Friday, July 09, 2004

"They were my great-grandfather's," said the Chicago student of his Diesel jeans.

Will Baude has simultaneously contradicted me and caused my blog to get hits from a few people who are not close friends or family. I must now do a thorough fisking.

According to Will: "I think Phoebe confuses cause and effect. Hyde Park is devoid of Michigan Avenue's shopping opportunities not because people are afraid the GAP would destroy the young American Mind, but because UChicago (largely, but not exclusively) caters to folks who don't buy (or won't admit to buying) new pants so frequently that they want their blue jeans within walking distance."

Yet Will's point--that Chicago students are often the sort who won't admit to buying lots of clothing, implying that they do nevertheless buy it, just in secret, is precisely what I was getting at. The new clothing doesn't just appear randomly on many Chicago students' backs every few weeks; no, it is, as I pointed out, the result of furtive trips to Michigan Avenue. Or visits to from the Harper USITE while quickly switching to another, more respectable website (say, Arts and Letters Daily) whenever anyone might be looking.

My argument is simple: the shopping is happening, so it might as well be convenient and out in the open.

I find it striking that Will refers to the "American Mind," with the capital "m," which suggests that he's referring to the late Chicago professor Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind. If one is to accept that Saul Bellow's character "Ravelstein" was in fact based on his real-life friend Bloom, then Bloom himself was something of a shopaholic. Presumably Bloom's own American Mind remained intact while his American Body remained well-clad. In his honor, I say, what the hell, let's put a J. Crew on Ellis. (Ravelstein's tastes were a bit more high-end and not so bourgeois, but you've gotta start somewhere).

Will also notes: "(...she doesn't try to argue that Columbia's bookstores trump Powells and the Seminary Co-op)" (parentheses Baude's; not these parentheses, these are mine). Yes, I have committed the cardinal sin of the Chicago intellectual world: I've been caught putting value on things other than books. Oh Allan Bloom, oh Saul Bellow, oh...other such folk, I admit it! It's not all contemplating Plato, all the time, I confess! Oh, Fran Drescher, I have watched your show in reruns on Lifetime!


Anonymous said...

will bawd spelt your name 'phobe' : )

i don't know what the hell you two are ranting about. what is it with the whitening of the UofC? when i go on campus every now and then as a graduate of '01 i find my eyeballs following fashions that were previously unimaginable as common at the uofc. i've been reporting to my surprised post-chicago classmates of the fashionable scene typical of the Reg A-level. maybe i'm just delusional but i don't think it's such a secret that among the nerds and dorks a large horde of fashionistas and metrosexuals have successfully infiltrated the college, which in light of the costs now vs. 10 years ago, doesn't surprise me. From 30K to 50K in less than 10 years...

The reason GAP or J.Crew might not cut it in HP is that the UofC "demographic" (read race or "culture") ain't representative of HP (have you even BEEN to 53rd st.? there are choices. just not the typical WHITE choices.). Most of these kids would rather go downtown or the north side to be around a critical mass of shopping destinations instead of hitting up the lonely lame ass GAP or B. Repub. on 53rd st. (imagine: "ooh. let's go shopping at GAP... again, for the nth time this year... yay!). And then there's the cheap ass or lazy ass dot-com factor you've mentioned. who wants gap shit when you get vintage lacoste on ebay for $10? not that i'm a a mutant i proudly wear my nerd merit badges of tasteless dishonor. or something.

and to suggest that kids in college are now picking out their own clothes? what, are you insane?!?

haven't heard of personal shoppers? my god, get with it.

But whether HP needs one of these places is irrelevant. HP is gentrifying at a modest rate as Starbuck density measures suggest and a GAP on 53rd st. seems inevitable in the next year or two as students entering the uofc 'enter a brand' and less of a college, which the "compete-with-the-ivies" master plan seems to suggest as the future of the college. well. maybe.

and anyway you cut it, college kids have pretty awful taste. yuck. cosmo this. sarah jessica parker that.


Collecte Ivambyent Noyes
(great-great-great-granddaughter of Ida, poor girl)

Anonymous said...

Are you guys forgetting history? There was a "fashionable" Gap-like store in HP. It was called Fundamentals, and it died, since there was no market for it in Hyde Park. How do you sell a niche product in a small place? How many students are there? How many would buy clothes at such a store? The number of customers isn't there. What is the density of New York near Columbia?

Anonymous said...

I remember that place, Fundamentals. It sucked. Maybe it was the whole late 90's aesthetic that sucked, but the stuff Fundamentals was selling wasn't that interesting.

So you could say 1) the small space killed them, but also 2) the 'Gap-like' aesthetic killed them. The thing about Gap is that they have a lot of product turnover and put a lot of things on sale (such as stuff from other stores that hasn't been selling) because they can afford to lose some money or make less money on a single store. The realities of small business ownership, where you have to make money to feed your family and only have so much money to risk on diverse product, makes pricing less flexible and inventory more rigid.