Triumph of the overpriced cargo pants

What do you do when you want to be taken seriously?

Obviously this is something that rarely happens in my day-to-day life, as I find it is usually the serious people who have to either do the work or clean up the mess; that’s why I prefer life on the “lovable screw up” side of the coin.

Yes, those are the only two options. Pick a side! Chose your destiny!

But let’s say the occasion arises where you need to be taken seriously, otherwise the judge is going to never let you own another riding lawnmower for the rest of your life.

So what do you do? Eat a sensible breakfast and bring a number two pencil? Sure … but that only works for the SATs, and the ACTs, and then never again for the rest of your entire life.

If you want to be taken seriously in any situation its best to follow the ancient wisdom of the Dali Lama, “It’s all about the clothes.”

That’s right folks, high fashion isn’t just for exiled religious leaders. (Those robes he wears? Gucci.)

As much as people might not like to hear it the clothes really do make the (wo)man.

Hypothetical: You show up for your court appointment in a pair of Land O’ Lakes promotional board shorts and a t-shirt that says “My Other Internet is your Mom!” Now, just how long do you think the deliberations will last until the bailiff throws you into lockup so fast the only thing left in the courtroom are your 12- year-old flip flops?

Not long.

Somewhere in our country’s past we adopted the bizarre notion that a man can be judged on the merit of his character alone and not his outward appearance. We’ve gone to great pains to expunge this idea from the national subconscious with a steady stream of reality TV, obscene wealth consolidated within the hands of the few, and Bill Maher thinking he can tell Wayne Brady how to be black.

So when someone says there is an inherent value to wearing nice clothes it triggers a knee jerk response deep in the American psyche that makes us want to go meet the president while wearing overalls.

But nice clothes really do have their place in every person’s life. We might not wear them every day, but they are there when we need them.

Which is why I can’t understand why everybody is so upset over the recent (well, he made them in 2006, but everybody decided to get mad about it now) comments from Abercrombie & Fitch Chief Executive Michael Jeffries.

Jeffries, CEO of A&F (the only store in the mall you can smell over Cinnabon) said that “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. A lot of people don’t belong (in our clothes), and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

That’s not so bad, is it?

Everybody needs to wear nice clothes sometimes. But what if you want some REALLY nice clothes? And you don’t want other people to own those same clothes? And what if you want the other people to not be able to wear the same clothes because they are a different shape than you, and you’re willing to pay $210 for some cargo pants just to prove it?

Then Mr. Jeffries has you covered.

You see, A&F is more than just a clothing store, and its more than just a place where the only difference between the mannequins and the staff is the mannequins look smarter. A&F offers that rare gem of the modern consumer world: the lifestyle brand.

Some great American companies have found success selling not just their original product, but an entire collection of products designed to embody the values and aspirations of their culture; just like Harley Davidson selling jackets, jeans, fingerless gloves and any other manner of clothing items that just screams “Hey! I’m in my 50s and too much of a coward to change my life in any real sense, so I’m buying a Harley!”

So what lifestyle brand is Jeffries selling over at A&F? Look at his list: Popularity, exclusion (how are those not mutually exclusive?), fashion and everyone being peak physical specimens, all thanks to the work of countless slave laborers.

That’s right, Michael Jeffries’s chosen lifestyle to emulate is: Nazi.

Sure, the Nazis were the scourge of the 20th century, took countless millions of lives through war and genocide and brought a darkness to the world from which we have yet to recover … but even Kurt Vonnegut, who himself was a prisoner of the Nazis during World War II, said they there costumes were “madly theatrical.”

And when you want to exclude a group of people for not meeting your standards for physical acceptance, what better mentors could you ask for?

So to all you fans of Abercrombie & Fitch, don’t let the haters (read: people of decency) keep you or your Nazi clothes down. Besides, A&F just keeps getting more popular even after this scandal. I just saw a couple hipsters wearing A&F clothes today. Well, they were either hipsters or homeless, I can never tell.

Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or