Shares of youth-targeting clothier Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) exasperated investors yesterday almost as much as its risqué catalogs exasperate some parents. The company's market value dropped nearly 8% on news that while July revenues rose 8% year-over-year to nearly $144 million, same-store sales fell a depressing 9%. Comps are off 3% year-to-date. All told, the summer hasn't been real good to the company: While same-store sales managed a 1% pop in May, they fell 5% in June and continued dipping last month.

Funny thing, though: Despite all that news, shares of Abercrombie & Fitch are up substantially year-to-date, the company's rise crushing the S&P 500 over that period. Why? Well, in part (some might say) because the company continues to be overpenalized in the short term for anything that looks or even sounds like a misstep -- and investors who trust in the company's management continue to pick up the out-of-favor shares.

But there are also very concrete reasons. Among the positives are increasing same-store sales in the company's women's business, something longtime Abercrombie watchers check very carefully, as well as signs of strength at Hollister, the company's newest store concept. All, in short, is hardly lost.

Now, however, we're heading into the back-to-school season so important to casual apparel retailers such as Abercrombie, Gap (NYSE:GPS), American Eagle, (NASDAQ:AEOS), Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO), and others. Will Abercrombie be ready? If you believe the market analysts, the look this fall will be denim, slim and tight -- which would certainly seem to work with Abercrombie's frat-boy fantasy women's line and, perhaps, the "muscle fit" maker's men's gear as well.

Last year the company managed to grow net income 6% in Q3 even as same-store sales retreated 9%. That's a testament, perhaps, to the company's pricing power if not its ability to attract enough new customers. It's hard to fathom the company's high-end Ezra Fitch line doing much in that department either. (Wow, $125 for "destroyed" jeans?)

In the end, however, this is one company that will likely make a good business-school case study on what it means to defend a consumer brand against encroachment and dilution.

Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any companies in this story.