Abercrombie & Fitch has a long history of racism, sexism, and size discrimination hidden within its dimly-lit store. As far back as 2002, A&F sold t-shirts that were racially insensitive to Asians. The shirts were eventually pulled after a massive backlash.
Then the brand got into some more trouble for marketing a line of thongs and underwear with sexual phrases printed on them that were geared towards pre-teens. The merchandise was finally discontinued after numerous complaints from angry parents. In 2005, the apparel company sold women’s t-shirts with sexist slogans on them. The shirts read “Who needs a brain when you have these?”, “I had a nightmare I was a brunette”, and “The Freshman 15 (which was written above a list of 15 boy names).″ A group of girls from Pennsylvania set out to have the t-shirts pulled through a “girlcott”.
Abercrombie & Fitch defended themselves by saying that the shirts were selling really well with the adult females the shirts were marketed to. How did Abercrombie & Fitch know the age of the person purchasing the t-shirts? The young girls campaigning to remove the shirts responded by saying “Is society really stooping so low as to make degrading yourself trendy?” Eventually Abercrombie & Fitch decided to pull the offensive t-shirts.
Obviously not learning from their mistake in 2009, Abercrombie & Fitch released shirts for males that read “Female students wanted for sexual research”, “Show the twins”, and “Female streaking encouraged”. Then in 2011 the company marketed push-up bikini tops to pre-teens, which were eventually removed the product after controversy erupted.
Bad press seems to be nothing new for Abercrombie & Fitch. They are known for being terrible. Stores allow white employees to work the front house while Asians, African Americans, and people with prosthetics work in the back, away from customers. There have been numerous lawsuits against the brand for religious discrimination and discrimination against handicapped customers. The new following statements made by A&F CEO Mike Jeffries really shouldn’t be seen as anything new.
Jeffries has said that his marketing technique is:
“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.”
Jeffries also believes that limiting the sizes in stores would prevent his brand from becoming less desirable. Jeffries said in an interview with Salon:
“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.”
Abercrombie doesn’t stock women’s pants above a size 10. With a long history of discrimination and sexism, is a plus-size ban that shocking? I’m a plus-size woman and after discovering Abercrombie’s history, I would refuse to shop in the store even if they did carry my size. Mike Jeffries, you can keep your “cool kid” clothes and by that I mean sexist, racist, and size-discriminating apparel. I, a plus size woman, am more than happy to shop at Torrid, Dots, Rainbow, and Avenue.