By Amanda Fox
Over the past few days there has been a lot of talk about Abercrombie & Fitch, but specifically their CEO Michael Jeffries and the bile that has come out of his mouth. I’ll admit, I have had some A&F gear during my life. I never bought any, but I never really turned my nose up at them as hand-me-downs either. My reason for not buying their clothes had nothing to do with social protest or not fitting in anything. It was only when I was my youngest that it had anything to do with money. My reason was mostly that I just didn’t see their clothes being worth the money.
As I am prone to do, I posted a bit of a rant about what Jeffries had said regarding their marketing strategy. For those who haven’t read that yet, hear it goes:
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he says. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
“We hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”
Someone took the time to PM me and explain that they felt what Jeffries said wasn’t that bad, nor is it a bad strategy. As he stated, “Maybe this is a good motivator to get those overweight kids out exercising so they can wear some Abercrombie and be cool”, I couldn’t give my head a vigorous enough Etch-A-Sketch style shake to make any sense of that. I’ll explain to you all now what I explained to him and why I take exception to this mess.
Who says who is cool or beautiful as a rule? Not me. Not you. Not even society really. Look around the world, your hometown, and tell me – do we all agree on what is attractive or cool? Some people find me attractive, some don’t. By A&F standards, I was attractive until a few years ago, but I was also younger and underweight – but hey – I fit in all the styles they made for women and I never got run out of a store when I would go to them with my buddy DK. That they would try to sell me stuff means I must I have fit their demographic.
But here’s thing. I am older now. I weigh more than I used to. I can still wear their large sizes for women if I wanted to, but I like clothes that are a little roomier. Because of that, I’d need to buy an XL or maybe a 2XL even depending be cause their sizes seem to keep running smaller every few years. They don’t make those sizes though – at least not for women. I’m about 5’11”. I admit I weigh about 170lbs with no shame. To most people, I’m thin, athletic even. I’m big, but in shape.
A&F, however, considers me too big to market to or even make clothes for – not to mention being too old for their marketing model. I can cram myself into some of their clothes marked as Large, but why? What pisses me off though, is they do make XL and 2XL and bigger for men. Why? Because Jeffries says that is catering to the large athletic man. Obviously they believe there are no bigger athletic women or they would give them the same due. What this plainly says is if you’re a woman, big isn’t beautiful in their marketing model.
Jeffries has demonstrated, as lawsuits and his own handbooks detail, everything is about youth and beauty. Never mind he is 68 and to be fair and honest, not terribly attractive – at least to me. He isn’t a total troll living under a bridge, but he isn’t someone that would get your attention on the street unless he was crapping hundred dollar bills. Somehow, he sees himself as above it all.
Can I, or a few dozen of us or even a few thousand of us take down A&F by blogging about it and passing memes around? Not really, but I do know something we can do that would get a whole helluva lot of attention and send a message that can’t be ignored. I encourage people to do this:
1. Stop shopping at A&F as long as Jeffries and his policies are in place.
2. Gather up whatever A&F clothing we have and donate it all. Give it to homeless shelters. Give it to church programs that clothe those in need. Get it on the backs of people that usually couldn’t afford A&F apparel. Just because someone is poor or homeless doesn’t mean they can’t rock that gear the same as anyone else.
3. Talk to your kids and let them know that we are more than the labels we wear. Explain to them that wearing that A&F label reinforces an exclusionary policy that tears down many to build up some.
We can change some attitudes. We can reap some good from this. We can use this as a teaching tool. We can use this as the impetus to help the less fortunate. We can use this to say that we are tired of supporting people and brands that don’t support us – the average people. Whether you continue to wear or buy A&F apparel is your choice. I won’t down anyone that does, but I will likely look at them a little different and that’s the truth. Let’s make it uncool to be seen in A&F.