For a good few years of my life, I was an American Apparel super-fan. A total fucking groupie for their sweatshop-free basics. I browsed their site and filled up my cart to total thousands of dollars just to fantasise about affording it all. I blue-tacked their sexy magazine ads (predatory AF in hindsight) all over my wall because I was a suburban Sydney 15-year-old with a Los Angeles edge. I even built a school uniform out of their clothes and the vice principal gave up on telling me to wear the one they provided me with. So when I was hired at American Apparel at 18, as you can imagine it was the most validating moment of my life; my favourite brand ever thought I was a bit of alright too.
But it wasn’t just me, a shit tonne of people were just as obsessed just as I was. American Apparel was a fucking phenomenon, peaking all throughout the naughties and there were plenty of good things about them; they used models of all sizes and colours without photoshop, their clothes were made sweatshop free in the U.S, they were a huge advocator for LGBT rights and at one point they had 281 stores open globally. Unfortunately, American Apparel was run by a guy named Dov Charney, an alleged creep who was eventually fired after one sexual harassment case too many.
With that and then expanding too quickly with no profit, AA filed for bankruptcy in 2015 and again the following year. They are now owned by Gildan Activewear who focus on the wholesale side of the business but keep a direct to consumer online store. The over-sexualised marketing has been removed with their rebrand, thankfully.
Today I wish to look back on the most American Apparel American Apparel pieces, the top selling, the good, the bad and the ugly (plenty there) and see if I’d still want to wear it all with a pair of thigh high socks today (probably). I’m going to ask my editor if I can write this article entirely in Helvetica for the special occasion.
The Rose Sweater
The Rose Sweater was insanely popular. It literally only stopped selling because everyone already had one in every colour and there was no one left to physically sell it to. However, this is a rare AA item that I didn’t understand. It was a very different style from the rest of their stock and it was the most basic bitch thing on the menu if you asked me. It was one size fits all which is complete BS also. Of course I dropped all of my opinions on the Rose Sweater when Lana Del Rey wore one in a photo shoot promoting Born To Die. At which point I would have walked over a dead body to have one.
The Disco Pants
Wearing the Disco Pants implied that you were a good time gal. Some girls looked like fucking heaven in them, on others they just looked like everyday tights. To put it bluntly, you needed an ass to make these babies truly shine. I, at the time of working there didn’t have one big enough to consider the sizeable price tag. Upon buying them later in life however, I can confirm there is a reason they are called The Disco Pants and not The Eating Pants. They do not give, and your stomach simply cannot wait to muffin top the fuck out of them as soon as you have a sip of lemon water. They were available in every colour under the sun so you and your crew could all wear them at once and find each other easily in the club. Topshop had a bootleg version, but everyone could tell if you were wearing the American Apparel ones or not. The Disco Pants were like sneakers in that way. Fun fact, still available for purchase on their website.
These were also available in shorts, and we salute the girls that dared.
The Faux Lace Body-con Dress
I’m okay with flat earthers but I draw the line at people who wear this dress. It was available and popular in every colour but this ugly ass print ugly went owffffffff in the late 2000s. I could hardly take a stroll around London town on a Friday eve without spotting at least twenty seven girls in this. When I see it I see fake eye lashes falling off a face, heels in hand and kebab in mouth. Yes, the ‘faux’ in the title means it was just spandex with a print made to look like lace to, hmmm I’m not sure, maybe people 100m away or more and the blind. It was an all time best seller for them. It would be my first choice to wear this to an 00s party if anyone wants to invite me to one. Please do, I have no friends.
The Gloria V One Piece
The models really knew how to sell the shit out of this bodysuit. For something ugly AF that you could wear literally nowhere they really did some numbers on it. This was probably the piece most tried on and left in the change room. I remember finding one of these after a customer tried it on, it was covered in fake tan and period blood which was a topsaroo afternoon for me working in always sunny London. This was popular on its own and then one day…
Megan Fox wore it and nothing else on the cover of Rolling Stone. Damnit, now I want one again. I might fuck around, buy one now and never wear it. Also congrats Megan Fox I’m happy for you.
The Easy Jean
Look, I have not much to say about these but they need to make the list because they sold in spades. Boring but practical and everyone had a pair in their closet. I would not buy today because the Easy Jean, like the company that birthed them are so yesterday and I’m just a bird that’s already flown away.
A Line Skirt
Came in denim and corduroy. I maintain that the A Line Skirt is a A+ product. They always held their shape and lasted a million years. I have one in every colour and can’t bring myself to throw them out. They are a bit uncool now but as my nanna says fashion is a circle and these might come back in style.
Nylon Tricot Figure Skater Dress
Really popular with high schoolers, can be worn with Jeffery Campbells or sneakers. For such a loud dress it was worn so diversely. You were just as likely to see this dress on someone at a rave as you were to find some horse girl wear it with a beanie and and cardigan. The black one even did its rounds within the emo community. However, wearing this today would spark some side eyes for sure. Does anyone remember that lookbook.nu website? Anyone? No? Bueller?? This dress was all over it. Also can often be found worn under a Rose Sweater. GOD, the memories.
American Apparel Riding Pant
One of my favs. Only just chucked out my pair because I’ve officially become too covid-thick (medical terminology) to wear them. If you wear these pants, prepare to have non-stop conversations about them all day, as people can’t fucking help but bring them up. I didn’t know they were meant to look like horse riding pants, perhaps because I was too poor to know horse riding pants existed. Like the disco pants, to pull these off you need to ensure you have an angelic ass yet small enough waist to button them up. To physically pull these off however, you needed another person or six.
Sleeveless Lace Chiffon Dress
Or as I like to call it, The Seventh Gate Of Hell. This is “Doctor Evil” as my mum would say. Again, sold like hotcakes but why? I cannot say. Often worn with a floppy hat and clogs by girls who prefer acoustic remakes of popular songs. Maybe the lavender colour was its best seller. It was a good dress to wear to a raunchy picnic maybe but no where else. The kind of bra you did or didn’t wear made a difference but still ultimately always looked shit.
The Lace Bodysuit
Nothing says American Apparel like this lace bodysuit. It was quintessential. All the bodysuits were for that matter but this one was king. It was in like every American Apparel magazine ad.
American Apparel Thigh High Socks
Thigh highs and undies were the aesthetic of American Apparel. I still rock these today for sure.
This Floral Pattern
American Apparel were not ones for patterns but this print stuck around and made it onto a few skirts, tops, tights and bodysuits. Not a fan, looks like my nanna’s couch.
The Sweetheart Skater Dress
These and ‘Legalise Gay’ were the only writing they had on tees that wasn’t limited edition. Popular, not ground breaking. Could take or leave.
American Apparel Tri-Blend
So comfy, so soft, so luxe. I remember saying “Talk to the tri-blend because the face don’t want to hear it no more” when I had a fight with my sister and I had just gotten a new tri blend hoodie that day. I miss that energy I once had.
Popular with the floppy hat crowd. I wore a mini one of these for a while until an old man on the street told me he liked that he could see my g banger through it.
Deep V and Deep U Necks
Worn exclusively by James from Geordie Shore and the people who looked up to him.
There is a time and a place for neon; London in winter is not it. But alas, I was working there when American Apparel started to push neon and I had to wear bright orange tights around the store. We figured we could sort of work it if you made the whole look super 80s work out with sweatbands etc. Neon will come make a come back one day, whether it’s a good or bad thing. Stay ready.