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A very quick Summer 2008 trend analysis

Written by admin, Thursday, May 22nd, 2008 in Fashion, Seasonal Fashion

Most fashion columnists, when tasked to describe the new season, tend to look to Milan for answers. This is wrong. It perpetrates the belief that Milan is anything but one big joke made on style magazines and television shows by Europeans. When you have hundreds of fashion writers believing that stuff like on the left is fashion, you have America by the balls (PS: John Galliano, I hate you as much as you apparently hate fashion).

Rather, I look at what stores are coming out with- you know, I just troll around malls for about a day, checking out what’s there. And thus, with no further adieu, I bring you a guide of what’s cool (in my opinion) in the ready-to-wear fashion world.

The Gap Tier: Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic

First I turn to the veritable mainstays of fashion- the Gap, Inc. line, basically comprised of The Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and “Piperlime”, a shoe outlet featured only online launched in 2006. Basically, these companies (exclusing Piperlime) really stand as a weather vane of fashion for the general common man- it’s generally tasteful with a low “fashion beta”, meaning that you don’t have to worry too much about it being tacky or distasteful.

First off, The Gap. This season, the Gap has really somewhat changed, dropping those dreadful cardigans that everyone loves but me and replacing them with lighter, more summer weight clothing. The company has rolled out some general shorts (which appear to be in the straight leg style, matching with their long-legged brothers) and some generally nice polos. Nothing has fundamentally changed from last year (no surprise there), except the colors are much deeper and more earth toned, and the Gap is still sold on the concept of layering. Can’t go wrong there, really. I think they may be out-playing the patterned shorts a bit, but it’s still in the tasteful range, so I have no issues with it- it feels like The Gap’s taking a little bit of inspiration from Polo Ralph Lauren minus the excessive fratboy feel, so this clothing will feel familiar to most. If you need a quick fashion injection without breaking the bank or going overboard and looking a bit too awkward, The Gap’s new line is a wonderful place to begin.

It’s fairly clear I dislike Old Navy, so I will be brief. Yet again, Old Navy has chosen to cater to the lowest common denominator by selling cheap and hideous clothing, mainly in the guise of poorly made logo T-shirts and plastic flip-flops. Old Navy has attempted to be unique by “inventing” what they call “Gradient Stripe Polos” (photo on the left), which may be the ugliest things I’ve seen in a long time. As usual, lots of board shorts, lots of generally cheap quality fabric, lots of cargo shorts. Ironically enough, to top this off, on virtually all Old Navy pages there exists a link to take you to the Piperlime store, where you can buy some discounted Crocs. When there are no model photos because no self-respecting model would wear the crap Old Navy dispenses, you have a problem. Do not shop here.

Banana Republic Military Inspired LinenAnd yet again, I love Banana Republic, despite their excessive pricing on some clothing. The new clothing line for summer is mature and stylish, something that you rarely see. Banana Republic has made a big bet in mainly using linen for summer fabrics, but thankfully very few of those styles remind one of the linen shirts old men wear, so it’s all good. While Banana Republic still suffers slightly from being a bit too mature (and thus a little bit stuffy in some areas), wearing the newer styles will always result in a clean cut look, and I like that a whole lot. Everything in the new line is very “light” in color (ergo, no blacks or excessively dark colors) but avoids the whole easter egg look that went on a year or two ago, so I’m quite pleased. Shop here if you feel a bit more comfortable and want to branch out with your style, especially if you want to go for a more clean cut and refined look.

The Beach Tier: American Eagle, Hollister, and Abercrombie & Fitch

I group these together only because they generally all follow the same fashion patterns. Writer’s prerogative.

American Eagle has chosen the potentially correct path this season by not doing anything but changing the colors and the length of the pants, and only very slightly changing the style of the designs on the clothing. While this still makes the wearer look like he/she is still in highschool (which may be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective), it nonetheless guarantees kids will work hard to afford the “new” styles, which are no fundamentally different from a critical perspective. Much akin to the Gap, American Eagle seems to touch briefly on the idea of layering polos, except this time polos with t-shirts underneath. Not horrible. Shop here if you are under 18 and want peer validation or something. Otherwise, no.

Who am I kidding, Hollister has done nothing new.

And, from the same company that brought you Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch. Clicking past the images of muscular men in the Men’s section of the website (which is off-putting, even in the real stores), one can see that indeed, Abercrombie has done nothing new.

The Boring Tier: Nautica, Eddie Bauer, and Lands End

Nautica has done nothing surprising this season in that it continues to really offer what it has always offered: white, blue, and some combination thereof, usually on a polo. Nautica has come up for a term for its general offering of poorly fitted polos, “Desk Shirts”, which I can only presume to mean that only old men with boats in their retirement homes would dare wear them anywhere. Nothing really looks good. I will admit that their suit separates look unique, but remind me too much of 80s dramas featured in Miami for me to get too excited. If you are in your 40s and need something simple, this is fine, but you can do much better. This season is nothing new.

Outdoorsy clothier Eddie Bauer is pretty standard this season, utilizing their main demographic (presumably rough-and-tumble men from 35 up) to do their usual thing: sell clothes made to withstand everything, from ferocious rock climbing to handling the kids when Mom is at work (which do you think they do more?). Still, I like the styles and I like the fashions, and I think these clothes fit their target age well, so I won’t complain much. This summer, not much has changed (lighter fabrics and brighter colors, as well as the expected line of shorts and shirts), but it’s fairly decent. Again, I won’t complain. If you are over 30 and want something a little rough and ready for wear-and-tear, this is a wonderful place to find masculine styles for your age group in any season.

Lands End does their normal thing, purveying to the slightly-less-active 35+ demographic. Lands End clothing is what it always has been- very basic, very simple, and built to withstand the demands of your typical Middle America family. This season, they have followed the very basic standards of style with lighter off-white colors and a nice array of polos, but the styles continue to be as basic as they can get, basically cookie-cutter designs for families demanding exactly that. If you absolutely need something basic, go here, but this is not the place to find style in any season.

The Name Tier: Armani, Perry Ellis, and Ralph Lauren

Apparently for the summer, the Armani Exchange wants you to go as metrosexual as possible, which seems a recurring theme. While their general put-together styles are somewhat atrocious, the general clothing itself seems fairly decent from a pedestrian perspective. The newest stuff in the Armani Exchange smacks far too much of the indie culture mixed with the general European stuff that Armani loves, but some of the absolute basics manage to be simple enough (but with enough style) to be of good style. Still… a sheer (as in see-through) sweater? What? Play it careful with this season and potentially stay away entirely- Armani is borderline Eurotrash now, and too much of it is too experimentative for a normal guy to even consider wearing.

Perry Ellis continues to be somewhat more “adult” but somewhat reasonable, utilizing the usual tactic of keeping things simple and masculine. The summer line for Perry Ellis is essentially just like previous years- lighter colored polos, linen shirts, and a general “sailing” theme that seems a bit escapist. Of course, Perry Ellis still does well at what it does best- casual looking suits and businesswear- and some of it, like this single slit wool ensemble, look pretty nice for the target age group. Much like Eddie Bauer, go here if you are a bit older and need more classic but stylish clothing.

Ralph Lauren continues to taunt me reminding me that I am not a rich young preppy child who can waste away his life sailing and driving fast cars in some predominantly Anglo-Saxon section of the world. In this new summer line (and I’m lumping all of his various labels together), Ralph Lauren continues on his steady progression of making his iconic “horse” logo even bigger, continuing the rugby theme he seemingly adores. Not much so far as the actual structure of the clothes is different- the horrifically ugly emboidered short has become a mainstay, and everything else is just like it’s always been: a sign that Ralph Lauren spends way too much time getting his ideas from English boarding schools. So far as the casual wearer is concerned, you can pull his clothing off only if you are muscular and fairly similar to his styles- otherwise, I’d avoid it lest you look slightly awkward.

The New Name Tier: Express, American Apparel, Urban Outfitters

Express continues its goal of taking over the fashion industry by providing a unique blend of European style with standard fashion mainstays, and this recent season is fundamentally no different. The new arrivals are remarkably similar to that of Banana Republic or similar outfitters- linen shirts, flip-flops, polos, and shorts. The sweet thing is, it’s pretty damn hard to go wrong with anything that Express has, this season or any season, which is why their clothes are definitely recommended if you can stomach the price tag.

Somewhat controversial retailer American Apparel continues to kick all brands of rear end with their lines, further developing on their control as a massive clothing superbrand. Everything that comes from American Apparel is high quality- though nothing has really changed from previous offerings (the clothing really doesn’t follow fashion lines like others), it’s all good and fairly stylish, if you know how to handle it. I still can’t get over the spooky models or the deep v-neck t-shirts (both scary in their own ways), but it’s still a good place. Go here if you need basic clothing that smacks of awesome, but don’t expect a style revolution.

I have to say, I don’t know if I exactly like Urban Outfitters‘ new styles, though I may not like any of their styles at all. While fundamentally decent clothing, Urban Outfitters has always tried way too hard to get into various niches, causing varying amounts of controversy across the board. More importantly, a lot of the clothing here feels less stylish as it does feel like an attempt to be awkward for the sake of being fashionable, like the style equivalent of the acting of Michael Cera. In general, if you like this style and want to go for it, don’t let me stop you, but there’s so much better in the world not involving crappy wannabe-funny Graphic Tees.

The “I don’t know what tier” Tier: J.Crew and Buckle

Mainstay J.Crew is playing it pretty safe this season, keeping to its normal fashions and only introducing one noticably new style, the Madras Sportcoat, an idea which it actually appears to have stolen from Ralph Lauren (who presumably trashed it because it wasn’t preppy enough). J.Crew exists on the happy border between clothiers like The Gap and Polo Ralph Lauren, this season providing a nice little midway point that I generally like. Nothing fundamentally new, but it’s still worth a look. Much like Banana Republic, go here if you need a quick style infusion- some things are a bit strange, so play it with caution, but you are still fairly safe in J.Crew’s realm.

The Buckle is a bit of one big amalgamation of everything else, which is actually fairly nice- too bad most of it falls under the Abercrombie & Fitch style, with only a little bit of skater-style clothing to make it anything but a clone. Still, The Buckle is all about the denim, which it obviously does well- everything else still stradles the line between stylish and juvenile. If you are fairly young (<18), you could do fine here, but anyone else will look a bit foolish.

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7 Responses to A very quick Summer 2008 trend analysis

  1. macrotis says:

    Old Navy is for 12-year olds who let their moms do their clothes shopping for them;

    American eagle/hollister/abercrombie and fitch is for the tasteless preppie that just wants to fit in with “cool” kids in high school;

    Eddie Bauer is boring (lol@redundancy);

    I shop at Goodwill, thank you very much.

  2. !vYYNV4ZN1k says:

    Could you review some of the stores that us fatties can shop at? Most of these stores go up to XL, and while I can fit into XL without too much problem, it’s not the most comfortable, nor sightly, thing for me to do. =(

    Hell, I don’t even know of any fashionable stores for fatties? Do they exist?

  3. Stolensoul says:

    Ha, Yeah, Wal-Mart and Sears. Although they may not seem like it, both have fairly good clothing. My prefrence is button up shirts with an undershirt. The shirts at sears go up to 2X, although I imagine there may be 3Xs around there, and the pants go up to about 42 (Highest I’ve seen). Walmart’s shirts go to about 4-5X (May be higher, havn’t seen any though) and the largest pants I’ve seen there were 50 somthing.

  4. wxngwndg says:

    Tilly’s is a fairly good store if you want a more urban/skater look.

  5. JenovaWitness says:

    Yeah. I can agree with some of those reviews. I personally prefer express, but the prices kill me sometimes, even with sales and coupons included. I think their clothes are definitely worth it though.

  6. WTF? says:


  7. Jonathan says:

    What about us tall-ies? Sure, much of your advice still applies, but where do you recommend those of us who just barely fit a 38-inch inseam shop?

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