Photo: The Gap

It’s important for brands to uphold a particular identity when tucked away inside a mall, to beckon the lumbering hordes with an aesthetic and sound that’s uniquely suited to their core audience, whether that be teens, olds, or strollers. Back in the ’90s, for example, Abercrombie & Fitch famously front-loaded its staff with aspiring models, while Brookstone relied on the power of placing a vibrating recliner front and center. Most outlets, however, opted for a killer soundtrack.

These soundtracks weren’t curated by the enviable teens behind the counter, though; rather, they were corporate creations, with a new, four-hour tape sent every several months to play on a loop until the seasons changed. The content suited the selection—you’d hear oldies and acoustic folk at Eddie Bauer, while at Natural Wonders, Yanni would fill your ears. If it was the hip shit you wanted, you went to The Gap.

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Nostalgic for those bygone playlists, one former Gap employee is on a mission to collect each and every playlist that serenaded customers between the years of 1992 and 2006, the golden age for these curated tapes. They’ve preserved a number of them, but are still lacking several entries and on the hunt for anyone who can fill in the… gaps.

In their words:

During my time with Gap, I collected the monthly in-store playlists that would come with each tape or CD, so that I could know the artists and songs playing. One of my greatest pleasures has been to try to recreate the Gap in-store playlist for each month from those years. When I still had the paper playlists for almost every month, I took my time buying songs and CDs here and there, gradually making playlists.

However, in a move in 2006, I lost the box which contained the dozens of Gap in-store playlists, which was very disappointing. In 2010, I luckily found copies of almost twenty duplicates that I had saved, so I was able to restart from there, and those playlists can be seen in several months on here from 1999 to 2005.

My main goal with this site is to be able to hopefully reach out to others who have also saved the Gap In-Store Playlists from 1992 to 2006 and that they will share them with me. While I have partially reconstructed many months’ playlists from memory, I would love to have copies of the actual full In-Store Playlists for each month.

The larger goal with this site is to celebrate the phenomenon that was the Gap from those years, throughout the clothing, commercials, music, and overall cultural impact.

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Even if you’re less interested in the Gap’s “cultural impact,” the nostalgia factor here is strong. A playlist from 1997, for example, features Björk, Sneaker Pimps, Ween, and D’Angelo alongside forgotten artists like Aztec Camera and Purple Penguin. Another, from 1992, slots songs from Primal Scream and Neneh Cherry next to Erasure and Art Of Noise. Each collection is a singular mix of pop, electronica, R&B, and indie rock, and no doubt an instant portal into the halcyon days of your mall-going.

If, for some reason or another, you’re sitting on such playlists, the website’s author has provided an email address. Because, while all the music in the world is available at our fingertips, the art of the perfect playlist remains a worthy challenge.