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Getting Crotchety

(Illustration by Ronald Kurniawan)

(Illustration by Ronald Kurniawan)

You’ve seen them. Everywhere. Close-ups of terry-clad crotches, jersey-draped puffies and parted pink lips. These are the images American Apparel ad campaigns are made of — an amalgamated sampling of T-shirt magnate Dov Charney’s kinky foreplay blown up larger than life and ejaculated all over our city as part of a recent boom that coincides with the company’s massive retail-store expansion, spreading the joy of locally manufactured sportswear to hip, happening neighborhoods the world over.

For those who have been living in a cave or the Valley for the past few years, Dov Charney is the brains behind the boom, the founder of American Apparel, the clothing company that makes all of its clothes right here in Los Angeles, refusing to outsource, managing every aspect of its wildly successful business in its downtown Los Angeles factory. Charney, hands-on in every sense of the word, also snaps the photos that pepper our city’s skyscape as testament to his propornography sensibility.

There was one particular larger-than-life image perched above the Echo Park flagship store in which a young brunette’s full pink lips were parted, ever so suggestively, by a lone finger — a hairy finger, possibly simian, definitely male — a finger I can only assume belongs to Mr. Charney, which naturally makes me wonder where that finger has been and what exactly it smells like. I could never drive past that billboard without gagging down the tiniest bit of bile in the back of my throat, imagining the sort of seedy interplay that followed that photo shoot.

They’re all slightly varied versions of exactly the same thing — young, nubile girls posed to look like horny, porny fuck toys, ready for the violating. The specifics make little difference — a close-up of a leotard-encased crotch, a close-up of a doe-eyed girl sucking her finger, a close-up of cleavage — you get the gist, but the message is consistent: Buy American Apparel, fuck a child. The ’70s styling and tone lend a sort of disco, dope-hazed, “it’s all good” acquiescence to the overtly sexual scenes portrayed with underage girls.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the American Apparel philosophy. I even like the company’s clothes. But I can’t drive anywhere these days without being bombarded by these ridiculous images — on billboards, on bus benches; I look down, I look up, I look out — they’re everywhere, suggesting yet another Charney conquest, another boring, repetitive notch in his unbuckled belt.

So, here’s to hoping that Mr. Charney finds inspiration elsewhere and branches out, as he did with his T-shirts, into broader territory, perhaps experimenting with a different concept, one not so obvious and self-referential, so overplayed and annoying.