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Saturday, September 22, 2007

The State of the Gap (Part I)

I feel like a post on pants is long overdue, and, therefore, here one is. It is part 1 of a 2 part look into the State of the Gap.

We all know that the GAP has been in decline over recent years, at the very least financially. It is simply not making the money it once was. At least, I'm pretty sure that's correct. I could be wrong. But I do think, overall, profits are down. Maybe they made a few percent more than they did last year or something like that, but still, compared to 10 years ago, it's down. I think.

Anyway, whether the quality of the GAP's clothing is down is another matter. I wouldn't necessarily say so. I bought a pair of Straight Fit jeans last year which are serviceable, not amazing, but serviceable. I think their sweaters are always just fine. Khakis, on the other hand, is a very complicated matter. The Gap prides itself on its chino collection, which is constantly changing. Perhaps you r
emember the old ads many years ago in which there was a photograph of someone famous wearing a pair of khakis, accompanied by "So-and-so wore khakis."

For instance, "Hemingway wore khakis," "Picasso wore khakis," "Hitler wore khakis," etc.

Since then the GAP has gone through innumerable styles, culminating, I believe, with the Hudson Chino, which came out circa 2001. For my money those were the finest khakis the GAP has ever made. I still have my pair, although the back pocket is worn i
n to the point of having a large hole. Still, I wear them around the apartment or if I'm just going for a walk or something.

Most recently, I haven't been thrilled with the GAP pant situation. They have seemed to divide their khakis into two main categories, each with two subcategories of their own. I have provided a schematic below to outline this organization.


Work Khakis Straight Fit/Relaxed Fit
Weekend Khakis Straight Fit/Relaxed Fit

So anyway, I don't necessarily have a problem with this. In fact, it's not bad at all. The problem, as usual, is the fit. First, just forget about Relaxed Fit, whether it be the Work or Weekend styles. As a friend of mine said (referring to their denim), "Gap has lost its mind." I must say I agree. I just can't imagine what they're thinking. The relaxed fit is frumpy, ridiculous and cruel.


Gap's Weekend Relaxed Fit

Pictured above, I must admit they don't look horrible. In my experience, they're much worse in person. Yet the picture above does give some subtle clues as to the unacceptable nature of these pants. Notice the overly wide, straight leg. Now, there's nothing wrong with a straight leg, but it needs to be narrower. Also, the model is standing still, which is fair enough. Yet a seasoned pant expert such as myself can infer that when these slacks are in motion, there would be devastating consequences, particularly on a windy day. There is simply too much room in these pants, and the "bunch-up" effect on the bottom would create a truly disturbing pant-walking experience. And let's face it, one must usually do some walking in his pants.

There is a very important lesson to be learned from this: when you try on pants, make sure to move around a little. If you stand perfectly still you might not be able to perceive a poor pant-walking experience. Of course, for experts, it isn't necessary to move around - a quick glance is enough to know. But for the masses it is absolutely necessary. In fact, I encourage all stores that take pants seriously to offer a small track so that shoppers can take a walk in their pants and see how they look. Also, it would be helpful to have wind machines.

I should also mention, as a general rule, to sit down when trying on pants to see how they look in that situation. We can divide the pant experience into three main categories: the Standing Still experience, the Walking Experience, and the Sitting Down experience. It's true, you may have to jog or climb a fence or something, but these are usually rare experiences for most of us.

So when it comes to these Relaxed Fit Weekend Khakis, the Standing Still experience is ok, but not very good. The Walking Experience would be atrocious. And the Sitting Down Experience would also, I believe, be ok, but not very good. I'm sorry Gap, but that's just not acceptable for a company that supposedly prides itself on a long tradition of great khakis.

In part 2 of this GAP investigation, we will look into another crucial aspect of pant buying: Pant Inconsistency. I'm sorry to say the GAP doesn't fare well in this area.