I grew up in a Gap family. My mother shopped at The Gap like her mother before her. When I was born, there was no question that I would shop at The Gap too. For the first several years of my life, purchases were made for me. My drawers were filled with khaki, my closet bursting with Gappy goodness. I dressed myself in Gap from head to toe because it was all I knew. I was initiated into Gap before I even knew there was a whole mall full of different choices. I wasn't exposed to the mall though, we went right to the Gap outlet, and stuck to it.
I went to a school where Gap was the uniform, but for a brief period of time, there was one boy in my class who was different. He shopped at Banana Republic. He was excused from class when we flipped through the Gap catalogue, discussed this season's styles, or performed our Gap rituals. He was a mystery to us until the day he left. We whispered to each other about him for weeks: sure, he wore jeans and sweaters like we did, but the sleeves would be shorter, or the colour more muted. It was roughly the same style, but the label was different, and we all knew it.
When I grew older, the mall called my name. There was something more than just The Gap out there, and I wanted to explore it. I liked what I found. Sizes that fit me better, prices that suited my budget, styles that complimented me, shelves well-stocked with what I wanted. The Gap, for me, had always been lacking. Khakis are okay, but sometimes you just want a slutty mini skirt, and The Gap just ain't giving. In my adolescence, I stopped going to The Gap. I tore up my store credit card. Gradually, The Gap line began to filter itself out of my wardrobe.
My mother was devastated. The Gap comforted her, reassured her. The Gap was like a family tradition, and even if she didn't wear every piece of clothing they had, she never expected that I would turn my back on it completely. She did everything she could to bring me back. She left sale flyers in my bedroom. She openly criticized my Silver jeans, my Doc Martens, my Tommy Hilfigger top. She even had a clerk call me to tell me what a valued customer I had been, and that I would be missing out on all sorts of future promotions and customer benefits. All of these things just pushed me further away. I'd never liked the snobby clerks, the elitist environment, or those pretentious headsets they all wear. I wanted to shop at a store where all customers were treated the same, who weren't discriminated for what they wore when they walked in the doors, who weren't turned away for preferring boot-cut to flares.
Some people love The Gap, and always will. I'm okay with that. I'm fine with whatever store you shop at, as long as your choice was made by an informed decision. Shop around, compare the lines, try something on if you're not sure. If The Gap is not for you, there are plenty of valid alternatives. Invest in a line that suits you.
Today my closet is as varied as they get; I don't believe in shopping anywhere exclusively. I know I'm not a nudist, I love clothes way too much, so I wear a style that's all my own, and I can live with that.