Abomination and Fitch: On Abercrombie and Body Type Exclusion

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Okay, folks, it’s time for full disclosure. I’m not going to say anything in this article that anyone with more than half a brain, an ounce of common sense, and some kind of feeling for humanity as a whole couldn’t come up with on their own. Every single one of my Facebook friends who has posted this article has been saying more or less variations on the theme of “What the –expletive-?” The real point of me writing this is that I’m searching for someone to hold me while I seethe. But it has to be said anyway. This is unacceptable. This is ridiculous.

This, in case my bubbling volcano of rage didn’t make that clear, is Abercrombie & Fitch.

Now, I already don’t shop at A&F, for a variety of reasons. First, I am about seven inches too short for all of their jeans. Second, I operate on a college-student budget, which means I buy my shirts at Target and my pants at JC Penny. Third, the smell. It makes me want to throw up every time I walk near the store. Or really within fifty yards of the store, because whatever they spray in there, it wafts.

But A&F CEO Mike Jeffries has replaced inaccessible and funky-smelling clothes as reason number one that I am not, nor will I ever be, a walking billboard for Abercrombie. To be as unbiased and objective as possible, I’ll let Mr. Worst Human Being Alive Jeffries explain why, in his own words, his store does not stock women’s clothing in XL or XXL, or in sizes above a 10.

“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. 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.”

I’ve gotta be making this up, right?

Oh, I wish this were a joke. This is a direct quote.

Let’s break this down point-by-point, because I don’t know how else to deal.

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids.”

Okay, so first point of a marketing plan for a clothing retailer is emulating childhood bullying. Sounds like a great idea, except I wonder if Mr. Jeffries has seen this video, which was just as viral on my Facebook feed as the A&F article was this morning:


So not only are we selling terrible clothes, we’re selling the idea that some people are inherently less than based on what they look like, and the only acceptable response from those who wear single-digit sizes is to point and laugh and shun them. I wonder if Mr. Jeffries borrowed his business module from the movie Mean Girls.

Let me also take this moment to point out the terrible business sense of a module that only dresses “the cool kids,” when the average American woman is 5’4”, 164 pounds, and a size 14. When three-quarters of the nation’s population need to take the seven inches they cut off the bottom of your jeans and add them to the waistline, this does not make for a welcoming experience.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, Abercrombie, but we’re kind of still in a bit of a recession. Limiting your target demographic to pretty much nobody might not turn out so well for you.

“We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and lots of friends.”

Not only does something smack of xenophobia in this quotation (are immigrants or minorities not allowed to shop at Abercrombie? Would it do something terrible for the brand’s image if, say, Sofia Vegara were to sidle in and pick up a sweater?), there’s that link between “attractive,” “lots of friends,” and being a size ten or under that makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

Sorry for the image. I know nobody wanted that.

I’m not going to harp on this because the point is so obvious it’s practically screaming off the page, but being a size ten or less does not make you a good person “with a great attitude and lots of friends.” Nor does it make you a shallow, self-centered person who’s obsessed with popularity and tanning beds and whatever the Kardashians are up to.

You know what it makes you? A person who wears a size ten or under. Everything else people associate with that is their own baggage, not yours.

“A lot of people don’t belong in our clothes, and they can’t belong.”

You know how they could potentially belong in your clothes, Mr. Jeffries? Make clothes in their size. BAM! Suddenly they belong in your clothes. It’s like magic.

Not that we would all necessarily want to, of course. I’m not asking for Abercrombie & Fitch to suddenly make plus-size fashion, or even make clothing that the average American woman could wear. (Aside: is it still “plus-sized” if it’s the size of a huge majority of the population?)

I’m asking for a boycott from those who could hypothetically shop at A&F. I’m asking for a backlash the likes of which Mr. Jeffries never saw coming. I’m asking for credit-card activism, and for a universal turn to those “vanilla” stores that “don’t alienate anybody, but don’t excite anybody, either.” Stores that recognize that women come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and socioeconomic statuses (for the record, a lace-trimmed tanktop goes for almost $30 at A&F, where for the price, I could buy THREE of the exact same product at Target), and doesn’t see body acceptance and basic human understanding as compromising some inherent tenant of business honesty.

The backlash over Mr. Jeffries’ remarks has been enormous. (And yes, I’m using his name as many times as possible in order to convey how much I cannot stand this man my disinterested critique of his questionable business practices.) The Internet has taken this cause to heart. But we need to move into the private sector and make our mark there. Hit them where it counts.

In your responses, keep it civil and poised. I’ve already seen too many responses accusing Mr. Jeffries of “not being attractive enough to work in his own store,” as if attacking his appearance were any less despicable than Abercrombie’s policy of deciding what body types are acceptable to be seen and what aren’t. Let’s prove to the world that we don’t need to stoop to the level of the people we are trying to argue against. We can be outraged and reasonable at the same time. In fact, it’s a lot harder to cut us down when we’re being more well-spoken and polite than those we are criticizing.

There’s a better way to fight this problem than finger-pointing and name-calling, anyway.

Let’s see how dismissive Abercrombie & Fitch is of the average American woman when they take a closer look at their quarterly earnings and find a size-ten-and-up hole in their profit margin.

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9 comments

  1. Who ever said one-size-fits-all?

    Let’s not forget, there is something in this world for everyone – the majority of people fall in to a specific size category, due to fashion or genetics, so there would naturally be clothing businesses that capitolize on that and again, the reason they are so popular is because so many people are catered for. That’s how it is, popularity shouts the loudest with ease which in turn sells clothes – clearly.

    Comments made against people that don’t fit in to said category is disgusting – but this hasn’t happened here, just brutal honesty about the brand.

    With that said, there are many, many individuals who cannot help their bodily growth but let’s not forget this either – they are more unique than the rest of us so if we are to judge, who is better??

    I have the most beautiful friend who is much, much bigger than she would like to be but that does not make her an outcast in any of our friend groups – why? Because she is amazing, kind and caring beyond belief. We are not friends because of our fashion sense, purely because the company we all keep is rich in laughs and understanding.

    What Mike Jeffries is doing is targeted marketing. In business, all news is good news and controversial news is even better, meaning this post has probably helped Abercrombie and FItch. It raises the profile of the company and for the ‘cool kids’ that read his statement – they will probably buy more clothes and the young people that are excluded will naturally still be excluded.

    Be happy; there’s something in this world for everyone.

  2. Its undeniably clear that whoever has an issue with A&F’s CEO’s statements is fat. Fat people are the only ones who paint him and his company as heinous, evil, discriminating, superficial bullies, and they do it because they’re at their very core, self-serving individuals who want to be catered to by society for the excessive amount of body fat they’ve accumulated over the years, and they want to be afforded the right to be obese but be treated as though they are not.

    I don’t understand what the problem is. Its a natural human behavior to refuse to accept gluttonous, indolent, parasitic behavior from an individual in a group. That’s what a lot of fat people can’t seem to comprehend. Empathy, compassion, etc etc are emotions that human beings extend to those they can mentalize with; those they see as “normal”, people they see as virtuous and beneficial to society. No one sees fat people in such a way, NO ONE. People DO NOT CARE if fat shaming hurts fat people’s feelings. People DO NOT CARE if fat people are discriminated against because of what they did to themselves. It most certainly is NOT a slippery slope of discriminatory practices. You get fat, you get judged to be inferior because being fat, lazy, incompetent, unhealthy, indolent, cognitively inferior, etc etc are all deemed to be inferior traits in human beings, and a person’s body fat relays all of this information in a fairly accurate way. If you don’t like this natural, instinctual human behavior, then don’t be fat. If your excuse is “I have no control over it” then right there’s proof of a psychological disorder, just one more inferiority to add to the list, and you are viewed by society as even more of a burden who no one cares about and who no one wants around.

    This is not my opinion; this is JUST THE WAY IT IS. Why do fat activists fail to see this irrefutable fact!? Its undeniable. Its why fat people are treated like crap everywhere they go. Its why they earn less money, its why they’re glared at in public, its why clothing lines don’t want their merchandise on their fat bodies, its why no one worthwhile wants to have sex with a fat person, its why doctors dont even want to treat fat people. The only acceptance they get is from other fat people and the only reason for it is because fat people know they are in no position to discriminate against anyone.

    The only reason I bring this message to you all is because this is never going to change. Its human nature. The only thing with the potential to change is YOU and if you refuse to for any reason whatsoever, society will continue to shame you, bully you, and treat you as an inferior person for what you’ve done to yourself. There is absolutely no way around this and this “body image activism” CRAP only infuriates society in light of the fact that the developed world is struggling with an obesity epidemic along with the astronomical cost of healthcare as a result. In the end, hard-working individuals are forced to work even harder for less so that the obese population can do nothing but continue to feed their addiction to crap food and indolence. You can all bet all this fat activism is being done in vain because society will crack down on you all as individuals before it allows the current system to catastrophically collapse, an event that is projected to occur in the not too distant future if “drastic measures” are not taken soon. In a few years, those drastic measures are going to come in the form of laws that target overweight individuals, and if you think the stigma you get for being fat is bad now, just wait until then… you will have NOTHING and no one will care. People will applaud it and consider fat shaming to be a good thing for the country. They’ll label fat shaming and fat-discrimination as “good for the hard working people of America”. They’ll label it as being “patriotic” and “constructive for the overweight individual” and as a way to improve the overall health of the country, assist our medical industry in its “recovery” from near collapse, and even as a way to boost the economy. These are all EXCELLENT selling points for any politician. Just wait people, the storm is coming.

    1. If you would like to discuss this subject in further detail with me, please feel free to email me or send me a private message, and I would be happy to talk about the specifics of my position on this issue. We can discuss how a) fat is not an indicator of being “lazy, incompetent, unhealthy, indolent, cognitively inferior,” or any other negative characteristics you associate with it, b) how it is not only people of a certain body size that take issue with Mike Jeffries’ comments (I won’t tell you my height and weight because it is none of your business, but please do not assume you know it by the content of my post and my opinions), c) how not having perfect control of your metabolism and being able to fit into society’s idea of a healthy weight (which has changed repeatedly over time) is not an indication of psychological problems, and d) how even if we are currently having problems with fat discrimination, accepting them as human nature and dismissing any attempt to behave more respectfully and empathetically to one another as contrary to “human nature,” is counterproductive. However, I don’t want to devote the comment section of this blog to an angry argument, and so I would encourage you to continue this conversation, if you would like to, in a one-on-one setting. Thanks for taking the time to share your views, although I disagree with all of them on moral principle.

      1. Your opinions on this topic are immoral. You’re not stupid, you know as well as I do that overweight/obesity places a huge, undue strain on our health care industry. That makes its outrageously expensive for everyone else. $190 Billion spent on obese patients last year alone. They paid not even .5% of that in insurance premiums because most of the cost was paid by MEDICARE. One billion gallons of gasoline just to transport the obese population’s extra weight past what would be their normal body weight. Billions lost in productivity in the workforce, billions in disablitity payments, etc etc… this is all money that could be used to do things that other countries can afford to do but we cannot; countries that educate their youth all the way through college, countries more technologically advanced than us, with students who score higher in math and sciences because schools are adequately funded, countries who have a higher GDP, higher rated quality of life, lower unemployment, lower poverty rates, lower divorce rates, lower percentage of the population that is incarcerated, lower percentage of the population that is addicted to drugs, lower crime rates, lower rates of domestic violence against women and children, and the list goes on and on. We should be fighting a war on ALL THAT SHIT. NOT ON OBESITY. But we NEED to fight obesity because of OPINIONS LIKE YOURS and the fact that you are currently afforded the right to spread them to others. These opinions are only prevelant amongst a small percentage of the over-weight population in the western world; they are vehemently rejected and ridiculed amongst most of humanity. The problem is your “fat acceptance” propaganda has an overwhelming appeal to those who are already overweight and too distracted or unmotivated to do anything about it. Your propaganda takes full advantage of the lazy, “easiest way possible” mentality engrained in American culture. And what you probably cannot fully appreciate is that what I argue for is what’s best for human beings as a SPECIES. Our society, our future children and grand children, our neighbors, EVERYBODY. What you argue for is what’s best for YOU and only the people who share the same NATURALLY STIGMATIZED FLAWS that you have. That is why you refuse to state your body type/weight/bf%/etc… you refrain from this because you’d merely support the FACT that only fat people accept fat people as normal. Only fat people accept your propaganda and buy into it because its EASY AND CONVENIENT FOR THEM TO DO SO.

        And in the realm of reality, there are too many clinical studies to list that link obesity to cognitive dysfunction. Prove that not all fat people are lazy or incompetent and Google it. Quit living in denial and listen to all those DOCTORS and EDUCATED RESEARCH SCIENTISTS who know more than you do for a change. My bad for bringing it to your attention, my most sincere apologies for attempting to make you take a step back and realize how foolish and DANGEROUS this kind of propaganda you insist on spreading really is.

        1. Again, I appreciate you sharing your opinions, and you certainly feel strongly on this topic. If you’d like to continue this discussion with me personally, my contact details can be found at the top of the webpage, under the “Contact” section (to make them easy to find). The purpose of the comments section is not name-calling and extremely long, angry comments: this is an inclusive, not a confrontational, blog. That’s why I’m blocking you from further comments, but again, I welcome continuing this conversation with you.

  3. It’s a shame society has got so unhealthy that NOT everyone can fit into their clothes and we are even having this debate.
    on another note, I was in japan last year and shopping in a large department store. I bought a new suit for work. i noticed that they only had 4 sizes for women. Not sure what you would wear if you were not one of those sizes….but then again I did not see any overweight women of my age in Japan on the street. I do know they are starting to run into trouble with kids getting fat though

  4. Retailers will have target markets. Lane Bryant caters to plus size women, A & F to petite girls and women. In principal this is OK. What is not OK is the inappropriate and intolerant way in which the A & F CEO chose to communicate the company’s marketing strategy and discriminating hiring practices to a diverse consumer reatil clothing market. If A & F is to be true to its customer base based on Mike Jefferies’ comments, he should be fired. His age and look does not represent the brand or the ideal sales employee for this retail brand. he is too old, and physically unattractive to lead the company and its product. Based on the A& F marketing philosophy, ugly CEO’s should not be CEO’s of companies that cater only to the young, slim and “so called” beautiful. Also, based on the recent public back lash A & F will either have to rebrand its marketing image or replace Mike Jefferies with a younger, more “sexy” CEO that represents the consumer image they seek to attract.

    1. I agree that the principle of having specific audiences for one’s product isn’t in and of itself the problem here, but I wonder about your assertion that Jeffries is too “physically unattractive” to represent A&F. The problem that I had with his statements was most specifically the bullying and exclusionary name-calling, insinuating that a person wearing more than a size 10 could not be popular or attractive. You are absolutely not the only one calling out the CEO as on the outside of his own demographic, but I’m not sure this is the point: since you mentioned Lane Bryant, this might be a good moment to point out that its CEO, Linda Heasley, is not herself plus-sized. It’s a business, not a personal lifestyle, and the CEO goes to the office to work and turn a profit, not to shop at the store itself. What worries me about calling out Jeffries’ physical appearance is that it puts us on the bullying side of the spectrum, making cruel and biting remarks about the way someone we have never met looks and making snap judgments on their attractiveness based on arbitrary standards. We can and should be better than that.
      (Sorry for the rant. They’re kind of my thing.)

  5. Right on dude!
    I’ve never shopped at this store and I’m certainly not about to start now. I could squeeze into something in the 8-10 range if I wanted to, but frankly I’ve always found the clothing at A&F to be too vanilla and standard for my tastes. So suck on that Jeffries!

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