Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sexualising Teenagers

The first two images I found on the internet show some controversial Hollister T-shirts from old lines so I decided to look for some more from the current products on offer on their website. Some of the T-Shirts contain issues such as sexualising teenagers, being derogatory towards women/girls and emphasis on the importance physical appearance. 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Hollister, Hyperreality and Some Key Themes

In my meeting with Gareth this week he suggested I wrote about Hollister in terms of Hyperreality and a number of key themes: Desire, Gender, Consumption, Lifestyle/Habitus, Product Placement, Simulated Spaces and I added 'Body Image'. Some of the areas have strong links to another and therefore I may find myself repeating elements.

Simulated Spaces

Hollister has a shop front designed to look like a Californian beach house. On the outside stereotypically good-looking men dressed in lifeguard shorts and flip-flops welcome the consumers inside. Although it does not have a conventional shop front, from the outside, Hollister is obviously a shop due to its placement alongside other shops. However, beyond the entrance porch, the consumers inside are unable to see the outside world and so the beach house becomes more much more convincing.

Hollister has the feeling of ‘home’; this is created by a number of signs that we associate with home;

·      The shop does not follow an open plan structure like most shops; furniture columns and walls give the shop a feeling of having different rooms like in a traditional home.
·      The shop is dimly lit with warm lighting in the form of table lamps and decorative chandeliers.  There is a cosy atmosphere.
·      Furniture, decorations and furnishings (sofas, cushions, rugs, pictures, plants) simulate a living room.
·      Purchasable products are placed like decorative items on shelves and tables. They are disguised within the environment and so represent this lifestyle when removed from the space (purchased).

‘Home’ is usually a place where people feel the most comfortable and relaxed. By creating an environment that simulates this feeling, consumers are likely to feel at ease, creating both a mental attachment to the brand and a desire to obtain a part of the lifestyle through purchasing items.

Furthermore, the interior space also supports the brands intentions to create a feeling of authenticity. The space connotes a time period prior to when the brand was actually established. This is done through signs such as the decorative wallpaper, dark wood, classical furniture, a deep colour pallet, panelled walls etc.

The space is hyperreal because the signs are so familiar and comfortable that we forget that the space is simulated in order to persuade you to buy into the brand.  

Product Placement

Hollister places its products within its home-like interior on tables and on shelves as though part of the decor.  Perfume boxes are the ornaments in the ‘lounge’ area and clothes are placed on tables and benches that you can imagine eating your dinner at (see image above). Although there are some traditional clothing rails, they are more sparse and are positioned within the environment like pieces of furniture. By implementing the products into the environment, they are disguised, they are displayed as a part of the lifestyle as opposed to a commodity.  They gain meaning from their surroundings.

Hollister markets itself as an authentic surf brand, referring to surfing litterally and through connotative signs such as use of language ie. ‘sunwashed denim’ (website), the design of the beach hut shopping environment and the beach location advertising. However, it is evident that Hollister is not referring the technical elements of surfing, but instead taking meaning from the sports lifestyle. By associatiating Hollister with surfing, we associate the brand with the positive qualities of surfing. 
Hollister is even direct with this link, see the item description below...

And another example; as an active sport we may associate surfing with physical attractiveness, Hollister’s ads show toned tanned models on a beach location often in the company of friends and a surf board. We associate the brand and therefore the items with being popular, attractive, cool and laidback. 

First Second and Third Order Similacra

The words below are from this educational website and it seems like useful to understand Baudrillards ideas, I came across it when trying to define 1st, 2nd and 3rd order simulacrum.

"Baudrillard is not merely suggesting that postmodern culture is artificial, because the concept of artificiality still requires some sense of reality against which to recognize the artifice. His point, rather, is that we have lost all ability to make sense of the distinction between nature and artifice. To clarify his point, he argues that there are three "orders of simulacra": 

1) in the first order of simulacra, which he associates with the pre-modern period, the image is a clear counterfeit of the real; the image is recognised as just an illusion, a place marker for the real; 

2) in the second order of simulacra, which Baudrillard associates with the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, the distinctions between the image and the representation begin to break down because of mass production and the proliferation of copies. Such production misrepresents and masks an underlying reality by imitating it so well, thus threatening to replace it (e.g. in photography or ideology); however, there is still a belief that, through critique or effective political action, one can still access the hidden fact of the real; 

3) in the third order of simulacra, which is associated with the postmodern age, we are confronted with a precession of simulacra; that is, the representation precedes and determines the real. There is no longer any distinction between reality and its representation; there is only the simulacrum."

Baudrillard points to a number of phenomena to explain this loss of distinctions between "reality" and the simulacrum:
1) Media culture. Contemporary media (television, film, magazines, billboards, the Internet) are concerned not just with relaying information or stories but with interpreting our most private selves for us, making us approach each other and the world through the lens of these media images. We therefore no longer acquire goods because of real needs but because of desires that are increasingly defined by commercials and commercialized images, which keep us at one step removed from the reality of our bodies or of the world around us.

2) Exchange-Value. According to Karl Marx, the entrance into capitalist culture meant that we ceased to think of purchased goods in terms of use-value, in terms of the real uses to which an item will be put. Instead, everything began to be translated into how much it is worth, into what it can be exchanged for (its exchange-value). Once money became a “universal equivalent,” against which everything in our lives is measured, things lost their material reality (real-world uses, the sweat and tears of the laborer). We began even to think of our own lives in terms of money rather than in terms of the real things we hold in our hands: how much is my time worth? How does my conspicuous consumption define me as a person? According to Baudrillard, in the postmodern age, we have lost all sense of use-value: "It is all capital" (For a Critique 82).

3) Multinational capitalism. As the things we use are increasingly the product of complex industrial processes, we lose touch with the underlying reality of the goods we consume. Not even national identity functions in a world of multinational corporations. According to Baudrillard, it is capital that now defines our identities. We thus continue to lose touch with the material fact of the laborer, who is increasingly invisible to a consumer oriented towards retail outlets or the even more impersonal Internet. A common example of this is the fact that most consumers do not know how the products they consume are related to real-life things. How many people could identify the actual plant from which is derived the coffee bean? Starbucks, by contrast, increasingly defines our urban realities. (On multinational capitalism, see Marxism: Modules: Jameson: Late Capitalism.)
4) Urbanization. As we continue to develop available geographical locations, we lose touch with any sense of the natural world. Even natural spaces are now understood as “protected,” which is to say that they are defined in contradistinction to an urban “reality,” often with signs to point out just how “real” they are. Increasingly, we expect the sign (behold nature!) to precede access to nature.

5) Language and Ideology. Baudrillard illustrates how in such subtle ways language keeps us from accessing “reality.” The earlier understanding of ideology was that it hid the truth, that it represented a “false consciousness,” as Marxists phrase it, keeping us from seeing the real workings of the state, of economic forces, or of the dominant groups in power. (This understanding of ideology corresponds to Baudrillard's second order of simulacra.) Postmodernism, on the other hand, understands ideology as the support for our very perception of reality. There is no outside of ideology, according to this view, at least no outside that can be articulated in language. Because we are so reliant on language to structure our perceptions, any representation of reality is always already ideological, always already constructed by simulacra.

The Skinny Beautiful Brand

This article below is taken from the above address. It is important to consider that the news site is designed to both inform and sell papers so there could be some biased material.

"It's not surprising that Abercrombie excludes plus-sized women considering the attitude of CEO Mike Jeffries, said Robin Lewis, co-author of The New Rules of Retail and CEO of newsletter The Robin Report.
"He doesn't want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people," Lewis told Business Insider. "He doesn't want his core customers to see people who aren't as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they're one of the 'cool kids.'" 
The only reason Abercrombie offers XL and XXL men's sizes is probably to appeal to beefy football players and wrestlers, Lewis said. 
We asked the company why it doesn't offer larger sizes for women. A spokeswoman told us that Abercrombie wasn't available to provide a comment. 
In a 2006 interview with Salon, Jeffries himself said that his business was built around sex appeal. 
“It’s almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that,” Jeffries said
Jeffries also told Salon that he wasn't bothered by excluding some customers. 
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.""

Monday, 14 October 2013

My Semiotics Analysis of Adverts

Here I have chosen two advertisements for Hollister and one of the suggested looks from the Hollister website. I have basically picked some of the signs and described what the connotations are/could be. I could still say more.

Points on Hollister Branding

  • Hollister shop designed to look like a beach house. Attracts attention, is a talking point. Sells a lifestyle. The actual name Hollister is not big and loud like other traditional shop fronts, however the brand is very loud!

  • Models work in store dressed as lifeguards. They are stereotypically good looking. They are there in front of you, there is no distance from the model like in a magazine ad. 

  • Mannequins show what the clothes would look like on a human figure, of course this means the male mannequins in Hollister have sculpted bodies. 

  • Use of the Dudes and Bettys and words such as "cool" and "epic." Words surfers may use, likely to attract the target age group. Very American. 
  • Playing videos of the surfers in the shop - transports the viewers to this "cool paradise." If they are buying Hollister they are buying into this lifestyle.
  • Carrier bags - people want to own the carrier bag to show people they fit in with the Hollister brand. They have bought items from the shop, the lifestyle applies to their aspirations, desires. The topless models on the carrier bag symbolise sexual attractiveness. When I walk around with this carrier bag, I am sexually attractive. I am desirable. The contents of the bag is irrelevant. Made from paper: authentic.
  • Small entrance into the beach house shop.  Gives the impression of a VIP entrance, when you go inside you are entering a hyperreal space separated from the outside world. 
  • Inside there are lamps and chairs and it is set up like a living room. The furniture again gives the impression of vintage pieces - a well established company. The lounge refers to a Lifestyle, the clothes are second to the set up in the shop. 
  • They are entering a dark place. You can't see whats inside until you are actually inside. A sense of mystery. You want to go there and find out whats inside. 

Ride the Wave
The Ride the Wave website is a lifestyle site for and made by Hollister which focuses on the "Epic Store" opening in New York. It features Desktop Wallpapers and ScreenSavers. Videos about the Hollister Lifestyle like the one above show the surf lifestyle which is associated with the brand.

The video above shows topless "dudes" enjoying a "surfer's lifestyle" and going to castings for the new Hollister store. There is the implication that the store's exterior is inspired by a pier with its grid like, column structure. On the website the note below appears over the video.

MY OPINION: Hollister is aimed primarily at young teens (14-18), at this age teens are concerned about their appearance. Hollister brand taps into this, everything is about the appearance. Here people have the chance to submit their photos in a click in the hope of becoming a model. Instead of saying "are you an experienced model" the brand offers the viewer a chance to be 'famous' part of the 'good looking' brand. It creates a lack of constraint for young people, Hollister could fulfil their dreams.

SEXUAL REFERENCES: The closing of the video can be seen in the screenshot below. It pictures a guy and girl getting intimate in front of the waves and Hollister logo. The girl is wearing a bikini in keeping with the surfer image and the guy has his hands pulling her jeans down to reveal her bum. This all comes after the guy has talked about how cool it is working at Hollister. Here we are getting the message "the 'Hollister guy gets the girl." and every girl wants the Hollister guy. There are no faces here and this gives the impression the people or the scenario could apply to anyone - it could apply to that sixteen year old sat at home in Manchester wearing Hollister. SOMETHING ABOUT SEXUAL DESIRE HERE. HETROSEXUALITY.

This is the backdrop for the screen saver available to download and like the video it oozes Nostalgia. The dark edges and sepia, desaturated tones equate to the feeling of an old fashioned video, referring to when technology wasn't as good. This is coherant with Hollister's fictional story where the brand is established in 1922. Note that the brand never actually states it was established then, it just uses signs which connote this.

  • Desaturated tones in videos and photos
  • Writing the number 1922 under the brand name
  • Flashy screen transitions give sense of old fashioned video
  • Rustic frame, tranditional wall paper background
  • Scratchy, imperfect logo - false authenticity.
  • Old furniture in shops.
  • Old style sepia photographs
  • Handwriting versions of the logo, personal, trustworthy.

False Authenticity - Background on Hollister

Notice "1922"...

Hollister was established in 2000 by Mike Jeffries. Jeffries created a back story to try to make the brand seem more authentic. Hollister was founded in 1922 by J.M. Hollister.

"The concept for Hollister was built around a fictional background story created by Jeffries (Shown here) to provide a more “authentic” atmosphere for the Hollister shopper. The fictitious story claims J.M. Hollister founded the company in 1922 as a “Pacific merchant in SoCal.” On its Web site, the company defines itself as “Inspired by the sun-drenched spirit of California, and the surf and soul of the Pacific Ocean, Hollister is a laid-back, aspirational lifestyle destination.” In reality, it was launched in 2000 out of Columbus, Ohio by Abercrombie & Fitch, which was struggling at the time to reach a younger customer."


This article on a business news website describes how Hollister has attracted the attention of mainstream consumers and is threatening the surf industry with its false authenticity. This could be potentially biased in the aim of making an interesting story. However, it does have a backstory of Hollister and there are facts to support the story.

"Much of the store’s success is credited to its in-store experience; Hollister has invested millions into providing a “SoCal surf” atmosphere to both the interior and exterior design of its stores. The stores are meant to look like beach shacks. The interior is dimly lit with spotlights above the merchandise, and divided into two sections: “Dudes” and “Betties.” The company spent ten million dollars in 2007 outfitting its stores with flat screen TVs that play a live feed of the surf conditions at Huntington Beach pier. Stores are scented with the company’s signature SoCal fragrance, and there’s a corporate policy in place to play a controlled mix of licensed music—available for purchase at the register, of course—between 80-85 decibels. (OSHA requires employers to provide ear protection to employees exposed to decibel levels 90 and over.) In the middle of the store there’s a lounge area with chairs, surf magazines, and potted palm trees."


This site has a little background on Hollister. As it is a Tumblr page I would need to check back the facts with a stronger source but it is a useful summary.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

At Abercrombie & Fitch, Sex No Longer Sells.

I wanted to take note of an article I found on quest, "At Abercrombie & Fitch, Sex No Longer Sells" written 31st Aug 2012. The reports explain a decline in sales at A&F and sub-brand Hollister and suggests that it is because teenagers are no longer impressed. "Today's teens are underwhelmed by the half-naked models and blaring, dimly lit stores."

It is from and although the stats are likely to be correct, the reasons for decline are only speculations. I must consider there is a possible bias here to make the story more interesting. 

Hollister Carrier Bags - A Collectable Item?

So here I have found that you can actually purchase Hollister carrier bags on Ebay. The bag is an object of desire in itself.

Websites helping me to get to grips with some terminology

This site is mainly aimed towards the computer/technology side of simulation but it defines/explains some of the key words and ideas by Baudrillard. It is more of secondary as it refers to some other theorists etc. I also had to look up some of the references as it a Canadian sight. I found this idea quite interesting although not directly relating to my project.


Computer pioneer Alan Kay specifically associates the ability of computers to enhance education with simulations. In making this point, he criticizes most contemporary education by referring to physicist Murray Gell-Man’s remark that education in the 20th C. is like being taken to the world’s greatest restaurant and being fed the menu. "He meant that representations of ideas have replaced the ideas themselves; students are taught superficially about great discoveries instead of being helped to learn deeply for themselves" (148).
Kay claims that both adults and children "learn best when they can test their ideas through simulation." However, he warns that we must be aware of the limitations of the media we use to "amplify yearnings" for knowledge. He uses the example of photographs of great paintings in the study of art, in itself a resort to hyper-reality: "Little protest has been made over replacing high-resolution photographs of great works of art (which themselves do not capture the real thing) with lower-resolution videodisc images (which distort light and space even further). The result is that recognition, not reverie, is the main goal in life and also in school" (151).
This one is about Simulation and Simulacra. 
This site is .edu which I have found to be the highest american educational domain. Similar to It is from a university site. 

Key Words Dictionary

Economic capital is expressed largely in symbolic terms as money and assets with monetary expression.” Beginning with Bourdieu in educational research

Cultural capital refers mainly to the products of education, whether these are visible in individuals (accent, vocabulary, bearing etc), connected to objects like qualifications or books, or connected to institutions, like schools and universities.” Beginning with Bourdieu in educational research

Social capital is based on who you know and networks you are in.

Desire: a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. (OED)

Disposition: a person's inherent qualities of mind and character.

Embody: To make part of a system or whole; incorporate

Fields:different areas in society including constitutions, social groups and work places.

Habitus: Simple Way: It is really a way of talking about the embodiment of previous social fields, whereby individuals acquire and carry ways of thinking and being and doing from one place to another. It is about how past social structures get into present action and how current actions confirm or reshape current structures. Beginning with Bourdieu in educational research

Habitus is ‘the way society becomes deposited in persons in the form of lasting dispositions, or trained capacities and structured propensities to think, feel and act in determinant ways, which then guide them’ (Wacquant 2005: 316, cited in Navarro 2006: 16).

‘...when habitus encounters a social world of which it is the product, it finds itself “as a fish in water” Beginning with Bourdieu in educational research

Hyperreal/Hyperreality: an image or simulation, or an aggregate of images and
 simulations, that either distorts the reality it purports (intends) to depict or does not in 
fact depict anything with a real existenceat all, but which nonetheless comes to 
constitute reality.


"By "hyperreal," Baudrillard means the representation of a thing or event which has no counterpart or analog in consensus reality--the hyperreal is, in a sense, a new thing which seems to refer to something real." "He is concerned, for example, that the news on television has nothing to do with real-world events; rather, the news is a simulation designed to hold the attention of the viewer." 

Generation Y:  the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, comprising primarily the children of the baby boomers and typically perceived as increasingly familiar with digital and electronic technology. (Baby Bloomers born between 1946 and 1964. Post war, rejecting traditional values.)

Pseudo: Not genuine; sham.

Saturation: The state or process that occurs when no more of something can be absorbed, combined with, or added.

Schemata (pl of schema) : An outline, plan or scheme

Simulacrum (simulacra-plural): an image or representation of someone or something:
  • a small-scale simulacrum of a skyscraper
an unsatisfactory imitation or substitute:a bland simulacrum of American soul music
"a material image, made as a representation of some deity, person, or thing,""something having merely the form or appearance of a certain thing, without possessing its substance or proper qualities,"
Simulation: "the action or practice of simulating, with an intent to deceive,""the technique of imitating the behavior of some situation or means of a suitably analogous situation or apparatus""a false assumption or display, a surface resemblance or imitation, of something,"Oxford English Dictionary
Simulation Vs Simulacrum:"Like the simulation, the simulacrum bears a resemblance to the thing that it imitates only on the surface level (see: surface), but as opposed to the simulation's mimicry of a process or situation, the simulacrum is defined as a static entity, a "mere image" rather than something that "imitat[es] the behavior" of the real thing on which it is based."
Ubiquitous:Present, appearing, or found everywhere: "his ubiquitous influence".
Virtual: Existing in essence or effect though not in actual fact. Computing not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so:virtual image.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Initial Proposal

Here is my intial dissertation proposal and the response I received from Gareth. My ideas are very broad here and it is important to narrow things down quickly in order to have more focused research.

The context and concepts you mention here are quite well defined but also a little broad so that over the summer you will have to unpack them and pick apart in more detailed and assertive ways – still, the focus on Hollister is excellent and offers lot of potential. The idea of capitalism, consumerism and post-modern forms of representation and practice are an interesting hypotheses and I am clear about how far you want to go with this as a critical / analytical dissertation which examines the complexities of specific instances of consumerism, identity and the hyper-real. Whilst the proposal is very well formed  (good start on lit searches but they also need some clarity – for key texts do some key word searches using Google books and scholar) all it does up until this point is to offer a rather general way to conceptualise these issues. Critically locating the three key areas (1. Capitalism, 2. Consumerism and 3. Post-modernity) may well offer a better starting point as you need to begin to look at key critical works in media and cultural study which deal with the paradigms you are most interested in.  All of this can then be ‘plugged into’ a clear methodology (questionnaires, interviews etc.) as well as contextual readings of work and advertising campaigns or branding strategies used by Hollister. Performing some key word searches at library and/or doing journal searches and clarifying your methods will enable you to begin to concentrate on just how interesting and at times well-conceived a more detailed intervention is – the real vs virtual dimension may well work out as a way to begin. I know this is only a beginning but keep on unpacking how and why issues complicate one another and reposition aspects of visual representation. This will have to be well illustrated in your research blog over the autumn term and you will need to keep it imaginative yet realistic for the manageability of the project.  I think you need to address the logic of the research and think about information management – A long side of Baudrillards hyper-real perhaps engage with a concept such as Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘habitus’ and/or think about Roland Barthes mythologies / semiotics as a critical / theoretical framework and discourse method as well as thinking about the primary research in more depth. Also, begin to think about building up a critical and theoretical knowledge base/dictionary. I like some of the ideas around primary research and we can discuss in detail when we meet so think about the practicalities of this too. You need to consult a larger number and variety of academic sources and try to be as clear as you can about HOW you are going to go about this. Reading, listing keywords, collecting visual and textual clippings and data throughout summer and into the autumn term will assist with this and create a dissertation proposal with far more clarity.  Do not hesitate to get in touch if you need more advice.
Gareth Longstaff
June 27th 2013