One Direction's 1D World at Mall of America is a nostalgia presale
Photos by Reed Fischer
This past Saturday, the boy band One Direction opened a pop-up store at the Mall of America, and Gimme Noise decided to observe what sort of youth-cultivated bedlam might result. Called 1D World, the store will occupy the northwest corner of the mall's rotunda for the next six weeks.
Upon receiving the 1D announcement, what first came to mind was "1 dimension," like 3D, minus 2. Once it was clear this is a group of English and Irish young men brought together by powerful hands of The X Factor's Simon Cowell, it recalls an all-too-clear arc of lineage from the past three decades: Menudo, New Kids, the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync. Then Gimme Noise hit adulthood.
For the week leading up to Saturday, it was impossible to not think about boy bands, and have memories of lines of teenagers winding through the mall concourse to wait for New Kids on the Block. It was mostly girls, but some boys in there too. They looked out of place because they were masking their anticipation and the girls weren't. It is like scanning someone else's memories; I wasn't there. I never went out to a thing like that. I stayed home. Maybe I'll get to the One Direction store and throw a fit, especially if I have a little brandy in me.
When Saturday arrives, the ride out to the mall with my editor reminds me how long it has been since I've made this trip. So, before finding the 1D World, it's time to do a little browsing, and pass a Cinnabon that has people swarming like ants inside it. Pop into Hot Topic. It used to be over there, but now it's over here. Lots of stuff has shuffled around in the mall. As a goth, one could buy gunmetal grey nail polish here -- even after your father, ordinarily a softy on fashion, threatened you (the threat was very general) unless you swore the stuff off. Now the place is loaded up with Coheed and Cambria shirts, Batman shirts, Bob Marley shirts, Justin Bieber shirts, and even One Direction shirts, all hung from the same rack. It would be easy to spend a fortune in here.
1D tees at Hot Topic
After a quick stop in the Lids, it's on to the One Direction store. The first things that come into sight inside 1D World are cardboard cutouts of the members. Ostensibly they're life-sized, but it's hard to be sure. Or it's a pun. The whole store is a pun.
A look at their pictures confirms they're actually boys. This is a surprise after being accustomed to boy bands that are composed of men with beards and hair on their arms.
In all, it's a rather small corner store. Outside in the rotunda, banquet tables full of bead displays lay covered under black tablecloths for a bead convention being prepared. There's a corral for the queue, two posts connected by a waist-high belt strung out maybe thirty feet, enough for a line of 40 people standing three abreast. It's empty, though. At the entrance, there's a young man with short spiked hair holding a clicker. He checks the store, as if making certain he won't exceed fire code. But there's only a dozen kids and their parents in the store.
"All right," he says, waving me on.
"What was it like this morning?" asks my editor.
"Pretty crazy," he says. But he's already looking out at the concourse, hypnotized by the flow of people.
Most stores in the mall are built for the customer to wander, to graze, surrounded at a comfy distance by the product. Once past the young man with the clicker, though, 1D World immediately presents all it has. Its design is, you can't help observing, one-dimensional. There's a bay of tables, behind which the merchandise sits, protected by smiling mall employees in navy polo shirts emblazoned with the 1D logo on the breast. It's precisely what you'd see in the concourse of a stadium at a One Direction show, but its placement in a mall store is startling. Like a merch table at a concert, it looks hastily fashioned, built to be quickly erected and then torn down and hauled out. The 1D banners on hanging from the banquet tables sag.
The standard fare: 1D shirts, 1D bike bags, 1D hats, 1D pajamas, 1D hoodies. There's a rack of shirts, one for each member of the band; "Future Mrs. What's-his-name," they say. Except, instead of "What's-his-name," it's the name of a member of One Direction. I stare at the shirts, and when I shut my eyes, the name is gone, wriggling out of my grasp like a bar of wet soap.
While clinging close to the floor-to-ceiling windows that look onto the east plaza of the mall, it's an appropriate vantage point to watch the One Direction concert movie that plays on three flat-screens. They're doing a fancy number, like a scene out of Astaire's Blue Skies, dressed in black and white, as if for a grand banquet. They joke and cajole. One of them is singing, but I can't hear him over the low hum of the mall's background noise, which I imagine is something like the cabin of a space shuttle.
"I've got what I need," says my editor, who has photographed the merch with his phone. Back in the concourse, he adds, "The trick is to leave before you start to hate it." As we head for the exit on the other side of the mall, I wonder if I've got what I need.
In the parking ramp on the way back to his car, I say, "I thought I'd feel something, but I don't."
I'm lying. When I was their age, many years ago, I didn't follow 'N Sync; I followed Marilyn Manson. At the time, the difference between the two seemed an unbridgeable, comforting abyss. But I was in the primeval of my youth before I knew better. In my 20s, I scorned pop music altogether, but that too was a growing pain, like listening to Marilyn Manson. As a 32-year-old, it all seems quaint and harmless, even though it may not really be. Unstoppable anyway; a cycle without end, over which there's no sense getting worked up. Precipitation, evaporation, condensation.
I bought an Antichrist Superstar tour shirt when Manson played First Avenue, just before he outgrew venues of that size. I still have it, but where? Now my desire for it is overwhelming. When I go home, I won't rest until I find it.
Before getting into the car, a young girl catches my eye. She is removing her "Future Mrs. What's-his-name" shirt from a 1D shopping bag. One day, perhaps in 20 years, or perhaps not even that long, this girl will be in a vintage store, and she will see a "Future Mrs. What's-his-name" shirt. It won't be with the Nike sweatshirts and Maui tees that hang on the long floor racks. It will be hung high on the wall. She will have to ask the cashier to get it down, and he will have to use a long hook to do it. She will look at it and laugh and show her friend, and they will gab about those long-ago days, all the remember-whens. She'll check the price tag; it'll cost more than what her father paid for it the first time around.
"Fuck it," she'll say. "I need this." And she'll buy it again, with her own money this time.
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