Old Navy beats American Apparel at its own game


American Apparel has taken some heat over the past few years for its scandalous ad campaigns and the allegedly-pervy tendencies of founder Dov Charney, the man behind them. Yet the chain continues to experience a Starbucks-like manifest destiny, popping up in every corner of the country.

The reason? American Apparel exceeds at churning out irresistible basics, the kind of items that you squint at on the hanger, thinking: What's the big deal? It's just a plain blue t-shirt. Then you take a chance and take it home -- and that unassuming top somehow becomes the MVP of your wardrobe.

Which is a good thing, since the downside of shopping at American Apparel is that the stuff is always about $20 more than you expect it to be. (The company practices fair trade, which is great -- but it doesn't change the fact that sometimes you just can't spend $28 on a pair of leggings.)

Enter Old Navy. From the looks of the current offerings -- I'm just home from its Herald Square store in NYC -- the mega-chain is out to beat American Apparel's signature hipster basics this spring. And it's doing it -- you guessed it -- for less. Below, some side by side comparisons that could save you a lot of money.