“Franklin & Marshall”: France’s answer to Abercrombie
Everyone is aware of France’s influence on the world of fashion. Anything you spot on the streets of Paris can be seen parading down Main St., America two years later. Sometimes trends can overlap. Last spring’s denim and studs trend seemed to rage in only two places in the world: Paris and Wichita. (I happened to be in Wichita in January where I saw my fair share of horrifying studded denim ensembles only to return to Paris in February and find the same horrible trend had followed me from the depths of the midwest!) It’s hard to tell which came first. On rare occasions though American style manages to influence French style first.
One of the most coveted American exports among young people in Paris is Abercrombie & Fitch. Apparently french teenagers are keeping the company afloat since I haven’t heard of anyone shopping at Abercrombie stateside in a good five years. But it is expensive to ship out of the U.S. So what is a poor starving french teenager to do?
Find a local replacement of course! Franklin & Marshall is Europe’s answer to Abercrombie. Hold on. Isn’t that a college? Didn’t I know someone who knew someone who slept with someone who went there? Isn’t it in Pennsylvania? Yes yes these are all true, and as far as I know there is no connection between the masses of french teens donning the name and the actual students who attend the school stateside. So what gives?
Quite simply, Franklin & Marshall is an Abercrombie-esque clothing company with no apparent relation to Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster PA; and the French love it. The name seems arbitrary but after giving it some thought I’ve decided that it’s not a bad choice. Whoever started the company probably wanted something that sounded collegiate and preppy. They couldn’t pick some big name school because that would lead to a lawsuit or at the very least a lot of awkward conversations for their customers. But they were also limited to schools they could pronounce. Think how ridiculous Thaddeus Stevens College (incidentally also in Lancaster PA) would sound with a French accent (Saddeus Stevenzzz). Of course they could have started from scratch with a made up or totally unrelated name, but that can be tricky, as was discovered by the owners of Boylan Heights, a bar that cropped up in Charlottesville my senior year in college. The theme was prep school but the name sounded more like a nasty case of boils.
If you think about it, Franklin & Marshall is a sound choice. It’s not too popular of a school to arouse suspicions (at least not amongst Europeans), it’s pronounceable, and it doesn’t remind you of pus-filled infections.
Footnote: After further research I discovered that Franklin & Marshall was founded by two Italians, which makes more sense anyway. The French are more apt to adopt American culture when it’s been thoroughly Europeanized by the Italians. That’s probably how they got so hooked on the culture of le wild west and le cowboy, not through the ACTUAL wild west or cowboys, but from leather-clad spaghetti westerns.