I’m not always the best headline writer, but I had to make the Grinch pun for my column on the mean-spirited behavior of Abercrombie & Fitch. I figured that our copy desk would tweak it or change it. Those are the real headline writers and I love it when they surprise me with a zinger, but they liked mine.
And apparently a lot of readers did too. This was one of the most popular stories I wrote all year. Weight is always a hot topic in fashion. People love to talk about who’s too big or too small and what is ideal. But times are changing.
Not too long ago, hundreds of readers yelled and screamed via comments and social media when I posted a story of a plus-sized model and they complained that she was setting a bad example by not being skinny.
In the same time frame, people were fretting and complaining that another model was too skinny and also setting a bad example. Ummm, ok. And during this time, Abercrombie & Fitch reigned.
But anyone who says they don’t think “fat” people are cool enough to wear their clothing in today’s social anti-bully environment is asking for a smack-down. But sadly, or interestingly enough, this smack-down was a long time coming.
Personally, I’m not the collegiate athlete frat/sorority leisure wear type. Never have been. So I’ve never, ever owned an A&F item. It’s not because I foresaw the streak of controversies to come. It really just never appealed to me. The style seemed lacking and the prices high. It was also so darn ubiquitous that maybe it was a bandwagon I didn’t feel comfortable joining.
I’m not sure the bad behavior of the brand’s mascot and chief executive had much to do with it. But maybe it did. There was always something that gave me pause. It’s like when you meet someone who seems nice enough but there’s something in their handshake that gives you the heebie jeebies.
In my column Just in time for Christmas, Abercrombie and Fitch grows a heart (click for the full story on a single page and a funny anti-A&F viral video), I start with this:
The brand has cashed in on controversy for decades, and the company’s chief executive, Mike Jeffries, infamously courted detractors in 2006 by saying that he only wanted attractive kids to wear his clothes. Plenty of brands court an image of youth, beauty and country club athletics, but Jeffries felt comfortable enough to say “fat” kids weren’t cool, and he didn’t want them as customers.
The brand doesn’t offer XL or XXL women’s clothing or pants over a size 10 for women. However, the brand does offer XL and XXL clothing for men because Abercrombie & Fitch has said that it wanted to provide sizes for jocks but assumed that female athletes wouldn’t be larger than a standard large. For years, people grumbled but nothing changed.
Now, a lot is about to change thanks to declining profits, online ridicule, and perhaps the mysterious growth of a conscience, but it’s probably really all about the profits thing.
We’ll see how long it takes for the brand to go back to stunts like the one pictured below.
Not that I’m complaining, I mean Calvin Klein and tons of other brands don’t make a show of people with ample body fat wearing their lines. We don’t really give them much flack about showing their clothing in the best possible light, but there’s something very different about being openly hostile to any group of consumers. It’s unacceptable.