For reasons I’ll spare you I found myself in Edinburgh’s Hollister shop recently. What struck me about the place was that the poor sods getting paid to fold stuff were wearing flip flops. In Edinburgh. In winter. Given company policy is to keep the place as dimly lit as possible I felt genuinely sorry for the shop assistants’ toes as all the shoppers crunched past in their winter footwear.
Then I discovered the CEO of the US parent company, the 69 year old plastic-fantastic freakzoid pictured above, has a 40 page plus manual detailing what the male models hired to attend to him (and his dogs) on his private jet have to wear, from pants, to cologne to flip flops i.e. the poor sods with bruised toes folding jumpers down George Street are actually the embodiment of one pensioner’s sexualised fantasies.
This is profoundly liberating I guess in that it relegates men to the same eye candy standards traditionally imposed on women so engenders an equality of a sort. However, rather than gender issues, I reckon it provides a useful warning as to the future direction of British society and British culture. No seriously, it does.
This is because it’s an example of what the super-rich, the ruling class, the 1% even, does when it's free to dictate how others have to behave. Want a job? Getting hassled by the broo to do so? Then put on some flip flops. Why flip flops? Because a very rich old age pensioner thinks attractive young men look cute in flip flops that’s why. And no you’re not a shop assistant (yes you are, you're not even a visual merchandiser) you’re a brand ambassador. So how does that make you feel when you put on the company flip flops, eh?
In Hollister-land the super rich clearly have no sense of let alone concern for the personal dignity of anyone other than themselves and their own. In fact, they don't just lack empathy, they blithely shred the dignity of those they employ on low wages whenever it gets in the way of their personal whims and sexual proclivities. And if challenged, they will readily draw upon free market rhetoric about how making people wear flip flops in winter is good for shareholder value, creates jobs (that would be there regardless cos we all need jumpers, its simply whose jumpers we choose to buy) and confers a competitive advantage in a globalized economy, etc..
The reality of course is more complicated than this; the super rich dodge taxes the rest of us pay and benefit from government policies focused on boosting asset values i.e. wealth and subsidising the low pay that ensures the rich continue to get an even bigger slice of the cake. Except, this would be to imply the super rich aren't 100% wholly responsible for their great fortunes and we apparently can't have that.
This all matters because if there’s one country in the world that’s gallavanting as fast as it can towards the American model of super rich, super poor and fuck all those in between, its Britain. So bring on the flip flops and lets hope - as per Abercrombie & Fitch/Hollister company policy - our photos are judged pretty enough at their monthly review for us to keep our jobs.