Aug 21 2011

Teen addict chic

One blamer recently brought up the idea that fashion models are getting younger and more pornulated with each passing moment, with which idea nobody within barfing distance of a keyboard could argue. Following the tangent, someone else noted the increasing ubiquity of a creepy subgroup who sport the “young abused drugged look.”

A propos of which, an Urban Outfitters catalog recently showed up at Spinster HQ. The catalog is basically blank-faced, doped-up teenagers wearing tight, disheveled, thrift-store-looking outfits in gritty bohemian settings. The photos aren’t in-yer-face shocking or anything, but that’s what’s so creepy about it. The honky pubescent girl, looking sallow, emaciated, forlorn and exploited, is now such a standard figure in contemporary pop culture that nobody bats an eye. Behold some scans, all from the wrinkled August 2011 catalog I pulled out of the trash.

Above: they shackled this poor urchin to the wall with gaffer’s tape. Below: these loopy teens are about to OD.

Above: pallid teen junkie corpse is a variation on the theme. Below: cornered teen is too malnourished to fight back.

Above: stoned 14-year-old wears ratty $80 sweater in a sexy, off-the-shoulder look. Below: another corpse variation: teens passed out on dirty linoleum floor, someone throws pineapples at them.

Above: exploited teen wallows in melted popsicles on dirty linoleum. Below: two more sexy cornered teens.

Skeletal, zoned-out teens in ready-to-wear rags, as a fashion aesthetic, really chaps the hide. Like most stuff that is supposed to be transgressive, it merely plays to a normalized pervy fetish. And it’s disingenuous. Remember when homeless-chic was lampooned by Will Ferrell in “Zoolander” (the inventor of the piano-key tie designs the cutting edge “Derelicte” line)? Culture-appropriating mainstream designers simulate the look of junkie runaways to sell to latter-day Warholian boho scensters and the milk-crate furniture set. But anyone who’s ever been around any real teen drug subculture can tell you it’s about as romantic as a jar full of scabs.


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  1. sonia

    Having been an emaciated white drug addict teen, I can tell you that better sweaters are to be had for $5 at the genuine thrift store. And no real drug addict would let a popsicle melt when eating it was another options.

  2. Comrade PhysioProf

    They always have the models adopt musculoskeletal postures that are completely incompatible with strength, balance, and agility.

  3. Blind Horse

    Naturally, the lack of strength, balance, and agility is by design. No proper victim offering should ever have the strength and endurance to be able to fight or flee.

  4. Judi

    As a sick person, it offends, saddens, and mostly amuses me that those poor girls are working hard and being paid fairly big bucks to look as sick as I feel. Funny, though–old ladies in advertising are always shown leaping and prancing and being ACTIVE! HEALTHY! SENIORS! while the poor kids look like the undertaker’s practice dummy. All very twisted.

  5. Bushfire

    I don’t understand how any of those pictures are supposed to make someone want to buy cheap, ugly, overpriced clothing.

    Sonia, I also find better clothes at the thrift store. It’s the only place I can stomach shopping these days.

  6. Laurie


    Interesting observation!

    I bet those old ladies are leaping and prancing because, however otherwise endangered by the P, they’re at least free of one horror: the male gaze.

    Makes me want to leap and prance too.

  7. Valerian

    There are disturbing parallels here to the workers who actually make the clothes: abused and starving. Not too many other non-religious industries whose entire advertising scheme is “everything we do is pure evil”. Even the oil companies try to PRETEND they give a shit.

    Besides having better clothes, the thrift store is also the only place where you’re much less complicit in oppressing people living in slave-like conditions. The prices being lower at thrift stores is really just a bonus.

    Malls are monuments to a morally bankrupt (read: patriarchal) society: “fast fashion” and blood diamonds as far as the eye can see. It makes the skin crawl and there’s no longer any bizarre iced orange-and-milk drinks to clutch.

  8. Kea

    The spritely old dames are just there to reassure the old dudes that older women still have enough energy to manage their household and do what they can to look acceptable.

  9. K.C.

    Ugh. Why don’t they just start a campaign titled ‘We Hate You Stupid Little Girls, Now Buy Our Shit’?

    It’d probably save them a ton on advertising.

  10. GMM

    If you think those photos are bad (and they are), there’s a new line of lingerie called Jours Après Lunes for girls age 36-months to 12. The ads can be found here:

    Unreal. In the slideshow there was an ad in the sidebar for American Apparel with what looked to be a fourteen to sixteen-year-old girl on her knees with that deer-in-the-headlights look.

    And Urban Outfitters is being sued by the parents of a 15-year-old model for using sexually suggestive photos of her on t-shirts and other merchandise without permission:

    “The photos, the lawsuit says, feature the young model ‘posed in a blatantly salacious manner with her legs spread, without a bra, revealing portions of her breasts and pubic hair, violating laws that forbid portraying a child in a ‘sexually suggestive manner.'”

  11. Bushfire

    GMM, that link you posted is very depressing. Why is the sexualization of children so damn popular?


  12. Cootie Twoshoes

    No matter the age, women are never free from the male gaze, meaning even “old ladies” are subject to it. Just because the dominant paradigm prefers to consume youthful flesh doesn’t mean women no longer considered young get a pass. The male gaze isn’t always lustful, but it is always seeking to approve or disapprove, either option packing its own brand of hate.

    Can you imagine if American Apparel used a glassy-eyed middle aged woman in an ad campaign? The response wouldn’t be about treating women with less humanity than a cake display, it would be a vigorous explanation of how gross older women are and therefore should not be in such ads.

  13. Laurie

    “The male gaze isn’t always lustful, but it is always seeking to approve or disapprove, either option packing its own brand of hate.”

    Sadly true, Cootie.

  14. Bushfire

    This is now the third time I’ve commented on this post, so I will attempt to shut my pie-hole after this.

    I’ve been reading through the archives and finding so many witty, intelligent ideas, that I just feel I have to email you and tell you have enlightened I’ve become, and what questions I still have.

    When will you begin to read your emails again? What’s a young blamer to do without the Matriarch Blamer to consult?

  15. KP

    OT: So Pornographers for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are going to set up a porn website (warning: mild liberalism at that link).

  16. geogeek

    Is this the resurgence of Twiggy, or something different? I think Twiggy was mostly anorectic, but I don’t know much about how drug use might or might not have been read into her appearance at the time.

  17. Lady K

    What I hate most about the articles that condemn this sort of thing is that they always, ALWAYS ask the question, “How young is too young for girls to look sexy?” Um, how about never? Nobody ever seems to propose the idea that perhaps we’d stop objectifying and sexualizing young girls if we stopped objectifying and sexualizing women altogether. I guess the foundations of society would just *crumble*!

  18. Lady K

    …and by “these articles,” I mean the ones linked above and those about Thylane Blondeau et al. Certainly not this post! As someone who recently came stumbling out of her teen years, all I can say is that apparently our greatest desire is to sit around posing and pretending it’s the 70s.

  19. EmilyBites

    Gross gross gross. GROSS.

    Yeah, I’ve got nothing.

  20. KJB


    The thing is, I assume this fashion catalogue is aimed at women, given that it seems to be women’s wear… So why do they think this is what teen girls want to see? Is this what teen girls want to see?! I am slightly worried for the future of teen girlhood since the Twilight phenomenon…

    The one where the girl looks like she’s crying is just too unsettling. The one with the girl attempting to climb the goal is just plain stupid, however, and helps shatter the illusion of these pictures. They want to be thought of as Great and Serious works of art by borrowing the gravitas of a horrible theme – but they’re just stupid and creepy.

  21. Sarah

    They may be marketing to women but the clothes certainly don’t work for any type of grown-up pursuits, such as going to an office or doing much of anything besides strolling along a nightmarescape on stick thighs, perhaps stopping occasionally to shoot up.

  22. Hane

    Making sure female humans know, as soon as cognitively possible, that they only have value as long as they’re powerless fuckthings.

  23. IrishUp

    KJB; Urban Outfitters’ market is what’s known as “Domestic Juniors”, so basically girls-to-women in the 14-24 age range, with some spillover upwards. Barfworthy indeed.

    The next emetic up for your enjoyment: the pornification of girls in the 8-14 range. Shopping at Target yesterday, we saw PADDED PORNULATED TRAINING BRAS!!!!

    This comes in a girls size small, for which Target gives the dimensions of ~46-50″ tall, ~42-54lbs. Obviously big enough to learn her place though!

  24. Linda

    Coincidentally that popsicle one is the “classic” Lolita pose.

  25. Anne

    Lady K – Having been subjected to 70s throwback pretense since at least the 90s, I am sick to frigging death of the 70s, which is around when we ran out of ideas. We should start with the space age silver jumpsuits with the big shoulder wings already.

  26. Kristine

    I remember my girlfriends in high school, and sadly, I don’t think a single one of them wasn’t abused in some way or other. And a whole lot of them were doing drugs. Looking back at that, I have a sneaking suspicion that many teenage girls might identify with these photos. They might just look at these pictures of stoned, emaciated, sexified, helpless girls and think “Hey, that’s me! I would look so hot in that sweater, and because it doesn’t make me look like a wholesome preachers daughter, I’ll be alternative and cool, and then people will like me!”

    And I don’t mean to blame the girls who wear this shit. I’m saying that these ads sell because young women really do feel that hopeless, and what’s more, they’ve internalized the patriarchal association of sex with violence and want to emulate the look in the hopes of being accepted by their peers. If nothing else, on some level they know that the world hates them.

  27. alamo

    American Apparel is an even creepier company. They hire actual junkies at shit wages to work in their stores and model for them.

  28. laxsoppa

    Exsqueeze me, but what is the purpose of “training bras”? I have gathered that they are targeted to preteens who have nothing or very little to stuff into them, much less anything that would need the support a bra is supposed to provide. Is it like collar-training puppies or what? I’ve never needed a bra of any kind, so I have no knowledge of the practical side of it all.

    @LadyK – “Um, how about never? Nobody ever seems to propose the idea that perhaps we’d stop objectifying and sexualizing young girls if we stopped objectifying and sexualizing women altogether. I guess the foundations of society would just *crumble*!”

    Probably it would, and I can’t pretend to think that it would be such a bad thing.

  29. Linda

    That’s a great observation, Kristine. it makes your oppression seem cool and normal. Something to feel comfortable with rather than rebel against.

  30. Bushfire

    Exsqueeze me, but what is the purpose of “training bras”?

    I have to wear a bra all the time, otherwise my nipples hurt. When my breasts first started growing, I needed a bra to prevent nipple chafing, but I didn’t have much boob yet. So there’s a legitimate reason to need one, but I have a feeling everyone’s reason is not the same, and that some reasons might have to do with porn culture.

  31. buttercup

    Training bras are meant to train girlchildren in their role as pornulated sex receptacles, the younger the better, don’tcha know. Get in lockstep, kids. You’ll be used to the discomfort and internalized self-hatred by the time you get actual breasts.

  32. laxsoppa

    Bushfire – “I have to wear a bra all the time, otherwise my nipples hurt. When my breasts first started growing, I needed a bra to prevent nipple chafing, but I didn’t have much boob yet.”

    That’s a good point, plus I totally understand the need for a bra (training or proper) for those who have boobs large enough to cause any amount of discomfort without a bra.

    My nipples have probably lost some sensitivity over the years of bralessness because I remember it used to hurt like hell during puberty if ANYTHING touched on my nipples at all, but then it subsided—in any case, we’re all different, and my solution probably wouldn’t work either with everybody with as little boob as I’ve got for other reasons.

    But I really, really object to the notion that a bra is a necessity in itself, regardless of its actual practical and comfort value to the wearer, and the idea that girls need to be TRAINED in wearing one as opposed to just getting into it when they actually need it (like winter gear or protective outfits at work) is a pretty big red flag.

  33. nails

    someone really DID homeless chic. I posted about it!


    it was forever ago.

    re: traning bras. I never needed one, or any other kind of bra. I don’t jog or anything so I don’t see much of a point. I do wear em to employment functions, because I have to.

  34. vitaminC


    Yes! Vivienne Westwood did homeless “chic” in 2010:

    The photos are biting Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, who photographed their junkie friends in the 70s-80s. Basically, fashion takes anything real and pressing (poverty, drug addiction, rape, child abuse, etc) and twists it into a commodifiable look.

    Kinda makes you hate humanity, no?

  35. Jezebella

    Mom took me out to buy a totally unnecessary training bra before I started sixth grade, where I would have to change for gym in front of people. Somehow she magically knew that it would be completely socially unacceptable for anyone to change in the locker room without boob coverage. I believe I was nine years old at the time, and I sure as shit didn’t have anything to put in that bra. I can’t say it was really uncomfortable, being no more than a sort of stretchy bit of bra-shaped fabric. It’s not like they put padding or underwires in the thing.

    And Lady K, I gotta tell you: clothes in the 70s were fugly even then, and they’re fugly now. I don’t know what the appeal is at all. Life in the 70s wasn’t all that awesome either, as I recall. I don’t know what the appeal is.

  36. Saurs

    Life in the 70s wasn’t all that awesome either, as I recall. I don’t know what the appeal is.

    Appeals to the nostalgic hankering dudes have for the first full decade society decided women’s “sexual” “liberation” could be twisted into servicing the peen first and foremost, along (not coincidentally) with the great and holy dawning of amateur raunch porn? My guess?

  37. tinfoil hattie

    ‘posed in a blatantly salacious manner with her legs spread,

    IBTP that girls and women aren’t “allowed” to sit with our damn legs positioned any damn way we want them positioned.

  38. TwissB

    Speaking of astronomically high-priced “normalized pervy fetish” dreck, try those Neiman Marcus mini-catalogs, always an infuriating display of the designer gods’ vicious contempt for women. Latest feature- foot-fetish torture “shoes” to make any woman dumb enough to buy them appear to have two club feet that require her to be wheeled about in a Hannibal Lecter restraint machine. Joy would be Jimmy Choo found dead with the shiny shiny red 10″ needle heel of his “Lady Chic” shoe piercing his mean little heart.

  39. ptittle

    re why the increasing sexualizing of young girls…perhaps it’s a bit like ‘the stronger women get, the more men like football’ (the title of Mariah Burton Nelson’s book) – the stronger (more autonomous, etc) adult women get, the more men need to fuck and/or desire those who are not so strong (autonomous, etc…

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