Words that Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO, Michael Jeffries, spoke in a 2006 interview with Salon have, as The End of Abercrombie & Fitch reveals, resurfaced and become a point of contention among many. Michael was quoted as saying, “in every school there are the cool and popular kids…we go after the cool kids.” He said that “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” Michael and his “exclusionary marketing tactics” have incited much conversation, but the fact remains that for the past 7 years women (and men) have continued to shop at Abercrombie & Fitch despite the fact that its largest size for women’s jeans is a 10 and its shelves do not carry sizes XL or XXL for women but do carry them for men.
There have been several reactions to Abercrombie’s exclusionary policy: One came from a man who encouraged people to donate their Abercrombie & Fitch clothing to homeless people in order to combat Abercrombie’s marginalizing branding techniques and make Abercrombie “The World’s Number One Brand of Homeless Apparel”; another came from a young woman, Cali, who staged a protest outside Abercrombie & Fitch corporate headquarters in Ohio along with many other teens and the president of the National Eating Disorders Association, Lynn Grefe. Michael tried to apologize, saying his words were taken out of context, but Cali wrote back exclaiming that “what you [Michael] said is blatantly offensive.” Cali further expressed that even though “it is completely adequate for your [Michael’s] company to choose a particular segment of customers… I hope you can see how your statements would be perceived as bullying.”
Another young woman, Jes, sent Michael her own Abercrombie & Fitch ads, which take a spin on the style of advertisement Abercrombie releases regularly. These images include a stunning Jes posing with a typified Abercrombie male model. Jes does not resemble the typically skinny, quintessential Abercrombie model; she is what a lot of people (herself included) would consider “fat.” “My hope,” says Jes, “is that the combination of these contrasting bodies will someday be as ubiquitous as the socially accepted ideal.” She also says, “Not only do I know that I’m sexy, but I also have the confidence to pose nude in ways you don’t dare.”
So how should we as women react to the controversy surrounding Michael Jeffries’s outrageous comments? We can be proud of people like Jes and Cali who have the confidence to show the world what is truly beautiful and healthy: Representations of beauty in all its facets and not just those that fit our socially accepted definition of beauty. The exclusivity of Abercrombie’s brand is appalling. All women are gorgeous regardless of their size and if Abercrombie cannot see this, that is its loss. Moreover, just because you cannot fit an Abercrombie size large T-shirt or size 10 pair of jeans does not mean you are fat; you could have big boobs, big hips, or you may be taller or bigger boned. People come in all shapes and sizes and if they want to spend their money on your brand, why wouldn’t you include them? The other way this marginalization could work, I guess, involves our exclusion of companies like Abercrombie & Fitch that choose to be exclusive, from our support; spend your money elsewhere. And despite Abercrombie’s enduring sales, truthfully, not many people I talked to really like shopping at Abercrombie anyways:
“I don’t wear Abercrombie. I have never really liked the closed in layout of their stores. I have a hard time finding something I want to wear from their line. Most of the ladies larges are not my size. I was disgusted by the CEO’s comments.”
“I think that [Jeffries’s comments were] outrageous. I also never shop at that store in part because of their sizing. Their large fits more like a medium and the prices are too high. In my opinion, they should offer sizes to anyone who will buy it… I will definitely not be shopping there in the future.”
“The stores are dark and the clothing overpriced. Besides I know woman who are athletic and not skinny sticks so for them to think that only athletic men need XL sizes is offensive.”
“Abercrombie…was made for teenagers. I also do not shop at that store. When I go into it I almost choke to death from the perfume they spray. I was just reading about this whole article… for the first time. It’s just a publicity stunt. Just trying to sell more clothes to those “cool” and “good looking” people he talks about. At the end of the day, it’s his company and he can say whatever he wants.”