Posted by: martinworster | September 13, 2007

70. HOLLISTER CALIFORNIA INC

The OC in a glass bottle…

I’m not sure if Hollister exists in the UK but it’s quite a popular clothing brand out here. Think Abercombie & Fitch meets Benetton with the California lifestyle as a sunny backdrop to the whole brand ethos. Walking into one of the stores it’s like the assistants could be all be models for the brand, as if they’d hopped down from a Hollister billboard to specifically serve you. Lithe, tanned blondes with skinny waists and gleaming Colgate teeth greet you with a smile. As they are from the same gene pool, for the male assistants it’s a similar package; blondes with beach toned physiques and Aquabrite teeth smile inanely and ask you how you are, like they’d just skipped in from a Gap / Calvin Klein campaign, the soles of their feet still lightly dusted with Orange County sand from a recent surf session.

Similar to Abercombie and Fitch, turn left on entering and you are in the dude section and it’s left for the chics. The clothes are casual, earthy post-beach wear with lots of denims pastel and kharkis colours. Striped polo shirts and sandy chinos, bland Gap-esque wear for people with shiny teeth and dull personalities. The clothes are neatly folded on the guacomole green coloured freshly painted pine shelves. The clothes smell fresh and are feather soft, the folds neat and precise. Not only do the assistants look great, they are great folders.

From the stero bland emo rock is played at high volume with jangly guitars and inaudible lyrics – which probably isn’t a bad thing. On either side of the store big banks of screens show live webcams from local beaches. It’s another day in paradise as Pacific blue lines of perfect waves roll in from the horizon, foaming white as they break against the yellow sand. The cloudless blue sky looks like it’s been through Photoshop, such is the intensity of the blue. Palm trees pierce the blue. It’s so blue it’s unreal. Happy, athletic youth frolick in the water, surfing, skimming and swimming.

The experience of visiting a Hollister store for me somehow manages to encapsulate the whole Southern California spirit. If you bottled Orange County this is it. The sunny, laid back beachside existence, Jack Johnston on rotation around the camp fire as an electric pinky ornage sunset hermetically seals all the perfect memories at the close of yet another perfect day. We snuggle up in our soft and warm Hollister aubergine hooded sweat tops, faces lit up by the orange glow. Are you detecting yet that perhaps things aren’t really that perfect? Behind the clean veneer, the happy bubble of apparent indifference, underneath it all it feels like dark monsters are waiting to get out. Behind the neatly trimmed lawns and sugar white picket fences of the Real OC – the Wisteria Lane-ness – the demons are just waiting to pounce.

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