Table of Contents
2.2 Historical development
2.3 Current situation
3 Abercrombie and Fitch
3.1 Abercrombie a global player
3.2 Abercrombie's secret of success
4 Abercrombie a part of Americanisation
"The illusion of America as a wonderland will continue as long as...
...it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the
illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, then they will pull back the curtains and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theatre." (Frank Zappa)1
Frank Zappa used this phrase to show the capitalistic policy in America and its successful way in spreading out its mass culture all over the world.
What is it, that fascinates so much that one wants to live the “American way/dream”? Wear the same things like Americans? BE like Americans? That is the question that I am nterested in and which I want to solve in my skilled work.
I have been to the USA a few times and I have seen myself going through the process of being manipulated in a kind of way that convinced me of an America as a place seemingly with no boundaries where everything seems to be possible. Therefore I want to look behind the scenes of the idealisation of this country and show how it has changed during the last few decades. I will point out the development of Americanisation together with the connected changes of culture and society that follow. I will use the example of the global player and fashion brand Abercrombie and Fitch to illustrate this development and I will clarify how this company makes use of the position of America as a global role-model to successfully apply their marketing strategies.
2.1 Definition of Americanisation
Americanisation describes the transfer of cultural objects from America to other nations, and the connected changes in the areas of economy, politics and culture that follow. Those cultural objects are integrated into an existing system and change society in terms of institutions, values, traditions, language, behaviours. Also symbols, icons and pictures are taken over and copied from the USA.
This procedure is a one-sided interaction, that means it only runs in one direction, namely from the USA in other parts of the world. Examples for this procedure caused by Americanisation could be behavioural changes in language (e.g. by using Anglicisms), fashion trends, imported sports like American Football or Baseball and most probably the most significant example in nutrition habits going along with the consumption of fast food like “Mc Donald's”2 or famous brands like “Coca Cola”.
2.2 Historical development of Americanisation
Does the gap between Germany and America have to be as big as an ocean as it occurs today? The history of cultural transfer shows that it doesn't:
Since the first World War America is one of the most powerful economic nation in the world, and stands in the central perspective of many other countries. America was in ruling power of Germany after the war, therefore it had a significant influence in the development of the new structured Germany. The consequence of this surrendered rebuilding was the dependence on mass media (quick expansion of radio and TV) and a new way of education and politics in the country – a direct Americanisation means transfer of liberal mindset from the USA to Germany.
In the mid 50s the youth of Germany quickly became clearly influenced by the products coming from the USA. Jeans, Rock'n Roll and Hollywood became part of their own life and there was a great change in the cultural interaction between the people during that time: Demonstrated carelessness showed by their way of clothing, the way of communication by the use of Anglicisms like i.e. “Hobby”, “Job” or “Computer” and the music they were listening to were unnoticed but permanent and consistent changes of daily life caused by the American influence.
To refer back to the question I raised earlier, of how America really did manage it to build a popular culture and a process of Americanization that fascinates countries from all over the world? The answer seems to be obvious and simple:
America's culture had to be Americanised itself first.3 The multi-racial society of America led to an media market that had to reach all kind of people in the country. The result was a form of mass consumption of the media that no other country could offer at that time. It led to a production of simplification and reduction so that all kind of layers of the population were able to have access to cultural objects. So in other words the beginning of Americanisation can be retraced to the time when America started to simplify its culture to find the least common denominator of its population.4
In the last 10 years the term of Americanisation has been transformed into “Globalisation”, which actually describes the transfer of cultural objects throughout the whole world,
“[...] frequently it just seems to be another word for worldwide American influence”5
2.3 Current situation of Americanisation
Why does Germany’s youth turn their baseball caps? Why do they
break dance in the style of “the black Bloods of Los Angeles” to express their identity? Why is the American casual lifestyle so addictive? And why does the American culture displace the European one so quickly?
The most significant outcomes of Americanisation in society can be observed in the popular and everyday culture. Music, Film, TV and clothing are strongly influenced by the basic character of American culture.
The mass media is the reason for the quick transfer of the American lifestyle to us, the rest of the world. The movie export from the US leaves the German studios no space for own productions, meaning we as a society are seemingly watching only American sitcoms6. Therefore we actually live the American life through our television: We learn about their traditions and holidays like “Thanks Giving” and exports like “Halloween”; we admire their way of clothing, we get to know their actors, developing a virtual relationship which may cause them to become our role-models. Some of us even watch these movies in the original language just to see them the same way Americans do. The process of transferring ideas from the US can also strongly be observed in television shows like “Wer Wird Millionär” or “Deutschland sucht den Superstar”. Those German TV shows are just copies of the American original idea.
The English language is another significant attribute that has lead to changes in our culture.
“The Global language opens the markets for American products [...]”7
and we get used to it so that we don't even notice English words anymore and integrate them in our lives like our native ones. The same thing happens in the music industry. Songs are getting imported and, further than that masses of teenagers identify themselves with those music stars living abroad . They observe their taste of fashion, their behaviour and language and copy it for their own way of living. In that age they are in a process of finding their identity and by copying American idols they are connected and dependent on the American way of life. It also seems to be important for teenagers to fit and to feel as though they belong to this society, and it may be these American idols, who help them to achieve this goal.
The position of America as a role-model has been idealised during the last decades. Although more and more people commute between America and Germany, although news is getting transferred between countries and all around the globe in a very short time, our image of America is still not advanced and detailed enough to be totally realistic. The distorted images that shaped our idea of the United States from the time when few people travelled back and forth have not disappeared, but have just been modified by the better transportation network of today.8 The phrase “American Dream” is still in the heads of many people around the world, who believe in America as a country where everything is possible just like the motto “From dishwasher to millionaire”. The latest events, above all the bad crisis management of the USA during the economical crisis, led to many critical responses, which claim that America is slowly losing its position as a global role-model. The US-American nobel prize winner Paul Krugman thinks, that there will be a massive change for America, which will no longer be the pioneer in economy, politics and society :
1 Frank Zappa (1940-1993) was a famous musician
2 See picture number 3 in appendix
3 cf. „Amerikanisierung – Globalisierung“ by Winfried Fluck P.17, l1 f.
4 cf. „Amerikanisierung – Globalisierung“ by Winfried Fluck P.17, l10 f.
5 „Americanization, Globalization, Education“ (by Jürgen Donnerstag) P.69, l.27 f.
6 See picture number 4 in appendix
7 „Americanization, Globalization, Education“ (by Jürgen Donnerstag) P.69
8 cf. „Mythos Amerikanisierung in Deutschland seit 1900“ (by Frank Becker) p.9 l.27 f.