Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Abercrombie. . . Where Ethics, Brains, and Beauty Are Only Skin Deep. . .

Is it possible that a clothing retailer could be any more shallow or ignorant? I don't ask this question in a momentary fit of knee-jerk anger. My question's been years in the making. Consider that I've on occasion wondered out loud about Abercrombie's worldview, ethos, tactics, and products. The company's lack of common-sense and decency sparked past blogs, including "More Reason to Not Like Abercrombie," "Abercrombie and Our 7-Year-Olds,"  "Cultural Hypocrisy and Abercrombie," "Hey Abercrombie I Accept You As My Savior," , and "Women and Pornography Addiction." After seeing how many times the company prompted a blog, I'm happy to say that I've never spent a penny in that store. But then again, I think that Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries is happy about my decision, because - after all - a guy like me sporting their threads could do serious damage to the Abercrombie image and brand.

Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries - Age 68 and Hip!
What is it that's sparked my ire today? Well, according to a story by Ashley Lutz in Business Insider, Abercrombie & Fitch only wants thin customers. In fact, they consciously don't stock women's clothing in XL and larger sizes because they don't want overweight women wearing their brand. Lutz says that Abercrombie wants "the cool kids and they don't consider plus-sized women as being a part of that group." She reports that Mike Jeffries admits that his business is built around sex appeal in everything. They only hire good-looking people to work in their stores because good-looking people attract good-looking people and they don't want to market to anyone who isn't good looking. I guess it could ruin their brand. . . which is where a guy like me could really screw up their marketing plan! In one interview Jeffries said this: "A lot of people don't belong (in our clothes), and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely." At least he's honest. But his honesty provides an open window into a heart that's running on empty.

Here are some thoughts sparked by this latest not-so-surprising news from Abercrombie. . . .

  • We are suckers for marketing. Abercrombie has effectively grabbed our kids with these strategies. They've seized on and exploited their developmental insecurities. As a result, they are promoting and feeding a worldview that is so shallow that its depth might soon be measured in negative numbers. Kids who wear Abercrombie think the brand is helping them, when in reality it is destructive. The only people helped by the brand are those who are making a lucrative living off the brand.
  • We not only pay Abercrombie for their over-priced clothing, but we then wear it. . . as walking billboards. Yes, our kids are paying the company to serve as an advertisement. That's a total reversal from how the billboard marketing on the side of the highway works. If you look at it this way, Abercrombie is pretty doggone smart. . . which means that we're pretty doggone stupid.
  • We need to know that wearing the brand is more about the fabric on our bodies. We have no clue just how powerful branding has become in our culture if we think that Abercrombie is "just a shirt." No, it's a way of life. It's about the fabric of the world. . . who we should be, what we should believe, how we should live. Abercrombie is a worldview. 
  • We (parents, youth workers, etc.) need to not only make our kids wise to the entire Abercrombie story and ethos, but we must go a step further and encourage them to promote a better worldview by ignoring the brand with their time, attention, and money. Don't spend a penny at Abercrombie.
  • It's not just Abercrombie. And no, I'm not only talking about other clothing brands that are complicit in these strategies. Here's a very serious question. . . are we doing the same thing in our churches and youth ministries? Seriously. We continue to see a push towards style over substance. To relevance at the expense of depth. To a reliance on marketing and business savvy over and above a reliance on the Holy Spirit. Is it possible that the hipster look and resulting hipster faith that we so carefully pursue and cultivate could be making those who might be "plus-sized" (i.e. older, less style-obsessed) have no place in our "store" or with our "message." If that's the case, we'll soon be measuring the depth of the church with negative numbers.
Here's one more link for your reading pleasure. . . . Any Taylor's "Open Letter from a Fat Chick to Mike Jeffries." 


submergent said...

Starting a campaign recommending that everyone who owns and A&F donate those clothes to the nearest homeless shelter.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article. I won't be shopping at A&F again.

oldyuthguy said...

Love and feel your angst. A father of two daughters, who loves his wife, it's time we stop objectifying people. I'm concerned they now have a "plus-size" campaign to try to fix this, not too unlike Sergio's attempts to save his reputation, which is nothing more than exploitation and objectification of another kind. Will be interesting to see if they continue to thrive. Sad to say that I think there are enough mean people around to make that happen.