Few retailers or labels make me as cranky as Abercrombie & Fitch which is why I don’t feel mean-spirited at all about being happy over the news that their sales are in a steep decline (woo-hoo!!) – see here and here. Not only are their “stale styles” way overpriced but the “American” lifestyle they stand for, promote, valorize, and export in their advertising and hiring practices (detailed in their “Appearance Policy”) is shamelessly racist, ableist, Islamophobic, gender normative, and heteronormative. See, for example, A&F chief executive Mike Jeffries’ obnoxious rationale of the retailer’s marketing strategy:
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.
By the way, several years ago my intrepid and prolific co-blogger, the lovely Mimi Thi Nguyen, wrote a wonderful article about Abercrombie’s “Orientalist Kitsch” for the website, Pop Politics. Read it, read it!
Mimi’s addendum: And for more on the “appearance policy,” read Dwight McBride’s Why I Hate Abercrombie & Fitch: Essays on Race and Sexuality and the second chapter (also called “Why I Hate Abercrombie & Fitch”).