“Emo’s dead. Everything’s all gay now.” Anna Bryxkhanova / Getty

American Apparel is dead. I heard it give a final, breathy moan as a sales associate told me, "You can take home the mannequins if you want. They're free." (I felt almost disrespectful when I responded, "No. I'm only here for the jelly shoes.") The company was acquired by Gildan Activewear in January for $88 million, and all of its stores must close by the end of April. Boxes of discounted panties have been arriving in the remaining stores like corpses washing ashore from a capsized SS Hipster. It's bleak, but it's also a great time to buy some slutty socks.

The company's basement-porn vibe has been more than an aesthetic choice, it's been a way of business. Dov Charney, American Apparel's longtime CEO until 2014, was notoriously sleazy. When interviewed by Claudine Ko in 2004 for Jane magazine, Charney said his preferred method of relaxation was oral sex because he's "a bit of a dirty guy, but people like that right now." During the interview, he masturbated "eight or so" times. Charney was ultimately sued numerous times for sexual harassment (and settled), and the company ditched him after an independent investigation. Despite Charney's behavior, American Apparel kept expanding, from three stores in 2003 to 280 stores in 2010.

When I first fell in lust with American Apparel, I didn't know about the company's strange and smutty reputation. I thought American Apparel was just really gay. In 2007, my friend pulled me into her parents' basement to show me her cousin—he was a model in an online American Apparel ad. He wore a purple shirt with a plunging neckline. "That's a girl's shirt," I told her. "No," she said, "that's a V-neck."

I could see his chest hair and it made me nervous. "Men can't wear those colors," I thought. It was too bold. But there he was: stiff, kinda sweaty, staring me down with his dead model eyes. "Y'know," my friend continued, "emo's dead. Everything's all gay now." And it was true, everything was all gay now. "They even have deep V-necks," she said. But I wasn't ready for the deep V.

American Apparel was my gateway into the "gay imaginary," a term coined by Kath Weston in her 1995 article "Get Thee to a Big City." The clothes were simple and flamboyant—the boys who wore American Apparel looked like they might be down with kissing dudes. But it was also urban—there wasn't an American Apparel store in Boise, Idaho. If I wanted to touch the 100 percent organic fine jersey cotton that came in a rainbow of colors, I'd have to drive to Portland or San Francisco or Los Angeles. Apparently, the price of entry into the homosexual agenda was a $39.99 basic T and a few tanks of gas.

Ten years after my first introduction to the company, one thing has remained consistent: my crush on its models. (Sales associates, by the way, are also considered "models" at American Apparel.) At 14, there was the sales associate who gave me an insider's nod as I bought teal hot pants with my mom's money. At 18, that boy at checkout who asked me if I wanted to buy BUTT magazine with my overpriced bow tie. At 21, that store manager who saw me eyeing a gold-lamé maxi dress and told me I'd look great in it. At so many points in my life, American Apparel has invited me to be seen as I wanted to be seen—as long as I paid.

The company has always made a profit off sex and homosexuals. American Apparel, whether intentional or not, helped revive the term "hipster," originally used in the 1950s to describe a white avant-garde attempting to disown its whiteness, stealing instead from the "cool" culture of black Americans. Charney's 21st-century vision of hipsterdom included the gays, most visibly with the Legalize Gay campaign after the wake of Prop 8.

I feel weird picking through American Apparel's final season. The first shirt I ever owned that made me feel cute was from American Apparel. I lost my virginity in American Apparel briefs. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad it's dead. It's strange to romanticize a white, soulless store that was run by a manipulative creep. But while checking out for the last time, the sales associate noted: "Everything you're wearing is from here." He was right: I'd made myself in American Apparel's image. I guess it's time to find new clothes.