Thursday, 13 August 2009

Abercrombie and Bitch

This morning a friend sent me an interesting article about Abercrombie and Fitch, and more specifically the "eccentric" A&F CEO, Mike Jefferies. The article was written in 2006, before A&F opened their first UK store (or store outside of the states in fact) in London's Mayfair. I've never been impressed by or interested in the A&F all-American preppy look, either on myself or the attractive men that often wear it. It always struck me as bland and uninteresting. But by the end of the article my apathy had turned to blind hatred: A&F is now a brand I will never be able to view positively again.
If we ignore the continual contraversy around their hooker tees for teens and suggestive thongs for 12 year olds, Abercrombie and Fitch attract media attention at every turn and they are not known for their openness or tolerance. Just last month I got a sick taste in my mouth when I read about Riam Dean who was banished to the stores stock room because her prosthetic arm didn't fit the A&F "look". The Abercrombie and Fitch look has always been clear; A&F don't hire shop assistants to work in their stores, they hire 'stock models'. The girls should be tall and thin, preferably blonde, and pretty. The guys should be muscle bound, tan, and have model-good looks. (As as aside, did you know that the company maintains a strictly enforced dress policy which includes rules on the length of women's fingernails and even advice on what colour of toenail polish is acceptable?)You aren't buying a top, we're told, but a lifestyle. And who can buy into that lifestyle? Well not everyone, that's for sure!
I, for one, would surely be excluded. As would at least 29% of you, my dear readers (that I believe is the percentage of under 25s in the UK that are classed as overweight or heavier) Because as far as A&F CEO Jefferies is concerned, the unattractive, overweight, unpopular or otherwise undesirable teens can shop elsewhere. I'm sad to write that this is a direct quote: "In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids," he says. "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."
Who know that a T-shirt had so much to do with determining whether your school experience was a happy or an unhappy one? And thank God so many schools in this country (my own included) insist we all wear uniforms!
Ironic that I keep writing about t shirts but none of their models will wear one, right?

They're only clothes at the end of the day, and I know we live in a world with bigger problems. But maybe one of those bigger problems is all the young people that feel they have to hide behind this bland uniform, blend in, preferably become a little bit invisible, to be popular or at least fit in? There are increasingly more and more of them. Even the topshop look which I so admire has become a uniform, with girls walking to the shops in matching leggings, checked shirts and studded pumps. Will these A&F followers, with their air of superiority become our future world leaders, doctors, kings of risk and industry? I can't help but feel that by never learning to think for themselves, instead immersing themselves in an easy to follow fashion-perfection driven culture, the answer is no. If you need someone to tell you what colour your toe nails can be, how can you ever make a decision that could change the world. And without those kind of people where will we be in 20 years time?
Ever notice how its the kids at school that stood out, that didn't conform, that dressed how they wanted, who make it when school is over? I bet Bill Gates didn't wear an Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirt to blend in with the "in crowd. " I think everyone should dress how they want to. And if, on an independent whim you decide you want to wear an A&F muscle tee, then I might judge you a little but so be it. Good for you for making your own choices. Just don't wear it because you think you should, because all the "cool kids" are doing it. This same advice by the way goes for buying an "it" bag or louboutin heels: I cant count how many women I know that would sell their souls for the status that goes with that shiny red sole!
My one fear is that writing this post isn't highlighting how important it is to dress how you like rather than conforming to a tribe uniform, but the opposite. Abercrombie and Fitch's marketing is driven by "uncool" people like me complaining about them; what is it they say about all publicity being good publicity, after all? I'm frightened that I just played right into their hands...
...but what do I know. With the jacked up prices of their London store i'm quite sure I couldn't afford to dress in abercrombie even if I wanted to. Meanwhile, Mr Jefferies laughs all the way to his crammed full swiss bank!

Love Tor x
UPDATE: 10 minutes ago it was announced that Riem Dean has won her court case about Abercrombie and Fitch. She was awarded £8,000.


Make Do Style said...

Well said! I avoid like the plague after the recent case but actually the service is so bad because the 'models' are so up thier...Go to Hollisters, cheaper and less bullshit - if you wan that look.

KD said...

As a 14-year-old attending school in NYC, I am all too familiar with this look. Luckily, at my school, lots of people wear it but not to be cool, just for convenience' sake. For better or for worse, the "popular" girls generally wear a mix of Abercrombie and UO. While this is a uniform, not everyone wants to be cool, and so if you dress rather differently (you've seen some of the stuff I wear) you might get a few odd looks but it's absolutely NOTHING compared to my previous 2 schools. And while I agree with 99% of what you wrote, I have to say that one of the previous 2 schools did have uniforms, but the A&F ideas permeated it just as much as my other previous, non-uniform school. Girls would go into the bathroom and come out with their skirt 6 inches shorter - in 5th grade. And these were the girls who wore A&F mixed w/ preppy brands (Ralph Lauren polos, Vineyard Vines, etc.) on dress-down days. Sigh.

Emma said...

Disgusting :/
How is £8000 enough? I wouldn't go in those shops just for who they employee alone, I can't stand self righteous twats who think theyre above everyone just cos they dont have an individual thought in their heads. I guess thats what theyre aiming for tho - the only people who could stand to be around those people is their target market of clones so in this case being bastards is the perfect marketing strategy obviously.

0037sammie said...

I agree with you- it's disgusting to think that there are people out there who take it to this level. Why should a shop dictate how to live *your* lifestyle? I will admit my partiality to their clothes, but out principal no longer shop there...such fickleness disgusts and infuriates me!