A 2006 interview with Mike Jefferies, CEO for Abercrombie and Fitch, revealed that rather than try to appeal to all possible customers, A & F were looking to be more exclusive, clothing only for the ‘sexy’ people. As such, the clothing sizes offered by A & F would reflect this philosophy by only going from zero to size 8, or as listed on their website, XS to L. The A & F website features pictures of half naked men with six packs, no body hair, and some overly expensive clothing. Disturbingly though, clicking on women’s clothing presented a picture of what appeared to be a young teenage girl. Their dream clientele seem to be men who spend more time in the mirror grooming than women and girls who have to save up all their pocket money for a month to buy a A & F t-shirt.
At worst this attitude is offensive and politically incorrect, and at best it is simply a dumb thing to say. Since it was during an interview that this was said, it wasn’t a mere slip of the tongue at a cocktail party or anything like that. This was someone knowing exactly what they are saying. Of course, since this interview recently came to light, there has been more back tracking than Theseus after he slew the Minotaur. Explanations of words taken out of context are on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
As with a lot of ‘fashionable’ brands, an A & F t-shirt will contain large references to the brand, in essence making customers walking billboards who are paying for the privilege of promoting A & F. Now, one of the freedoms granted to Canadians, I believe under the Magna Carta which was written in 1215, is the freedom to spend their hard earned money at any store in the mall they want, so if someone wants to wear a T-shirt that has the word Abercrombie on it in 5 inch letters, they can.
The backlash over these 7 year old, incidentally the target age for A & F’s new ‘sexy fitch’ line of clothing*, comments has been loud and widespread. Ellen DeGeneres talked about it, and there has even been a campaign to hand out A & F clothing to homeless people. The outcry is justified. Declaring that, if someone doesn’t fit into a clothing size means that, they are not cool or sexy, is just plain wrong and totally sends the wrong message to children, and adults as well. Body image is so important the last thing anyone needs to hear is that you can’t be sexy if you don’t have a body like a 12 year old boy.
While decrying the company is understandable, it should be taken for what it truly is, a fashion company who wants to be known as clothing worn by sexy cool people, and that to be sexy or cool you cannot look like a normal person, so only men who look like store mannequins or women who look like never hit puberty apply. In internet parlance this is known as trolling, getting a reaction and being noticed by making outlandish and offensive claims and by a huge coincidence, the CEO of A & F has a, diplomatically described, unique face.
In all honesty, the appeal of A & F apparel is very limited already for most shoppers, so this public display of ignorance, all be it seven years ago, should not really impact their sales. If you are a regular purchaser of A & F clothing, you obviously feel that you are both cool and sexy. For the rest of the clothing consumers of Canada, they will still shop at Walmart, Gap, Old Navy, H & M and all the other stores at the mall, you know, the ones that don’t claim that sexy is only restricted to the thin and hairless.
* No not really