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Brand Names

May 24, 2013 - Liz Skoczylas
Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of hoopla online about comments made in 2006 by Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries.

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries said. “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.”

(Full article, from Jan. 24, 2006 found:

Currently, Abercrombie & Fitch does not carry above a size 10 or above a size large for women. Apparently, the company is debating whether it wants to change to allow larger sizing.

I have a confession. I am above a size 10. And, with Abercrombie sizing, a large shirt wouldn't fit me. How many women are you going to get to admit THAT?

But, you know what? I'm not the least bit offended by the statements Jeffries made seven years ago. And, I find it insane that I have Facebook friends saying, "If you wear the Abercrombie & Fitch brand, please unfriend me."

Guess what. Facebook was around in 2006, as was the Internet. And, you didn't catch on to the comments the CEO made then. So, why care seven years later, when they resurfaced?

It's no secret that A&F is a brand built around beautiful, skinny people. They didn't just decide this two weeks ago. There are a ton of blogs and news articles about people who have worked for the store, as well as a laundry list of requirements they had to keep up with in order to continue working for the brand. The people working in the stores are basically supposed to be all-American, beautiful kids.

In college, I studied marketing as my minor. One of the things I learned was that when things seem unattainable, people want them more. It's just a fact of life. The more expensive an item is, the more someone tells you you can't have it, or, in A&F's case, you don't fit the mold, the more people want it.

Cigarette ads have come under fire in the past for depicting skinny, beautiful, glamorous people. Critics argued that people would want to begin smoking because they see pictures of fabulous people smoking. Abercrombie & Fitch ads are essentially the same thing. Teenagers want to wear the clothes, because they want to fit in with the beautiful, popular kids.

In my opinion, Jeffries was just being very honest when discussing his brand. Sometimes, honesty offends people. But, he is a businessman, and, recognizing that, I applaud his comments.

On the other hand, I also recognize sizeism as a problem. I may have a marketing minor that allows me to see how ads and comments are targeting, but I also have a BA for communication, where I spent many class hours discussing stereotypes in advertising. I competed in a New York City Forensic Speech competition with a piece on sizeism (which, by the way, I took second place overall in. Just tooting my own horn.).

A 27-year-old plus size blogger took a very interesting stance in replying to Jeffries' statement. The size 22 blogger chose to do her very own A&F inspired photo shoot, complete with a response to the CEO. More found:

While I'm not personally offended by the seven-year-old statement, I understand how other people are. It's probably the reason why profits for the company are down right now. But, if a store doesn't make clothing in my size, I'm not going to shop there. It's as simple as that. I'm not going to shop at A&F, because the clothing is too small. I'm not going to shop at Lane Bryant, because I'm not plus size. I wouldn't shop at a maternity store unless I was pregnant. Yet, I'm not offended these stores exist.

And, you know what? I'm not going to stop being friends with someone because they shop at a plus size store, just like I wouldn't stop being friends with someone who is pregnant. So, why would I quit a friendship with someone who is small enough to wear the A&F brand?

The people who are saying they will no longer shop at the store and are "no longer friends" with those who continue to wear the A&F brand are just as bad as the comments made by Jeffries. Essentially, by ostracizing those who continue to shop at this particular store, you are doing the same thing you are protesting against.


Article Comments



May-28-13 1:37 PM

Thanks, George.

To play devil's advocate...

Don't most parents want to help ease the pain and suffering that is middle and high school? I'm not a parent, but I have friends who do everything they can, including sacrificing nicer things for themselves, so their child can have the "it" item. If A&F is what it takes for a teen to "fit in," would you buy it?


May-25-13 8:25 AM

Good observations by Liz. I think it was a very poor business decision by Jefferies to publicly make that statement. The reason being is that it's us fat old people that are actually giving the skinny kids the money to shop at his stores.


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