On sale at Old Navy: Cool clothes for identical zombies!

By Damien Cave

Published November 23, 2000 8:18AM (EST)

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Dude, chill out. It's a shirt, not a meta-statement of my soul.

So where would these people have me buy clothes then? Overpriced boutiques? Salvation Army stores? If it comes from Old Navy, but I find it on the street, is that OK?

Excuse me for wanting to have nice-looking and comfortable clothing at a reasonable price. I have neither the time nor skill to make my own ... I'm too busy working, reading about ancient history and culture (my hobby, as it were), listening to music, watching movies, going to museums, traveling to new places and -- oh, wait, I can't be doing all that and shop at Old Navy/Gap/Banana Republic too!

I must be hallucinating from all the fumes coming off the new clothes I just bought.

-- Eric Kingsley

So essentially, what you're saying is, people who buy into the idea that shopping at Old Navy or Ikea is cool are actually uncool -- they just don't know it because they're not in touch with "real" culture (which would be -- what, exactly?). Wow, thanks for the insight. I hadn't realized that buying a couple of couches at Ikea means I have become a marketing automaton. Should I have bought them at JC Penney instead? And what would that prove if I had? I mean, I enjoy Adbusters as much as the next gal, but I guess I should give up on the fancy book learnin' and start watching some more Must-See TV instead, since I obviously can't resist its charms.

-- Amanda Holm

I think many of the people quoted in this article are missing the point. I only wish there had been an Old Navy when I was in high school 12 years ago, so I wouldn't have been subjected to wearing clothing from Kmart, Wal-Mart and Sears. We were not particularly wealthy growing up. For years, my friends and I have wondered why manufacturers couldn't make inexpensive clothes that still looked good, but it was as if an assumption was made that people without money lacked taste. Now at least there is an option.

Also, I think you may be underestimating the consumer. It's hardly a scientific sample, but no one I know buys their entire wardrobe at Old Navy, the Gap or any other single store. They canvas the stores for items that reflect their taste and personality. If they end up looking like the next person in line, then it is a statement of their taste, not an indictment of the retail industry.

-- Robert James

You're offended by the fact that a corporation is trying to make money by luring people to their store and trying to keep them there? That, I believe, is one of the main goals of a company. As for buying into prepackaged hipness, you don't have to buy anything you don't want. Last I heard, we still have free will.

-- Matthew E. Dawson

Where is the social tragedy of people wanting to paint themselves from the same bucket? People have always done this. Old Navy and Ikea are but tribalism on a commercial scale. Creativity is a basic human drive, but it is also one that demands much of the soul. Most people are essentially lazy, and if they can satisfy their creative urge through easy fixes at Ikea, let them. If there were not darkness, how would we know light? If there were not Old Navy, who of the truly hip among you would stand out?

-- Jeff Crook

Damien Cave makes some excellent points about how mega-chains like Old Navy and Ikea take blatant consumerism and cloak it in the polar-fleeced, wood-grain veneer of "cool." But he also underestimates the average consumer's awareness of this coverup. Virtually everyone I know who shops at these stores (and since I work with college students, that means most everyone I know) understands that the shopping experience offered by these chains pushes conformity, not to mention lower-quality products. Still, people who don't make a lot of money need to wear clothes, and need to furnish their overpriced little apartments -- so where else does Cave propose we go to find these things? My point is, while these chains prey on our consumerist desires, they also fulfill them better than anything else out there right now. Trust me, if there was a better alternative available, most of us would take advantage of it.

-- Sarah Gold

Damien Cave's excellent critique of the brand meccas in our midst pointed out many of the traps of modern capitalism. During the Cold War, many conservatives lamented the creeping devastation of "soulless materialism under Communism." Why aren't the same folks concerned about the soul-killing effects of spiritual death under rampant capitalism? Is it because our economy depends on this carnival of empty promises, shoddy goods and infantile distractions? Shame.

-- Keith Schuerholz

By Letters to the Editor

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