Mmmm… this is gonna be a good week. After all, there’s nothing sexier than headless torsos. Am I right, or am I right?
Sorry, lost my train of thought for a few hours. What am I supposed to do this week, other than fill a few gigabytes with, um, special pictures? Oh right, defend Abercrombie & Fitch in light of their recent PR kerfuffle. Right right, I can do that. Let me just change my desktop background… okay, we’re set.
So it all started with insensitive comments from their CEO Michael Jeffries. Here’s a pic to put a face on the…
(Justin, be nice. Jokes about his appearance will only spoil your good-natured intent…)
Um… His torso is probably lovely.
Anyway, Joan Frankenstein nee Rivers up there recently got into some hot water (WATER HOT! IT BURNS!) over some comments he made to Salon magazine in 2006.
“[Sex appeal is] almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that…. 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.”
Exclusionary, proud, hypocritical, judgmental… his apparent air allergy is the least of his problems. I know I’m spoiling my intent, but it’s too rich an opportunity.
Let me approach the least of his problems right now. What’s wrong with being exclusionary?
“I think we can all agree that CEO Mike Jeffries is the douchebag to end all douchebags,” writes Blogger Katie Ott. “I would argue that he also has a laser-like focus on his core market. The insipid Trixies and Chads who tote Daddy’s credit card into the pulse-pounding, cologne-soaked A&F storefronts are often the most exclusionary, judgmental, shallow and cruel kids in school. Jeffries understands this and he understands them.”
Sure, he’s catering to a group of people we have deemed, “bad.” However, that thought is marketing 101, is it not? Should I be upset that Big and Tall Men’s Stores don’t have petite sizes for my girth-challenged frame? Should John Deere sell their rototillers to Wall Street bigwigs? And why doesn’t Hot Topic cater to the booming suburban housewife demographic?
And if we’re concerned with exclusivity, shouldn’t we be upset that money drives fashion in the first place? We’re being so mean to poor people who can’t afford proper clothes!
Ew, he’s giving them Abercrombie & Fitch clothes!
The problem isn’t exclusivity. That’s the very blood of capitalism (fight that another time, ya hippie!). The problem’s that Jeffries broke the social contract that says we shouldn’t talk about such things. He was too damn honest in his… um, sizeism? Is he a sizeist?
Being “overweight” just happens to be a hot-button topic. Jeffries is a douchebag, absolutely, but being forthright in the era of political-correctness is something to be appreciated. Now that we know a problem persists, we can enact a cultural shift. Because of Jeffries’ insensitivity, we can actually start something better.
And outside of the eye-rolling topics of “society” and “cultural shifts” (said in my whiniest voice), we also have something to learn from their PR nightmare. While the actual text isn’t terrible, it does come only after they started losing profits. AND it doesn’t offer anything beyond vague assurances of good intention. AND it claims his comments were taken out of context… okay, so maybe it’s not a great press release. My point is, if you’re a PR aficionado (I assume most of you are), you have a topic to discuss.
But I can’t defend the man for being a douchebag (he wasn’t good at sports as a child and it disappointed his father, wah wah wah). However, I can appreciate what grows from his stupidity.
For instance, H&M recently introduced a plus-sized bikini model. Not-so-subtle jab at your competitor, eh H&M?
There will be those who say overweight people should be able to frequent any clothing store they choose. “Fat is beautiful,” or some such slogan. Some will probably take it too far. But there’s a lot of backlash against Abercrombie & Fitch, simply because their CEO expressed his traditional values of superficial beauty. The very fact that people got angry about those comments en masse is pretty awesome. We’re growing, even while some remain mired in judgmentalism.
And if Abercrombie & Fitch want to remain in business, they’re gonna have to catch up to the rest of us.