In Defense of American Apparel


Everyone’s hating on American Apparel these days. Are we the only ones who think it’s getting old?

Yes, a lot of the clothes are stupid (long-sleeved lace thong leotards should be banned). Yes, the company has a specific dress code and uses photos to recruit people. Yes, Dov Charney is one sleazy dude. And yes, the ads are annoying and smutty (except for the kinda adorable baby stuff). But how pissed off should we actually be about any of these things?

Not very, especially when we consider how the company actually produces its clothes. Instead of outsourcing production to a sweatshop somewhere outside the U.S. where labor costs could be kept at rock-bottom, American Apparel makes all of its clothes in a factory in L.A. (the largest garment factory in the U.S.) where the workers make about double the minimum wage and have health insurance plus paid time off for ESL classes, among other benefits.

As for the dress code and hiring policies, well, welcome to retail. I used to work a retail job, and our dress code was stricter, plus sometimes we would have theme days (I once had to arrive at the store dressed up as a bar of soap. Another time, in my pajamas). As Dov Charney himself told The Cut, “I think it’s a fake story to say that American Apparel has a dress code that’s different from all retailers. I don’t think you can even work in the concierge desk at the common mall if you don’t follow a dress code.” So what if they’re banning Uggs and moccasins? Uggs and moccasins don’t fit in with their brand. If you worked at the North Face or Patagonia, you presumably wouldn’t be allowed to wear high heels. Does this offend you?

There’s no denying that Dov Charney is a creepy guy. And if there’s sexual harassment going on at that company, then, yeah, that’s a problem and we should be exposing it. But why not concentrate on that, instead of a non-story about dress codes?

Now that AA’s dress code and hiring policies are public knowledge, largely thanks to Gawker’s (very) frequent coverage, it’s easy enough to avoid being offended by the company. It’s really as simple as this: if their hiring policies offend you, don’t apply there. If their dress code offends you, don’t work there. And if you don’t like their clothes or their advertising, don’t shop there.