“Why you gotta be so mean?” — as Taylor Swift would put it. Here I’m referring to Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO, Mike Jeffries, and wonder how the man can sleep at night. It’s not like he’s on some edgy health campaign to support kids in their fight against obesity. Without having to read much into his own harsh words (below) and hiring practices, it’s clear that his regard for XL size wearing teens, for years, could be defined as degrading and Sneetchy.
“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.”
“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. – Mike Jeffries, Abercrombie & Fitch CEO
If this mentality sickens you…if you find Jeffries’ approach destructive toward kids and promoting shamefully shallow values, you may want to take some constructive action that sends a clear message to this only cool & sexy people allowed supremacist — including the effective tactic of boycotting his stores. By clicking on the photo below, you’ll be directed to a petition that urges him to change his credo against our non-washboard-bellied youth and make his clothing for teens in all sizes. Unless you happen to agree with this Jeffries statement: “I don’t want our core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing our clothing.” A&F sizes range from XS (extra small) to L (large) only.
I signed the petition. Regardless of his “apology” posted on Facebook on May 15, 2013 (below), the fact remains that talk is cheap. To transform a culture and make a credible effort to reverse the damage (he has clearly been inflicting for at least seven years), more than words are required:
Abercrombie & Fitch’s Facebook post – A note from Mike, our CEO:
I want to address some of my comments that have been circulating from a 2006 interview. While I believe this 7 year old, resurrected quote has been taken out of context, I sincerely regret that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense. A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers. However, we care about the broader communities in which we operate and are strongly committed to diversity and inclusion. We hire good people who share these values. We are completely opposed to any discrimination, bullying, derogatory characterizations or other anti-social behavior based on race, gender, body type or other individual characteristics.
If Jeffries were serious about being “strongly committed to diversity and inclusion,” if he really cares about “the broader communities,” it would already be evident in A&F’s clothing sizes and the inclusion of plus sized people working at their stores and as models in their ad campaigns. Jeffries needs to abolish A&F’s discriminatory practices of hiring only the people he would consider “hot.” This kind of marketing and management breakdown has nothing to do with targeting a specific consumer group. There’s no legal or moral harm in simply doing that. The Victoria’s Secret brand focuses on the sexy female consumer and their sizes range from XS to XL. I haven’t seen any XL angels on their commercials but I have certainly been helped by very curvy sales people at their stores. I’m not saying they have a flawless marketing and business model either, but they are not in the same league with Jeffries.
The A&F debacle is about lack of conscience combined with the very ugly, exclusionary hiring principles that Jeffries’ words instituted; the demoralizing prejudice that’s been encouraged by employing only physically cut and attractive hot people; and how that has wronged all American teens. Ever read The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss? There’s a big lesson it for you Mr. Jeffries. Yours is not a message of healthy self esteem and bodies. It’s a message filled with divisive evils and effectively promotes discrimination, bullying, derogatory characterizations or other anti-social behavior directed right at our youth. That is not cool and does not make the world a better place. The generation of teens you’ve demeaned and written-off deserves much more than an apology from you. If you would like to respond to this, Mike Jeffries, please feel free to comment here or contact me for an interview.
You’re gonna catch a cold from the ice inside your soul. – Christina Perri.