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.