Teens who wear Hollister clothing may fancy themselves as relaxed, chill surfers.
They might even praise the storied legacy of John M. Hollister, the supposed founder of the California-spirited brand.
But Hollister’s “legacy” has been completely fabricated, Dave Eggers alleges in an eye-opening piece in The New Yorker.
Eggers tells the tale that Hollister employees were led to believe:
“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, jewellery, 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 recognised brand,” he writes.
But, Eggers notes, this is not the backstory at all.
It’s actually common knowledge that this history is fictitious. In 2009, BBC acknowledged the trouble of having a fictitious history.
“To make up a character like that, you’d think, well, that was very deceitful. In fact it is only part of creating a lifestyle brand, a kind of cultural myth that consumers can really engage with,” academic director of the Oxford Institute of Retail Management, Jonathan Reynolds, told the BBC. However, he noted it was all a “moot point” because teenagers didn’t really care.
Retail fans (or Hollister truthers) have also posted the story on Tumblr.
The BBC also noted that parent company Abercrombie & Fitch’s (now defunct) underwear company also has a fictional backstory, noting that the products were emblazoned with the year 1932, when the brand was born in 2008.
Eggers notes that Hollister not only has zero regard for factual history, but the brand also bears zero empathy for the town that bears its name, Hollister, California, a small lower-to-middle class town.
In 2009, the Los Angeles Times noted how locals claimed Abercrombie & Fitch was threatening to sue retailers who sold items with the town’s name. Unsurprisingly, this made locals irate.
“Who’s to say I can’t put the name of my town and my business on a shirt?” Chris Cason, manager of Hollister Motorsports, a motorcycle, ATV and accessories shop griped to the Los Angeles Times.
Moreover, the Times reported Hollister Co. wouldn’t even open a unit in the real-life Hollister because the demographic’s income was too low.
Hollister is no stranger to backlash. In 2014, the company was under fire for posting photos of frighteningly thin models (the company ultimately deleted the photos).
We reached out to parent company Abercrombie for a comment.
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