Are you being served?
I'm not beautiful. I'm never going to be stopped in the street and offered million dollar modelling contracts and passers-by do not salivate as their gaze falls upon my face. I am passable: I have good days and bad days and generally look OK. I have good haircuts and wear nice clothes and am clean and that helps. On the whole, I feel pretty good about the way I look. That is until I go shopping and enter the surrealist retail experience that is Abercrombie and Fitch. I first went in there with my other half as we killed time before a dinner reservation in the pop-up restaurant they had in the Royal Academy. I had heard of A&F before- tales of bare cocks and homo-erotic poses in catalogues had reached my ears- but I wasn't quite prepared for what I would find inside.
Clothes are somewhat secondary, indeed almost unnecessary, to the A&F experience. As you enter the store you'll be greeted by a man with no shirt on. Well, I say man, but you don't often see men who look like this in real life. They usually belong in comics or aftershave adverts. A tummy so flat you could iron on it, defined pecs and ripples in all the right places. Toned, tanned and what you would probably call handsome if you liked your men to look as if they were created in a scientific experiment, this man's job is to stand in the doorway in a pair of jeans. This is his job. Sometimes, he will have a female model next to him. She will have perky breasts, porcelain teeth and a healthy glowing tan. They really are there; this is not a mirage. Mostly, however, no-shirt man will be alone, save for hysterical German teenage girls hanging off them having their picture taken. No-shirt man carries a Polaroid camera for this purpose. Acting as doormen will be two shop assistants, the very definition of all-American teens. Inside, pounding and tacky Europop thuds hypnotically as you try to make your way through the store. The lights are turned down to stop you noticing how boring the clothes are: Gap-style sweats and miserable polo shirts in every washed-out shade you can imagine. But nobody is looking at the clothes. It's the shop assistants who catch you eye. Every single one of them is perfect. Perfection doesn't necessarily mean that they are all blessed with model looks. Even those with quirky teeth and squished noses look perfect, as if they were meant to look that way.Whereas a big nose can look like a deformity on the 'outside world', within the confines of A&F, and when teamed with silky-smooth skin and an A&F polo shirt, it looks like a large hooter was God's plan all along.
I've been back a few times, which makes me feel unbelievably voyeuristic, but I can't help myself. There's something quite comforting about the kind of hotness on display at Abercrombie and Fitch: it's not threatening or derisory in any way. It makes me wistful, both for the youth that I did once have and the striking good looks that, sadly, I didn't. I can't bring myself to feel envious because, when all is said and done, they are working in a shop that sells shit, overpriced clothes to idiots and have to flirt and smile at ugly bastards all day when really all they want to be doing is... well, I don't know, but I imagine it's something else. They may be beautiful, but I never feel particularly attracted to any of them: they're oddly sexless in a way that very precisely perfect people often are.
If you ever find yourself at the end of Savile Row, why not pop in and see for yourself? You don't even have to pretend to be looking at the clothes; they know what you've come for.
NB: There are actually a few ugly ones, but even they have really good skin, nice hair and great 'bodies'.