Hollister gets its due (kind of) in the New Yorker!
Dave Eggers, not the one who used to win surf competition but the one who is a famous observationalist, wrote a story about Hollister in the newest New Yorker and it is good.
He begins, “The year I turned forty-three, I woke up one morning and thought it would be a good day to go to Hollister. I’d been seeing those hoodies around, and the place had been on my mind.”
The piece meanders, quite beautifully, behind Eggers as he travels through inland agriculture California, juxtaposing the fortunes of the town named Hollister, a mere 42 miles east of Santa Cruz, with the brand.
The town is a fairly depressed, yet historically quaint, thing of 36,000 Latinos and aging whites founded in 1868.
The brand is way dumb, and not historically anything, founded in 2000 by Abercrombie and Fitch. It is completely unrelated to the town and Eggers discusses how it came to be named “Hollister” in the first place.
“For years, employees of Hollister stores, during orientation, were given the story…” he writes “…and it goes something like this: John M. Hollister was born at the end of the nineteenth century and spent his summers in Maine as a youth. He was an adventurous boy who loved to swim in the clear and cold waters there. He graduated from Yale in 1915 and, eschewing the cushy Manhattan life suggested for him, set sail for the Dutch East Indies, where he purchased a rubber plantation in 1917. He fell in love with a woman named Meta and bought a fifty-foot schooner. He and Meta sailed around the South Pacific, treasuring ‘the works of the artisans that lived there,’ and eventually settled in Los Angeles, in 1919. They had a child, John, Jr., and opened a shop in Laguna Beach that sold goods from the South Pacific—furniture, jewelry, linens, and artifacts. When John, Jr., came of age and took over the business, he included surf clothing and gear. (He was an exceptional surfer himself.) His surf shop, which bore his name, grew in popularity until it became a globally recognized brand. The Hollister story is one of ‘passion, youth and love of the sea,’ evoking ‘the harmony of romance, beauty, adventure.’”
He continues for a bit, poking at Hollister (the brand) in an old-man-not-realizing-he-is-old sort of way, suggesting, for example, the same sweatshirt can be purchased from Wal-Mart for $14.95 and is only $44.95 at Hollister because the word “Hollister” is stitched on. It is the same low-level rage parents have had for “youth brands” since the mid 1950s.
And then moves on, capturing what is happening to small town California with regards to immigration, racial relations, upward mobility etc. leaving Hollister (the brand) behind.
I only wish he would have gotten in a few more digs. Hollister is even beyond way dumb. Coopting surf lifestyle is one thing. Who really cares about that. But stealing Robb Havassy’s art, telling nursing mothers that it ain’t allowed in store, the systematic search of employees, discriminating against Muslims, people in wheelchairs, British veterans and South Koreans is entirely another.