RIP to the stores that defined our preteen world

For most, middle school was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad time. Filled with awkward first relationships and acne horror stories, the preteen stage didn’t have much going for it besides, perhaps, a slew of hip clothing stores that allowed us to wear our hearts on our sleeves and explore our developing personal style. But even these won’t be around for long. According to reports, many of the stores that we used to know and love are on their way out. Soon, their spaces will be converted into office spaces or banks or, with any luck, a frozen-yogurt shop, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What stores are jumping the shark? Here’s a few:

1) Wet Seal

For years, Wet Seal has been the go-to place for all things trendy and cheap but the company has lost its sense of direction since its glory days in the early 2000s. No one, not even the company, knows who its target audience is anymore, according to reports, and many customers believe the quality of the clothing has gone downhill. I, for one, disagree. I still find many of their outfits “trendy” or stylish (although, my fashion sense hasn’t really changed since middle school, so I might be the exception) and most of their items are pretty durable, as long as you don’t throw yourself into a carwash or some other environment that might wear out your clothes. Also, their scarves are on fleek. (Nope, nope. I can’t pull that slang off. I tried, Internet. I tried.)

2) Abercrombie & Fitch

While I’m tempted to say that Abercrombie’s wildly insensitive CEO single-handedly dragged the company down, the retail giant has been juggling other problems for years. The biggest issue has been the shift in teen values. As business strategist Brian Sozzi pointed out last year, “In 1999, we all wanted to fit in, but in 2013 it’s about showing your identity by wearing unique accessories or clothes no one else has.” I was never a huge fan of Abercrombie & Fitch, mostly because I didn’t feel the need to spend a million dollars on a tank top. I had other priorities. (The Sims started releasing expansion packs around this time, so I funneled most of my money into that incredibly worthy cause.) My question is, what will happen to Hollister and all of its other offshoot brands? Will their stores be turned into caves or laser tag arenas? The rooms are already dark enough.

3) Delia’s

Despite the new CEO’s attempts to rebrand the company, Delia’s has lost a significant portion of its revenue. Maybe kids have finally gotten tired of people tHAt tALk anD WriTe liKe tHis. Or maybe they have moved on to Forever 21. I’m not sure. All I know is that, earlier this month, the company announced its plans to liquidate its assets, meaning all of those glorious graphic tees will be taken off the shelves. That is, if I don’t snatch them all up first. Seriously. If you see someone walking out of there with armfuls of graphic tees, it’s probably me and no, you can’t have any. Tyler doesn’t share shirts.

4) Aeropostale

Once Abercrombie’s biggest competitor, Aeropostale could soon see its demise. Back in the 2000s, there was no better place to go than Aeropostale to find generic shirts plastered with the company’s name all over it. Apparently, those days are over, with stores closing left and right. The company’s line of brightly-colored, simply designed outfits were appealing to me for a long time but as I got older, the neon pink sweatpants I was used to wearing became “unacceptable” in the workplace and I had to move onto more mature (and more expensive) outfits.

5) American Eagle

Like Abercrombie and Aeropostale, American Eagle is on the decline. In May, the company closed over 150 stores across the country. Rumor has it that the once popular organization was being overshadowed by cheaper options like Forever 21. (Who knew people actually prefer to spend $10 on jeans instead of $20 or $30?) On the bright side, though, the company seems to have launched a handful of new stores in the UK, giving us yet another reason to visit England.

These stores might be going out of business but they will never leave my heart. So here’s to all the graphic tees and silly logos these stores gave us, along with the strength and sweaters to survive the gruesome stages of puberty that we all had to endure. They’ll be sorely missed.

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