Heads up: I’m going to use some cuss words, and this is a long read. You’ve been warned.
So last week an interview from 2006 with an Abercrombie & Fitch head-honcho was released where he had some choice words about who the ideal A&F client is, and more importantly, who it isn’t (hint: it’s not fat people. They hate fat and/or uncool people.*)
For a full analysis on what Mike Jeffries said and how he potentially screwed the pooch financially, go here.
Now before I go on a tirade about women’s bodies and clothing sizes (if you want to know what I think about that, click here) let me make one thing clear: I don’t care about Abercrombie & Fitch’s marketing ambitions and motivations. They have every right to target the cool kids and go after them. It’s ugly, but it’s how capitalism works, and to suggest that A&F is alone in their elitest advertising is naive. It’s just that normally this kind of exclusivity is practiced by those at the haute level, and they have the decency to discriminate with their prices as well as their words.
I have a bone to pick with Mr. Jeffries over his rhetoric rather than the message behind his words. When asked about why his store didn’t offer extra large clothing, he could only answer by saying he wanted to target the cool kids. Which would have been fine if the question had been about cool.
But it wasn’t. It was about size.
By responding to a question about size with the issue of cool, Mr. Jeffries drew a not-so-subtle connection between skinny and cool. If you fit into his clothes, you’re cool. If you don’t, you’re not, so please don’t come into the store, we don’t want you to get your XL stink on anything. (And by the way, this only goes for the girls. Abercrombie & Fitch offers XL sizes for boys who are obviously only so big because they’re athletes, you guys.)
I’m not blaming skinny people, either. Lots of people are born thin and lean, and many work really hard to create the bodies they want. If that’s you and you’re healthy and happy, that’s beautiful.
But as if curvaceous and overweight women didn’t already feel invisible enough, this out-of-touch, has-been jock, this locker-room bully with a peter-pan complex, refused to acknowledge them while he explained that he’ll never acknowledge them.
His comments make him sound like such an asshole it’s almost comical. He’s like a combination of Billy Zabka in “Karate Kid” and Matthew McConnaughey in “Dazed and Confused”; really mean, and too old to be hanging out with high school kids.
My point here is that there is a way to connect with “cool” and “All-American” kids, the ones with “a great attitude and a lot of friends” without sounding like a complete jag. There is a way to indicate that you don’t want the “not-so-cool kids” shopping at your stores without making them feel like social refuse and that their weight grosses you out.
If Mike Jeffries had simply said something like, “we sell to athletic kids who play as hard as they work” he could have praised his target market without alienating everyone else.
And I mean everyone else. I’ve never been in an Abercrombie & Fitch before, probably because I’m too old and can’t understand the appeal of over-priced Ocean Pacific** re-runs, but I promise you I’m never going in. And let’s not forget that for the very small population of kids who fit the bill for A&F, they might not take too kindly to being put on such a high pedestal if it means their friends can’t join them.
Lastly, cool happens at any size. It’s more than the by-product of specific measurements and exotic bone structures. It’s the synthesis of attitude, intelligence, character and class. It’s the absence of pretension, judgement, and expectation. It would be pretty cool if Mike Jeffries got that.
Keep at it,
*”Fat” is anything over a teen sized ‘Large’ so for the rest of the world, I’m going to equate this to a Small/Medium.
**Back in the 90′s we called Abercombie & Fitch “OP”
PS: What’s the deal with the “All-American” thing? He knows there are stores in Canada, right?
Follow me on twitter here
How very Pinteresting…