This Abercrombie and Fitch thing…
Have you heard about this? I’m guessing you have so I’m not about to drudge up the same old schlock, but here are the guts of it in case you want a refresher: youth clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch refuses to carry women’s apparel above a size 10 because they only want “attractive” and “optimistic” people as customers.
Note: This is not a new thing. This has been going on for years and Abercrombie is not alone in this business practice, however, they have gone out of their way to rub it in on the rest of us. Abercrombie does not sell XL or XXL women’s clothing, but they do sell XL or XXL men’s clothing, you know, “For the athletes.” CEO Michael Jeffries says. “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.”
Now, considering I was nearly a 5’8” size ten by the age of nine, thereby excluding me from ever being an Abercrombie customer, I would like to ask some questions of Mr. Jeffries before jumping on the FHB (Fire His Butt) bandwagon. After all, this is America. It’s a free economy and we all have the right to turn a buck. Am I right?
Number One: As someone who worked in retail for a number of years –as everything from a stock clerk to a buyer– I appreciate that your business model does not cater to the lowest common denominator. Abercrombie isn’t trying to be vanilla. Good for you! You are ballsy. And balls are fresh. You have a target audience and you are catering to it. This is something I appreciate more than you know. But, Mr. Jeffries, here is the thing; Why on Earth would you go on public record saying everyone who falls outside Abercrombie’s target audience is somehow lesser or uncool? As you said: “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. 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.”
To make such a statement I can only deduce that you are either 1. Mean, or 2. Stupid, or 3. Both. In any case, after reading a statement like that, I don’t want to give you my money. And the crazy thing is, apparently that’s okay by you because you never wanted it in the first place. According to you, I was never young and thin and cool and rich enough in the first place. Alright, fine, but did you want me to think less of anyone who would walk down the street with a giant AF logo stamped on their butt? Did you want me to associate Abercrombie clothing with the vapid and ill-informed? Is that the brand affiliation you were looking to generate? If that was your intention, good job with that!
Number Two: Not that I could squeeze my thigh into a pair of AF pants, but you know, I don’t have a penis and that has never stopped me from spending money in the men’s department of any store. Do you know how much money women spend on men’s clothing each year? A LOT. Some studies indicate 51% of male apparel is purchased for them by women. With that in mind, do you know how many size ten+ moms spend money on their skinny high school kids each day? DOUBLE A LOT. You see them in your stores everyday. You know the ones hanging out by the cash register playing solitaire on their cell phones while their kids scuttle around the store pretending to be unattended. Why would you up and piss these ladies off? Do you not have thousands of employees with jobs and pretty little behinds to take care of? I’m hoping the PR Firm y’all hired to take care of this problem is thinking about them, because from all accounts, you sure are not.
Number Three: I worry about you, Mr. Jeffries. Am I judging you? I’m worried I am judging you without understanding the challenges you face every day. Why, you are a 67-year-old man splitting your time between injections of facial fillers, hair peroxide, and making strangers feel ugly. Why, it’s a wonder you still have time to sell clothing and hire oiled up minors to feature in your pervy ad campaigns. I should give you more credit. You built a retail empire on the foundations of making small groups of young people feel falsely, and temporarily, superior. That took some effort!
Number Four: Just for the record, did you know that a big woman has got all the same stuff as a skinny woman but just a helluva lot more of it? It’s true. If you are a grown, heterosexual man and still don’t know this, I do not know what to tell you. This is your problem. I’m guessing it’s because fat chicks have great taste in men.
Number Five: Do you not know what it is like to feel insecure? To feel like the odd kid. Or the unwanted kid. Or the untalented kid. Or the kid with a messed up family. The kid whose parents drive the beater car. The kid with chronic illness. The kid who spends lunch in the bathroom because he doesn’t want people to see he doesn’t have enough to eat. The kid who spends her lunch in the bathroom because she is terrified of eating in front of other people. Do you? I’m guessing you don’t, because if you did, you would know young people today already have enough to deal with. You would know that the last thing they need is an adult getting on a pedestal and telling them they are any lesser for not buying your second-rate made in the Phillipnes underpants. Am I asking you to pull them in and sell them stuff? No; I’m asking you to quit talking about them like your customers are any different. They aren’t. They are the same people. Don’t you get that?
If you were really pushing a brand fueled by, as you say, “optimism,” you would be helping promote the texture of our differences and not fostering some polished off idea of what is good and beautiful. The people who can’t buy your clothes are every bit as beautiful as those who can. The pretty people who work in your stores are just as beautiful as the faceless workers in your factories outside Manilla. Those who are paid to grace your advertisements are no more beautiful or desirable or worthy of admiration than the rest of us. Yes, Mr. Jeffries, I said us. You are in this crowd too. And if I look at your jacked up face long enough and I scrape you down to what you are – just another human being who is desperate to feel important and validated– I can see your beauty too.
It’s not easy to find it under all that garbage, but sure enough, it’s there. My ability to see it – that is my beauty right there. It’s my skill. It’s my jam. It’s my brand. It is, by far, my greatest gift. And it’s one thing, the other thing, you aren’t selling at Abercrombie and Fitch.