Beefcake Bonanza: Little Hope for the Age of the Abercrombie Zombie

Fearful are the thoughts of the contemporary male who’s breaking out of his teen years. His high school years are gone and, despite the popularity he’d achieved there, he’s forced to let go, to move on. He’ll be attending college in the fall. Consider it the preliminary for a midlife crisis, that obligatory moment when he must choose between childhood and adulthood, for good or ill.

Yet there are a growing number of post-teens who simply will not comply. They choose to hold on to the past, refusing to redefine themselves. Face the ugly truth: every man must take that dark, introspective journey into his own soul at least once in his life. To sidestep this necessary transformation is to disrespectfully forget all of the rebels throughout history, those who shaped trends rather than simply play into them; to simply deny the will of aesthetic depth is not defiant in any positive, meaningful way.

Now, I never said anyone was advocating deceitful reinvention. It’s far too easy to spot that guy who gets to college and pretends to be some kind of champion. There are many forms of these particular college inhabitants-consider the mystic pimp who can swoon any girl who thinks she’s got something wrong with her, or the fat guy who can suddenly chug more beers than a family reunion.

No, this article isn’t about those who lie, it’s about those who deny-although it’s perfectly rational to predict that both those types of males are wearing clothing from Abercrombie & Fitch.

After all, the A&F image is dishonest; whether its supporters are lying to themselves or just lying to everyone else doesn’t really matter. And when it comes to cash flow, the conversation about mindfucking the 21st century male is practically fallacious.

Consider the CEO of Abercrombie and all of its subsidiaries, Mike Jeffries. Dude’s, like, 60 years old and still sports a butt-cut. This guy, because he has millions of dollars, gets to implement his [somewhat homoerotic] idyll of the Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½all-American boy,’ i.e., the hairless, fatless, White, squeaky clean stud on the beach, into every man’s cultural upbringing. Not only are males faced with the challenge of becoming adults, they must struggle to become themselves first. Now more than ever, it seems that more men find it easier to simply identify with the Abercrombie models.

This, however, is a logic that can be struck down with a few simple questions. Hey, Hollister boy, where’s your surfboard? Did that shirt come with its collar popped, or did you think of that yourself? Why are all of the pictures you post of yourself on Facebook in Sepia tone? Couldn’t you just wait for those pants to look vintage?

In his Salon article, “The Man behind Abercrombie & Fitch,” author Benoit Denizet-Louis addresses this masculine facade.

For many young men, to wear Abercrombie is to broadcast masculinity, athleticism and inclusion in the “cool boys club” without even having to open their mouths (that may be why the brand is so popular among some gay men who want desperately to announce their non-effeminacy). But because A&F’s vision is so constructed and commodified (and because what A&F sells is not so much manhood but perennial boyhood), there is also something oddly emasculating about it. Compared to the 1950s ideal, A&F’s version of maleness feels restrictive and claustrophobic. If becoming a man is about independence and growing up, then Abercrombie doesn’t feel very masculine at all. .

Still, it’s not just about attaining masculinity throughout life, it’s about solidifying it. And if the Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Abercrombie Zombies’ feel their doing so, well, that’s just embarrassing because being a man does not involve winning people over with faux-vintage shirts, being “casually flawless,” or any other commercial projections. It’s about honesty, innocence, and hope-and no man should deny himself that just to pay $100 for a stained jean jacket

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