Sunday, May 29, 2011

Remember this Gap commercial?:

Or this one?:

They're both from Gap's heyday in the late-1990s/early 2000s. Now, here's the question--does ANYONE buy Gap clothing anymore?

When I was in college, I always made the obligatory stop at Gap in the mall whenever I went clothes shopping. Sometimes, it was a blockbuster experience--flattering fits, great colors, and practical styles would ensure that I walked out of the store with at least one bag stuffed to full capacity. Occasionally, it would be more of a bust. At one point, for example, the Gap designers were suddenly inspired by the 1960s hippie era, and stores were filled with racks and racks of long, patterned cotton skirts and linen tank tops. I must not have been the only person with reservations about looking like a throwback from 40 years ago because within two months, all evidence of this fashion moment in time had disappeared.

In recent years, my purchases at Gap were pared down to a certain fit of jeans and their Favorite-T line of shirts (which unfortunately only come in grey, white, and black). Only one or two styles of their clothing caught my attention. I passed most racks by without a glance.

Recently, I noticed this article. First off, I had no idea that any of these mall brands actually HAD their own designers to fire. Second, I realized that the last time I made any significant purchase was in 2007, presumably before either this guy got hired or before his impact could be felt on Gap stores nationwide.

Why wasn't this guy successful? I mean, he did come with quite a resume.

Here's my theory:

He designed clothes for the models in the photos on the walls happily skipping around in Gap's latest styles. He didn't design one pair of pants or one shirt that would look good on anyone who wasn't, at most, a size 2.

And, Gap's empty stores and lagging sales are direct evidence of just how few women in the world ARE 5' 10" and 115lbs. Not only does Gap now have such a small demographic to draw from, but, even if every single skinny tall chick spent $200 at Gap for its overpriced clothing, the profits still wouldn't hold a candle to Gap's more successful satellite, Old Navy.

There's a part of me that can't entirely blame him for making this mistake. I am sure that while working at Giorgio Armani, his delusional world of one-size-fits-all women was probably born.

I'll still buy the T-shirts, though. They don't seem to be subject to the same laws of the recent Gap universe.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I have to admit that I was one of the many people who released a boisterous, inner cheer when I read this article.

I became aware of the "quiet car" phenomenon when I lived in the United Kingdom. I spent the entire year without a car, which, to an American, is completely shocking. Fortunately, public transportation was a more than adequate option, and I visited many attractions, cities, and villages by train. Into the late spring and early summer months, I realized that timing was truly everything. Wandering bands of undergraduate students, newly released from university, traveled by train in groups of 8 or more with an outlandish quantity of luggage, to visit a variety of seaside locations. Although it wasn't a guarantee, the best option by far was to retreat to the quiet car under these circumstances. You had about a 50/50 chance that the overworked conductor would actually enforce the rule, and those odds were enough to keep younger travelers from venturing in and taking a seat.

The United States train system, as underused as it is, actually did catch on to this trend, and Amtrak started designating one car on its longer trains with multiple stops as the quiet car. On a recent train trip south, my boyfriend and I thought this was a brilliant innovation, and we immediately claimed seats. We realized, however, that the success of the quiet car was entirely dependant on whether the assigned conductor actually enforced the rules.

Scenario 1: My boyfriend and I got on a train to return from my parents' house, and it was a lot busier than either of us anticipated for a late-morning trip on Saturday. We chose seats in the quiet car after observing a traveling group of 30 poorly supervised students, and, when the train proceeded forward, we thought that we had escaped the danger of a long, loud trip. Unfortunately, we failed to notice that a woman sitting in front of us, seemingly having traveled from New York, was watching a film on her laptop computer in front of us. Now, even by the standards of the quiet car, this isn't problematic in principal. Two things made this a straightforward violation--first, she refused to use headphones, so everyone within a ten-seat radius could hear every line of dialogue with perfect clarity. Second, she, of course, chose some ridiculous, mind-numbing "shoot-'em-up" film, complete with automatic weapons and a massive quantity of shattering glass. The conductor walked by many times, and probably had many more times before we boarded the train, but he never said a word to her for the entire remainder of the ride.

Scenario 2: I was on my way south on the same train line a few months later. Again, I selected the quiet car for the trip. After the trains started moving from the station, the conductor began his rounds to clip tickets. As he made his way up the aisle, he became aware of a woman who was still on her cell phone long after the "emergency situation" time frame had expired. He told her to turn it off. She had a fit. And, this was his response:

"Look, there are seven more cars on this train where you can talk
however long you want, however loud you want. This is the ONE CAR
where the people sitting in it do not want to hear you blab on for
hours at a time. This is the QUIET CAR. There are signs everywhere,
and I presume you can read them. Now, either you can turn off the cell
phone and sit quietly like everyone else is here or you can move
somewhere else--your choice, but in this car one of your choices is
NOT talking on your cell phone."

I think everyone in the car came close to a cheer, but we stifled it in fear that we would be the next travelers spoken to on the quiet car rules.

I am sure it comes as no surprise that the lady was livid. She was more pissed off about being called out in front of everyone than about being retold the very clearly stated rules. However, NO ONE thought she was treated unfairly. She was being unfair to everyone else, and she got what she deserved.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Deciding to go to the gym is the ultimate battle of mental and physical wits. I am sure there are people out there who love the gym. I've honestly never met one, but I can imagine they exist. I have to believe, for example, that the huge guy with the perfectly sculpted biceps and abs or that little chick with the 24" waist in the tiny, spandex outfit either is evidence that God exists and does indeed grant wishes or that going to the gym 8 hours a day does produce an idealized result somewhere other than in an Angelina Jolie film.

Recently, I moved from an all-women's gym with terrible hours (seriously, a closing time of 6:00 p.m.?) to a more standard version. I started out just doing the cardio thing--it was safe, it was somewhat convenient, I kinda knew how to work the equipment, and if I missed a good TV show, I could watch it to distract myself. I always knew that I would have to branch out into the weights section eventually--not because I was really that desperate to shrink the size of my backside, but because I needed to preserve my sanity. Fifty-five minutes on an elliptial machine actually makes it possible to identify not with the boredom that an assembly-line worker must experience, but the insatiable grinding that the assembly-line itself goes through 12 hours a day for the sake of the American economy.

Unfortunately, there are a few phenomena that characterize a gym's weightlifting section:

Groups of college students, newly released from academic bonds, that visit the gym in herds. These are generally single-sex units that congregate around a piece of machinery or a lifting apparatus. They will assign roles as follows--one lifts, one spots, and two or three more will giggle incessantly, tell ridiculous jokes, or discuss how much more weight they can lift than the one actually doing the lifting, never to prove their claims.

Texters who use "down time" on lifting machines as an opportunity to catch up with friends and family on their unlimited phone plans. Of course, a series of reps on any machine requires a short recovery, but a 20 to 30 second count often is not enough time to reflect upon what that girl was wearing or what he did last night in the appropriate OMG language. This results in a lot of bench-sitters, maximizing machines they aren't using, and they generally come away claiming they had a full one-hour workout when that workout was actually disproportionally divided between actually working out and making sure their Droids and iPhones live up to their warrantees.

Non-sprayers, who use machines in sweat-splotched clothing, but because they weren't on those machines for more than 5 minutes, they feel no need to spray it off for the next person.

Members of the opposite sex who insist upon staring at you when you're in a compromising position. I can only reflect on this from a woman's perspective, and I can honestly say that there is nothing more ridiculous than a guy taking a peek when you're on one of those thigh machines. Seriously, guy? You're that curious about how boys and girls are different down there, STILL?

On the other hand, watching all of this happening does distract one from the workout that me, among so many others, can't stand in the first place. I suppose there is always a trade off.