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It was during my holiday I recently took with my dad and I was in Paris having the time of my life. The weather was just right, I could see the Eiffel Tower on the horizon and everything was good.
We were shopping… Well, I guess window shopping as we accidentally stumbled upon one of the “Coco-Chanel-Louis-Vuitton-Haute-Couture” shopping areas. As there was nothing for us there but overpriced nothingness, we started back to the Champs-Elysee to find somewhere economically feasible, when we came across a tall, black and gold gate. There was a faint, familiar scent before we even got to the gate, but as I was in a country that didn’t even speak my language, I didn’t really register it. We were in awe of the beauty of the gates and the old, historic-looking building when we looked down at eye level and were astonished.
Standing outside these gates were men dressed in probably the most bizarre clothing options I have ever seen. They were wearing blue jeans, all with rips in them, flip-flops (despite the cold bite in the air), poofy down jackets (a little more weather appropriate), and no shirts (not at all weather appropriate).
Now, you would think this would instantly repel my dad and I, but we realized that the breathing mannequins with chiselled abs, brown surfer-dude hair and magazine smiles belonged to none other than Hollister.
Instantly I was a little put-off. The fact that these guys were literally soliciting themselves on the street to attract females into the store bothered me. After all, isn’t that just a step away from prostitution? Maybe I was being a little hyperbolic, but nevertheless, they stood out there for the sole purpose of attraction, completely objectifying themselves in the process.
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A morbid curiosity stole over me and so I asked my dad if we could go inside. He agreed, and we walked down the path with perfectly trimmed hedges, perfectly placed gravel, and “perfect” looking people.
We had to give the front counter our bag before we got in. As if I would buy or steal something from this atrociously ostentatious establishment. But not wanting to cause trouble, I obliged and went inside.
I walked in the inner doors and I was so taken aback I was lost for words.
It was dark in the store, and in darkness one hides things, but what I saw literally sickened me. When I first surveyed the store, there were two people dancing just past the entrance way. They were paid to just stand there and dance and make it look like they were having the time of their life. As if that isn’t a warning flag there. What it communicated to me – thought I know it’s absolutely not true – is that this guy and girl were a spectacle, two animals performing in the zoo and that they were worth nothing more than their fake dance moves.
The sheer size of the place also surprised me. A quick count told me there were six – yes six – floors in this particular Hollister. Six. This clothing store was probably the size of a Costco and it was packed like sardines with clothes. It was a shrine to consumerism and a death trap for negative self-image.
Obviously, my dad and I were disgusted and fascinated at the same time, so my dad took out his phone to take a picture. The moment he held it up, the seemingly “nice” and “happy” and “oblivious” dancers jumped on him.
“No phones,” they said. The tone they used was dripping with hostility. Clearly they didn’t want it broadcasted how their “shrine” was functioning and what it stood for.
As with most Hollister stores, the people there looked “perfect,” and were dressed in less clothes than I usually sleep in; everyone was dressed as such from the bodyguards to the employees, to the models plastered sickeningly on the walls, to even the mannequins.
I promptly left in deep disgust and vowed never to go into a Hollister again.
The problem I had with this store is that everywhere you looked caused a negative self-image. How couldn’t you think “wow I don’t look like those picture-perfect, chiselled guys and girls. There must be something wrong with me” when you were bombarded from every angle with chiselled bodies and perfect smiles all around you.
Another thing that bothered me was the dancers. It just blew me away that their job was to make the store look more “clubby” than an actual retail store. Because young guys and girls will be going into that store despite the marketing being targeted to a teenaged crowd. This already exposes them at an early age to the idea of self-perfection, an idea I pray no one has to fall victim to.
I’m not saying that every Hollister is out to get you and potentially cause a relapse or catalyze an eating disorder, depression or negative self-worth, but I certainly think these stores’ messages are no better than the message that fitspiration and thinspiration communicate: “you are never ‘perfect’. There is always something else you can do to make yourself look better. Perfection is the goal and you so far have not lived up to that goal.”
With stores choosing to advertise in this way, it’s no wonder that girls and guys are dying of eating disorders and falling prey to the awful grips of depression and self-hate.
The great thing is though is that you are not defined by others’ expectations or subjections, especially those that create an image of “perfection.”
“Beauty” in my opinion is not defined by your appearances, but rather who you strive to be, your morals, and your character. That to me shows a truly beautiful person. Don’t invest your happiness in material items, because eventually those items will rot, decay, and fall apart.
If you invest your happiness in morals, ethics, and beauty from within, chances are the stores that try and refocus your image on clothes and perfection will lose. They will lose. And you will win. That is a fight worth fighting, and eventually, in life, you will win that fight. This victory is one of the most amazing triumphs you can experience, and so never give up. You are too beautiful to do that.
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