Cultural Fetish Objects Observed: American Apparel Short Sleeve Deep V Neck

While an ode to a cultural clothing fetish may seem frivolous on a day when our country is met with monumental change, it is fitting that the piece in question comes from AMERICAN APPAREL, a brand that has always been provocative, seeking to do more with its name than just sell clothes.

Setting aside, for a moment, the company’s liberal stance on U.S. Immigration policy and its titillating ad campaigns and consider this: founder DOV CHARNEY is Canadian. What made a Canadian start a clothing line that celebrates retro ’70s and ’80s American style and pushes the envelope on public policy and perception of beauty? A fascination with all things United States.

From youth, Charney was enamored of classic, casual American style and pop culture. Soon his hobby became a way of life, as he began importing Hanes t-shirts over the border to his friends in Canada. This led to an ill-fated t-shirt manufacturing business based down South. In 1998 Charney moved to Los Angeles to try again and thus American Apparel was born.

It started with objective to make the perfect t-shirt and sell it to screen printers, the Classic Girl tee. We all had one. It was the ’90s, we were in love with ironic slogans and throwback logos and as thrift stores sold out of campy tourist t-shirts and used school athletic uniforms, American Apparel let bars, sports teams, colleges and sororities make their own.

As our love for everything old grew into a full-fledged obsession, American Apparel expanded its reach from one t-shirt to a full collection of easy, sexy, accessible basics with a retro flair.

Some, like the store’s employees bedeck themselves in the brand head to toe. For fear of looking too much like RICHARD SIMMONS, we take a more staid approach in the form of the Short Sleeve Deep V Neck in Athletic Gray. It’s your dad’s old t-shirt that you unearthed from the depths of the attic reincarnated with a body conscious fit and incredibly flattering neckline.

It’s the tee that every hipster worth her weight in Converse has been wearing on repeat since they came out last spring. On any given day in our office you’ll spot a handful — and then end up sitting next to someone wearing it on your train ride home from work. Consider it the physical embodiment of the rise of the urban tomboy — a shirt that’s a little bit messy, a little bit retro, totally cool but totally approachable.

As the summer months wan, a t-shirt is no longer practical and so our not-so-girlie army will graduate to the Lightweight Sheer Raglan Pullover. It sparks an image of the ultimate pretty tomboy for our generation, Kate Moss the day she reignited high-waisted denim in Spring 2007. Neither her most outlandish look nor her most glamorous, it remains one of our favorite Moss moments because it’s both modern and nostalgic, risky and expected and shows us how she makes even the tiniest thing that much cooler.

A little like American Apparel itself.

– Kristen Amato