A long time ago in a suburban mall far, far away, I worked at Abercrombie. My title, technically, was “model,” which only meant that someone deemed me attractive enough to work in the front of the store rather than the stockroom. (That’s a story for another time.) Really, though, I was a mannequin spritzer.
I'd clock in after school, grab my bottle of Fierce, and spray all the displays four times from eight feet away every 30 minutes. It was an art, okay? I was one cog in the wheel responsible for how you always know an Abercrombie is around the corner before you even see it.
The cologne was impossible to escape — it was on my clothes, on my car, on 75% of high school guys. And the thing about scent, which you only ever realize in hindsight, is that it loves to weave itself into memories — once it does, good luck ever untangling the two. Perhaps I wouldn't have such a strong distaste for Fierce — had Retail Chad never shown up.
Of course, that wasn’t his real name. He was the new manager who just happened to be a dead ringer for Chad Michael Murray and everyone you’ve ever seen shirtless, freckled, and tossing a football in one of the brand’s ad campaigns. In my mind, he was the most perfect, mature, quality human being to ever exist. Naturally, I didn’t object when things got inappropriate.
We started out passing notes behind the register. Soon we traded screen names and messaged on AIM late into the night. Then he started putting me on the early morning Saturday and Sunday shift, an hour before the mall even opened. Then — surprise! — we started hooking up. Had that been where things ended, perhaps I'd look back on my time at Abercrombie (and that scent) with a weird, coming-of-age, Lolita-like fondness.
Instead, I went to work one day to find that Retail Chad had been fired for allegedly doing this with... everyone. Since then, all the store has ever smelled like to me was dirtylyingcheatingscumbag.
But that's about to change! This week, Abercrombie is launching three new unisex fragrances, and not only are they subtle, sophisticated, and packaged in bottles without photos of six-pack abs on them, one is even set to become the new in-store scent. Ellwood is a lovely, soft blend of musks and bergamot that smells like clean sheets — the polar opposite of Fierce. I probably won't be swapping my Tom Ford for it, but this means that maybe, just maybe, I'll finally be able to walk past the flagship on Fifth Avenue and remember nothing more than overpriced skirts and flip flops.