Okay. But why?
Some think it’s because GAP, like J. Crew, prices their stuff in the “middle.” Not dirt cheap like Old Navy or Target, yet certainly not runway designer expensive either. Some also think that along with being more expensive than “Fast Fashion” retailers like H&M, Topman, and Zara, they’re not as flashy as those cheap, wear it for one season and I’ll stand out! stores. GAP is middle of the road in terms of both price and design.
So if they have to get faster & flashier, that seems to point towards lower quality, & higher trend. And for plenty of us… that combination is bad. Really, really, bad.(Yet for J. Crew, the criticism seems to be that their designs, at least on the women’s side, are too flashy?)
If to survive GAP has to take on the Fast & Flash giants full bore, than it might be safe to say that those of us who frequent this small corner of the internet might visit them even less (I’m sure they’re not too concerned). But still, it’s worth shedding a digital tear over a few of their well appreciated, decently constructed, classic designs of the past year plus. Y’know, before they possibly head off into the world of paper thin joggers, faux-leather accented tees, & trendy prints. Follow the money, and unfortunately, it might be putting down all stakes in BudgetBeiberville.
Lived In Slub Solid Polo – $17.97 ($29.95)
Ultra laid-back with a great fit. The one design detail is the fabric. It’s a slub, washed cotton, instead of a standard pique or jersey fabric. Really dressed down, but not ratty. Part of this year’s polopalooza.
Why drop $50+ on a pair of GAP jeans (that are almost always excluded from codes) when Levis are always around $40? Good question. GAP tried to come up with an answer for the gym-going set with this “standard taper” design. Roomier in the seat and thigh, but still had a slight taper from the knee down. Room for quads and hamstrings and calves, but still looked good tapering down into a slim shoe. Full review here. Doesn’t work for everyone (naturally), and then, of course, there’s the Levi’s 508 Regular Taper.
Basic Leather Belt – $19.47 ($29.95)
A perfect pair of belts for the smart-casual world. Looks great with jeans and a blazer. Does just fine with cords or chinos and a sweater. Have had a brown & black GAP basic leather belt for what seems like almost 10 years. And they’re still the ones I reach for the most. Not too wide, not too skinny, with a classic belt buckle. No signs of them giving up anytime soon either. One of their flagships. If they stop making these things? Then that’s a big shift.
“Lived in” Slim or Straight Fit Khakis – $38.97 ($59.95)
Gap used to be synonymous with khakis. Probably still is, and not in a bad way either. The ballooning relaxed fits are gone, the washes are soft, and the shades are more interesting and less “Jake from State Farm.” One of their staples. How would they depart from these? Cut the price & the quality? Slim them down? Ditch their basics all together? Who knows.
GAP’s lightweight mac was much, much better than H&M’s David Beckham endorsed pile of disappointment. Both in quality & function (GAP’s wasn’t lined in suffocating polyester). But… it was a little more expensive, even with codes, and didn’t seem to sell nearly as fast.
Lambswool Blend Waffle Stitch Cardigan – $60ish (out of stock)
One of the items made in last year’s really nice lambswool/nylon blend. It’s thick, not too wide through the middle, and feels like it’s going to be a go-to house sweater for years to come. It was also priced at a hundred bucks, full retail, and dipped to the $60ish range with codes. And for some, they could have nabbed a cardigan (albeit razor thin all cotton) at H&M for less than half that.
Lightweight, doesn’t have the stiffness of a traditional chambray shirt, and it’s easy to wear with denim (it doesn’t look like you’re going for the Canadian Tuxedo look). Button down collar that has a nice crispness to it. Chest pocket. Trim through the sides and arms. Something you could wear with a knit tie under a summer chino suit.
Italian Wool Blend Pants in Slim or Straight Fit – $40ish (out of stock)
Were they the most luxurious trousers? No. But they came in multiple inseam lengths, were ready to wear, and the wool blend both looked and felt better than good. Good luck to GAP’s future customers when it comes to wearing joggers to a job interview.
Wool/Nylon Blend Turtle Neck – $69.90 (out of stock)
Man. Remember the “dress normal” campaign from last fall? Loved it. Y’know who didn’t love it? EVERYONE ELSE. Especially those that GAP now sees as their targets to drive survival. Critics said it was an attempt to jump on “norm core.” Hardly. Their pieces, like the Turtleneck, are more Hemingway than 90’s Jerry Seinfeld. They were going for cleaned up classics. Not baggy like in decades past, but lean, mean, and clean. And the campaign, instead, soiled the bed.
Linen Cotton Khakis in Slim or Straight Fit – $47.96 ($59.95)
More expensive than the all-cotton Old Navy counterparts… but a heck of a lot lighter in weight and easier to move around in. The linen makes an enormous difference. It probably also adds to the cost, as well as upkeep in terms of giving them a solid ironing after washing & drying.
ONE FINAL NOTE
What do all the above have in common? To the trend-focused crowd, they’re all boring. Now, that’s not the case for the more classic-style-minded. There’s some great stuff here. Yet for those types, these items were the exception. Not the rule. Even to those who don’t like trends, everything else was pretty “mneh.” Not only has GAP been struggling to grab the attention of those who like classics, they also haven’t hooked those who are trend-forward either. All while the prices are in no-man’s land. Y’know how they say in football that if you have two quarterbacks, you really have none? Right.
GAP’s gotta pick one. The safer, and easier play, seems to be the direction most think they’re going to head in.