some of their stuff is pretty reasonable and interesting. Their new canvas totes are nice, their cheap boat shoes and canvas plimsolls are always a good summer choice, and their shorts aren’t terrible if you want to go for a schoolboy look.
Brooks Brothers C You actually expected Brooks to change based on the summer? Hell no. Brooks hasn’t changed their basic styles in what seems like over fifty years, and they’ll be damned if they change now for a little heat. You will buy the same (great, high quality) stuff your grandfather purchased back in the fourties and you will like it, god dammit.
Forever 21 Men (21Men) B- Forever 21 has a love/hate relationship with their own menswear line, but for the demographic they’re marketing to and the price they sell their stuff at, they aren’t doing bad. Lots of slim fit shirts and pants, all both cheap and cheap looking, but decent.

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One Response to The Summer Mall Report Card

  1. Anonymous says:

    Forever 21 Men: B-

    I feel like I’ve been trolled.

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